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Acoustical engineers

Acoustical engineers and consultants, also called sound engineering technicians and architectural acousticians, help design buildings to best carry sound or work with construction teams to minimize noise pollution from their projects.

Source O*Net
Quick facts: Acoustical engineers
2019 Median Pay $63,340 per year; $30.50 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Number of Jobs, 2019 13,500
Job Outlook, 2019-29 10%
Employment Change, 2019-29 1,350

These professionals may execute sound and environmental evaluations on a building to ensure it meets codes and regulations. Acoustical engineers may work with engineers in other areas and other construction professionals where sound improvement or noise reduction is a major priority. Some examples of acoustic design approaches include:

  • Design of interior finishes (ceiling, wall panels, floor types) and room shaping to control reverberant sound level (noise build-up) and support speech intelligibility
  • Sound isolation strategies to minimize noise transfer between spaces (e.g., a classroom next to a corridor) and support speech privacy
  • HVAC noise and vibration control recommendations to minimize duct-born and vibration noise transmission to noise-sensitive spaces

According to findings from the World Health Organization (WHO), noise is the second largest environmental cause of health problems, just after the impact of air pollution (via particulate matter). On a green building project, an acoustician supports the work to provide residences, workspaces, and classrooms that promote occupants’ well-being, productivity, and communications through effective acoustic design. For example, in residences and healthcare spaces, acoustical engineers may help ensure sound levels in sleeping areas are minimized to prevent sleep disturbance. In workspaces, acousticians may focus on material selections that minimize noise transfer between office spaces. And in schools, acoustical engineers may evaluate the mechanical equipment noise in classroom spaces so all students can clearly hear their teacher. Sound pollution is a growing field of environmental science, and we are learning more about the impacts of sound on wildlife and humans. Acousticians also support sustainability by specifying materials with low embodied energy and minimized impacts associated with the extraction, processing, transport, maintenance and disposal of those materials. 

Role on a LEED project

LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Available for virtually all building types, LEED provides a framework for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership.

How to become an acoustical engineer

Most acoustics professionals become interested in the field because of a background or interest in music, or an interest in radio, theater, experience design or the arts; and pursue an undergraduate degree in architecture, engineering or a comparable course of study. Most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree as a minimum qualification for entry into the workforce; some entry-level jobs will require a master's degree. Coursework should cover room acoustics, sound isolation, environmental noise, mechanical noise and control, dynamics, circuits, thermodynamics, sound control, bioacoustics, speech, psychoacoustics, and vibrations. For building-related acoustics work, a course on architectural acoustics would be very helpful. Important skills include multi-discipline coordination, math, communications (written and oral), creativity and problem-solving.

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