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A Brief History of Design Methods for Building Acoustics

Medium: Tagungsbeitrag
Sprache(n): en 
Tagung: Third International Congress on Construction History, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus, Germany , 20th-24th May 2009
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Acoustics has been important to the designers of buildings, especially theatres and concert halls, for at least 2500 years. For most of this time, designers used empirical guidance which, while reliable within its limitations, could not be applied successfully to rooms and auditoria which had no close precedent. The science of acoustics developed in the 18th and 19th centuries, mainly in connection with musical instruments. However, design methods for room acoustics in buildings become scientific and quantitative only in the 20th century. The physicist Wallace Sabine discovered what affects the reverberation time of a room around 1895 and used this, first, to improve the acoustics of a lecture theatre and, later, in the design of new rooms – most famously, the new Boston Music Hall in 1900. The measurement of sound and waveforms became practical with the development of microphones, amplifiers, oscillosopes and early sound recording machines in the 1920s. From the 1930s physical scale models have been used to measure the acoustic response of auditoria. They are still used today, together with increasingly sophisticated analysis of waveforms, to build up more and more reliable predictions of acoustic performance. Architectural acoustic design methods are typical of other engineering design disciplines in how they developed from being purely qualitative, then using empirical data, then making use of physical model testing, and finally using comprehensive mathematical models.


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