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 How to Qualify Acoustic Comfort
A simple way to qualify acoustic comfort would be to develop a classification standard such as that which is currently being developed at ASTM International for the classification of electronic sound masking systems for use in architectural spaces. This rating approach for electronic sound masking is intended to give the designers and users a method to choose wisely in providing the degree of performance needed when a consistent level of speech privacy is necessary, for instance, in offices and health care facilities. So, what kind of subjec- tive classification might work in the hospitality market? One approach is to model the system of classifications in a similar way as was done on ski slopes (see Figure 6, left).
When standing at the top of a ski slope, we see visual indi- cators that grow increasingly ominous as the degree of difficulty increases, starting with a green circle (bunny slope) and ending with a restrictive-looking black double diamond (dare devil, i.e., cliff). This is a rating scheme that could also be implemented in the hospitality building segment by adapting the descriptive columns to reflect the pertinent factors related to “acoustic comfort.” We know from the previous discussion that some customers will be expecting a quiet space for casual conversations, whereas others will be looking for a lively and loud space for music entertainment. We are trying to address customer satisfac- tion that is based on their expectations, So how to proceed?
Why not give the customer a “heads-up” on what to expect in different areas of a restaurant or bar? We could ask the owner to label the various areas within the hospitality space according to customer expectations. This might look like what is shown in Figure 6, right. It should be noted that the entire purpose of this system of classifications is to satisfy the expectations of the customers who have chosen to go to this establishment relative to the acoustic environment that they will find when there. If the cus- tomer is satisfied, then the owners will be delighted. In any case, the issue of noise as relates to the employees will be covered under the US Occupational Safety and Health
Administration (OSHA) occupational noise regulations.
And How Might This Work?
The business owner may wish to post a sign (as seen in Figure 6,right)attheentryoftheestablishmenttoalertthecustomers that acoustic comfort has been rated by room or space within the building and that each space will have a visual notification
Figure 6. Left: classification system used in downhill skiing. Right: proposed classification system for use in restaurants.
at the entry to the space. A placard with the appropriate symbol canbeaffixedtothewallorceilingonentrytothatspecificspace such as the formal dining area, informal snacking area, or bar.
The rating system applied to a specific establishment has to be determined by the establishment owner, and this could be accomplished in a number of ways. The owner may wish to actually hand out customer satisfaction surveys on-site, use electronic customer surveys on their website, or review on-line satisfaction surveys from the local news- paper or restaurant rating services such as SoundPrint, TripAdvisor, and Yelp. In any case, it is to the advantage of the facility owner to help the customers choose wisely to meet their acoustic comfort needs. Happy customers mean return business.
What Does the Future Bring?
If we wish to move this classification system to a more analytical form as time goes on, then we need to look next to our “smart phone” because we now have many avail- able apps that can be used to measure in real time and on-site the sound environment in any space. This will take additional longer term research into how to make the measurements. Currently, the SoundPrint app, for example, has a sound level meter feature, but the details and accuracy are not specifically discussed, other than that a minimum 15-second measurement period is rec- ommended. Those of us who have conducted SoundScape measurements (sound-level time history survey at either an outdoor or indoor site) would likely believe that the measurement period needs to be related to the type of noise being measured, and 15 seconds is not sufficient as a general recommendation.
Spring 2020S, uSpmemciaerl I2s0s1u9e | Acoustics Today | 257 Reprinted from volume 15, issue 2

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