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Smart Acoustical Design for Healthcare

Healthy indoor environmental quality (IEQ) is not only integral to a patient’s healing process, but it can also help solve various industry requirements and regulations that pose particular challenges for health facilities. More specifically, careful acoustical design can help boost Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey scores, help meet Facility Guidelines Institute (FGI) for healthcare requirements, and even contribute points to LEED for healthcare.

So how does acoustical design impact these various healthcare initiatives?


The higher HCAHPS scores an institution achieves may affect their level of reimbursement, so it’s critical that we design health facilities with the assessment in mind. For example, one question on the survey reads: “During this hospital stay, how often was the area around your room quiet at night?”

To ensure that a positive response is given, design components that help maximize acoustical comfort should be utilized, including:

  • Use of high-quality sound-absorbing ceiling tiles and sound-control drywall
  • Viscoelastic polymers utilized between layers of wallboard to form a damping system so that when sound waves pass through the structure, the sound energy is dissipated in the form of heat
  • Interior walls that are completely filled with insulation to help eliminate air gaps
  • High-quality doors that are used in partitions must have high sound transmission class rating

FGI for Healthcare

The 2010 FGI Guidelines for Design and Construction of Health Care Facilities - for an average 120 square foot room with a small window and typical construction - can be met with a standard mineral fiber acoustical ceiling tile. One thing to consider before selecting materials is the impact that hard surfaces or large objects in the room will have on acoustics. For example, if you install more hard surfaces or hang a flat screen TV you will need to increase the performance of the ceiling or walls to ones with a higher Noise Reduction Coefficient.

LEED for Healthcare

In examining the LEED 2009 for Healthcare: New Construction and Major Renovation checklist, IEQ checkpoints offer a max of 18 points with acoustical considerations comprising 66% of that maximum point value. Points include:

  • Credit 2: Acoustic Environment (1-2 points for Sound Isolation and Acoustical Finishes)
  • Credit 4: Low-Emitting Materials (1-4 points for Interior Adhesives & Sealants; Wall & Ceiling Finishes; Flooring; Composite Wood, Agrifiber Products and Batt Insulation Products; Exterior Applied Products)
  • Credit 7: Thermal Comfort—Design and Verification (1 point)
  • Credit 8.1: Daylight and Views—Daylight (2 points)
  • Credit 8.2: Daylight and Views—Views (1-3 points for 90% of Inpatient Units; Threshold A for Non-Inpatient Areas; Threshold B for Non-Inpatient Areas)

In summary, the acoustical performance in healthcare facilities is more critical than ever. With amazing new product technologies, heightened building science awareness, and a systems design approach, we can achieve the levels of noise control needed to maximize the healing, comfort, and productivity critical spaces.

Douglas W. Nyberg is a business development manager at vertical markets at Saint-Gobain & CertainTeed.

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