What is Acoustic Lighting?

And How to Design Spaces with Acoustic Materials

Acoustic light fixtures for sound dampening in WELL building standards

Designing Spaces with Acoustic Materials

 In architectural design, many factors need to be considered when creating a desirable space. Of these considerations, the acoustic treatment of a space is something that can’t be overlooked. Thinking about any built environment, one of the most crucial components is sound. Whether a restaurant, school, auditorium, or office building, it is important to have a space where the acoustics are not overwhelming to occupants.

Oftentimes, spaces where many people congregate can get quite loud. Reverberations of human voices can become intensified when a space isn’t treated properly for sound—creating a situation where people need to speak louder to be heard by the person they’re talking to. This only increases noise levels which ultimately leads to an unpleasant and stressful environment. Luckily, there is a great solution to this problem using something you might not expect.

If you’re interested in attenuating the noise in your spaces, you should consider installing acoustic lighting. Using an absorbent felt material, Visa Lighting offers a variety of options that can improve the well-being of your building occupants. In this post, we will take a look at how excessive reverberant noise can have a negative impact on the inhabitants of a building, and will also provide product solutions that can help your building achieve WELL and LEED building standards.

 

What are WELL and LEED Building Standards?

The WELL building standards place their focus on people. Created by the International WELL Building Institute, the WELL standard is a certification that designates a building to be built and designed in a way that is beneficial to the well-being and health of those who inhabit the building. It is a performance-based system that measures the health of built environments according to seven features: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. While WELL certification takes many factors into account, the acoustics of a building is one of the most important aspects considered during the certification process. 

The LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, building standards were designed to focus on buildings and their environmental impact, promoting green building design practices. However, the latest version, LEED v4.1, has taken acoustics into consideration more than it has in the past. In both the Building Design & Construction and Residential (specifically multifamily homes) categories, projects can get credit for improving their acoustic performance. Precise guidelines have been put in place for schools, aiming to limit the HVAC background noise level. Healthcare, hospitality, data centers, warehouses, and distribution centers can all also obtain credit for acoustic performance. To earn credit, the occupied spaces should meet requirements in two of the following categories: HVAC background noise, sound transmission, and reverberation time.

 

How Acoustics Impact the Health of Building Inhabitants

Excessive noise can have many detrimental effects on the well-being and health of a person. It has been shown that sustained loud noise can cause many to experience headaches, increased blood pressure, and heart disease from too much noise stimulation. Aside from that, it has also been shown that excessive noise can contribute to decreased mental capacity, decreased productivity, sleep disturbances, and overall dissatisfaction when occupying a space.

Not only can excessive noise have deleterious effects on health and well-being, it can also contribute to increased difficulty in communicating with others which, for an office, can have a negative impact on productivity. Additionally, spaces that have poor acoustic treatment can also lead to a lot of frustration to building occupants trying to communicate in confidence.

 
Benefits of acoustic lighting and acoustic felt in interior design.

How Acoustic Lighting Can Help

Having gone over the numerous ways excessive noise can affect the overall wellness of a building’s occupants, let’s take this opportunity to go over how acoustic lighting can help alleviate noise challenges in commercial spaces.

If you operate a commercial space, one of the most pressing concerns can be reducing noise levels. While architectural acoustic treatments using absorptive wall panels and careful finish selection are well understood, few building operators know that acoustic light fixtures can also help them reach that goal. With Visa Lighting’s new line of acoustic pendant lights made with absorbent felt materials, commercial spaces can allow building occupants to experience a greater level of calmness, wellness, and enjoyment.

 
Visa Lighting Celest pendants featuring many acoustic felt finish options.

Understanding Building Acoustics and Sound Absorption

To understand how these pendant light fixtures can better absorb excessive noise, it is important to know about the Noise Reduction Coefficient, also known as NRC. This value measures how much sound a surface absorbs across the range of typical human speech at 250Hz, 500Hz, 1000Hz, and 2000Hz. This value is measured in sabins, which is the equivalent surface area of an object if it were made of 100 percent sound-absorbent material. In mathematical terms, sabins equals the real area of the surface times the Noise Reduction Coefficient of the surface material. This calculation is crucial when considering the acoustics of any given space; an object with a greater sabins value will be more effective at attenuating reverberant noise than one with a smaller value.

The Visa Lighting Celest pendant light family offers between 5.4  to 21.7 imperial sabins (in square feet) depending on the model chosen. Ultimately, installing multiple sound-absorbing light fixtures will decrease the reverberation time of a space,  creating a quieter and more peaceful environment.

Acoustic lighting has been shown to drastically improve the sound and wellness of interior spaces
How acoustic lighting absorbs sound

How to Calculate Room Acoustics

The Visa Lighting acoustics calculator provides a quick overview of the acoustics in a room. Simply enter in the room data – including measurements and materials – then select the acoustic light fixture you would like to incorporate. 

The acoustics calculator uses Sabine’s formula to generate the -60dB reverberation time of your space before and after adding in acoustic lighting. Use this tool to play around with different fixture options and quantities to see what works best to help you reach your goal.

A selection of common building materials and their absorption coefficients are built into the calculator, or custom absorption ratings can be used for room surfaces. Reports can be emailed or printed and retained for later use.

 
Visa Lighting acoustics calculator for acoustic lighting

Visa Lighting’s Acoustic Pendant Options

Currently, Visa Lighting has six different Celest lighting options to choose from that can greatly reduce the noise levels in your building. Acoustic panels are currently available on our Celest-TR, Celest-SQ, and Celest-HX products with two sizes available in each form. You can also take a look at the materials used to dampen sound on this site.

The Celest line focuses on simple geometric shapes that provide aesthetically bold touches to any space. Offering a vast array of finishes, colors, sizes, shapes, and customization opportunities, these fixtures offer countless design options.

These modern, large-scale pendants are designed with evenly illuminated acrylic bottom lenses that provide high lumen output in a way that comfortably reduces glare, plus two different uplight/downlight distributions to accommodate broad use cases. With high lumen packages, they are ideal for primary light sources in large open spaces like offices, lobbies, theatres, and auditoriums.

 

Final Thoughts

Having gone over how excessive noise can have negative effects on the well-being of a building’s inhabitants, it is clear that having some form of acoustic treatment to absorb the reverberations of sound can go a long way toward creating a more peaceful and enjoyable environment. WELL and LEED building standards emphasize the importance of acoustics, making it a very critical part of the certification process. If you’re interested in creating a space that enhances the wellness of the building’s occupants, please consider the various acoustic lighting solutions offered by Visa Lighting.