LEED Documentation: Acoustics

Indoor Environmental Quality | January 5, 2024

Is a building sustainable if occupants aren’t comfortable?

90% of employees believe that noise negatively impacts their ability to be productive.

Additionally, higher sound levels in K-12 classrooms correlate to lower math achievement scores (Brill 2021). 

Noise can cause stress, disturb sleep, disrupt communication, and distract us from daily activities. LEED standard promotes better acoustics design for occupant well-being, productivity, and communications.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). Projects can receive LEED certification at the certified, silver, gold, or platinum level by earning credits.

Originally, LEED focused on wasting less energy in buildings to be more environmentally friendly and save money on utility bills.

There have been many iterations and versions as knowledge and performance of sustainable buildings continues to improve.

90% of employees believe that noise negatively impacts their ability to be productive.

The rating systems have expanded to include more categories beyond the original scope: 

  • Integrative Process
  • Location and Transportation
  • Sustainable Sites
  • Water Efficiency
  • Energy & Atmosphere
  • Materials & Resources
  • Indoor Environmental Quality
  • Innovation
  • Regional priority 

Also, there are now multiple rating systems including:

  • Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C)
  • Interior Design and Construction (LEED ID+C)
  • Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M)
  • Neighborhood Development (ND)
  • Residential Homes
  • And even cities and communities. 

LEED version 4.1 is the most recent rating system, and version 5 is coming soon. There are over 100,000 LEED projects, and the popularity of sustainable building design and LEED certification is growing.

Many governments, university campuses, and large corporations are requiring LEED certifications for all of their construction projects. LEED projects can earn credits for Acoustic Performance.

This credit is in the Indoor Environmental Quality category with similar credits for indoor air quality, thermal comfort, interior lighting, daylight, and quality views.

Many governments, university campuses, and large corporations are requiring LEED certifications for all of their construction projects.

Acoustics is especially critical in LEED for Schools and LEED for Healthcare projects which have unique requirements, as acoustics is critical in these buildings.

All LEED for School projects must comply with the acoustics prerequisite.

LEED BD+C and ID+C projects, can earn acoustics performance credits by achieving two of the three acoustics categories: HVAC Background Noise, Sound Transmission, and/or  Reverberation Time.

To earn this acoustics credit, it is important to hire an acoustical consultant early in the design process.

The acoustical consultant will collaborate with the architect, mechanical engineer, interior designer, and other design team members to create spaces that will comply with the LEED requirements.

When the design is complete, the acoustical consultant will submit Acoustics LEED Design Documentation to demonstrate compliance and earn the acoustic performance credit.

This documentation includes detailed analysis, equipment data, material data, design features, LEED forms, and LEED calculators.

Interested in reading more acoustics-related insights? Check out our article on the Acoustics in Stadiums.

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