Article How Flooring Contributes to Managing Acoustics

Noise happens. Whether in healthcare, education, or residential housing, acoustics play an important role in nearly every sector of the market. As a designer, it’s important to understand the different types of building noises and the options for mitigation. Want the short version? While it’s true ceilings and wall treatments are surfaces with the greatest opportunity for sound absorption, flooring can play a positive role in sound blocking. Here’s what you need to know.

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How Acoustics Impact the Everyday

The sounds you hear inside a building are transmitted to you in two ways: airborne (Sound Transmission Class, STC) or structure borne (Impact Insulation Class, IIC). The sound of someone speaking is an example of airborne transmission, while footsteps or rolling carts that directly impact the structure can create structure borne sound. They’re not exclusive, as certain scenarios can include both types of transmissions. When you hear a piece of equipment operating, the sound can be a result of airborne sound waves combined with direct impact vibrations transmitted through the building itself.

Metrics and standards have been created to assess various acoustic characteristics of building components to ensure classrooms are not too loud, workers are not exposed to too much noise, and privacy is maintained in healthcare spaces.

For example, ASTM E90 is a leading standard when it comes to measuring noise between floors and ASTM E492 measures IIC of a specific floor and ceiling assembly.  U.S. Building Codes require a minimum rating of 50 STC and 50 IIC when tested in accordance with these standard for all buildings with a residential (Group R) occupancy classification. Group R includes any facility where occupants sleep, including hotels, dormitories, and hospitals, and the code ensures that these buildings foster a comfortable and enjoyable environment. Test results will be dependent on the type of substructure, thickness of the concrete slab, the type of flooring used, and any insulating material.

How Flooring Affects Acoustics

The absorption and transmission of sound energy in a built environment is directly impacted by the type of construction and building materials selected, and this is true for flooring as well. Careful consideration of the acoustic goals for your building spaces is essential prior to making construction and material selections, and flooring can play a positive role in achieving optimum indoor environmental quality for building occupants.

Rigid Core Essentials helps prevent airborne sound (e.g. voice, music) as well as impact noise (e.g. footfall, rolling cart) from being transmitted between building floors. With a Delta IIC of 25, Rigid Core Essentials can block almost as much sound as a 6-inch slab of concrete. For this reason, Rigid Core Essentials can improve sound blocking in spaces where noise transmission reduction is critical — like Multi-Family spaces, and hotels. When tested on a 6-inch slab of concrete, Rigid Core Essentials has an IIC rating of 55, which exceeds building code requirements. Because the Rigid Core structure includes an attached underlayment, there’s no need for an additional underlayment to meet building codes.

What’s the ideal combination for managing acoustics in a healthcare setting? Findings from a study at the Center for Health Design at Palomar Health suggest that a combination of hard flooring and acoustic ceiling tiles may be the most effective approach to absorbing and deadening sounds in healthcare facilities. Rejuvenations Restore can help control sound transmission and surface-generated noise to maintain privacy. Restore offers a Delta IIC of 21. When tested on a 6” slab of concrete, Restore has an IIC rating of 50, which meets building code requirements. It can be heat welded to provide superior aseptic control and is constructed with a comfort base layer to reduce foot and leg fatigue and joint impact for patients and caregivers. It’s an ideal solution that helps you design impactful spaces that improve patient experience and quality of care.

Interested in learning more about acoustics? Download our Flooring and Acoustics White Paper now.