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Acoustic Comfort in Restaurants
at the possibility of writing such a standard, and, to that end, a special session on “Restaurant Acoustics” was spon- sored by the ASA Panel on Public Policy1 at the Boston meeting. Since then, additional special sessions have been offered and more test data have been collected, but what to do next?
The normal practice for the development of acoustic stan- dards generally follows a defined path that starts with design practice and ends with building codes and regulations. To date, design knowledge for the acoustics of these spaces is generally available to architects, engineers, designers, and consultants, often based on research into the design practice and performance as previously discussed. Design guidelines for restaurants tend to be internally held by the owners. For instance, chain “fast food” restaurants such as McDonalds and Burger King usually have model design standards for their buildings. However, despite all the talk about “noisy is good for turnaround,” the fast food industry has certain model building specifications that include acoustic ceiling tiles, usually in the form of 2-foot × 2-foot suspended ceilings. Although their first consideration is likely to be installation costs, accessibility, and esthetics, acoustics is being provided in the suspended ceilings despite the contention that noisy is good. Really?
Can We Quantify or Qualify Acoustic Comfort?
One can choose to address acoustic comfort in restaurants in either of two ways. The most obvious approach is to address the need for acoustic comfort in hospitality using the same methods and metrics currently used in other building segments, which would be a quantitative mode using measurement and performance standards. A second but more qualitative mode would be to develop a classifica- tion standard.
We certainly know how to go about accomplishing the first option, and the tools for doing so are shown in Figure 5.
ASTM International is well-known for its portfolio of acous- tic measurement standards, and these are referenced in the ANSI/ASA S12.60 standard for acoustics in classrooms, for
example, where both measurement and performance stan- dards are applied. This is not difficult to specify for schools
1 See Sound Perspectives essay on this panel by Walsh in this issue of
Acoustics Today.
256 | Acoustics Today | Suprminmge2r0201,9Special Issue Reprinted from volume 15, issue 2
Figure 5. Measurement and performance standards for quantitative approach. ASA/ANSI, Acoustical Society of America/American National Standards Institute; IEQ, indoor environmental quality. STC, sound transmission class rating; ASTC, field-measured apparent STC; NRC, noise reduction coefficient rating; NIC, noise isolation class rating; HP, high performance; T60, reverberation time; ASHRAE, American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers; terms in parentheses, actual test standard designation by
ASTM International, ASA, or ASHRAE.
because all classrooms need a good listening environment for students to learn from the teachers (Brill et al., 2018; Leibold et al., 2019), and so the focus is on speech intelli- gibility. Additionally, many classrooms are architecturally very similar in size and shape, making the acoustic needs relatively easy to define.
Restaurants, diners, and bars, on the other hand, have a list of requirements including speech intelligibility, speech privacy, annoyance, and entertainment, and within these, there is a range of conditions for each acoustic factor depending on the type of establishment, time of day, or day of the week. So, treating a restaurant in the same way as a school does not make a whole lot of sense without addressing a very complex set of requirements. Although it may be possible to develop a range of performance requirements for acoustic comfort in the hospitality building segment, this may take a significant level of research and “buy-in” from all the interested parties (owners, customers, and employees). This is why a previous attempt by ASTM International to take this approach was not successful. Accordingly, we may wish to take a more simplistic approach just to get started, and then see where this may lead.

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