Aercoustics brings Canada’s only acoustic and visual simulation room online
Our engineers have had the great honour of working on some amazing projects including the Aga Khan Museum, Orpheum and Queen Elizabeth Theatre to name just a few. But we are particularly proud of one of our most recent projects because it is our own.
Earlier this year we finished a state-of-the-art room to be part of our new Aercoustics environment. We call it The Bridge and it is the first of its kind in Canada.
So what is The Bridge? This remarkable room allows our clients to experience audio and visual simulation of their spaces before they ever break ground. Now owners, architects, engineers and contractors can test their acoustical design and make sure it achieves its goal.
Acoustic simulation techniques
Depending on the facility, sound quality might be a critical component. If it is a performance venue or studio, you can’t risk having any sound issues ruin a production. The challenge is that perceived sound quality is affected by everything from the geometry and finishes of the space, and by exterior noise. In some spaces an A/V system is added into the mix, or there is noise from the mechanical system. All of these elements need to be considered in the acoustical design, so the sound is not blurry and unintelligible. For years, acoustic consultants and engineers have designed great spaces relying on specialized technical parameters and theories – which at the end of the day mean very little to anyone not in the know.
Improving the way we do acoustic testing
In the past, we tried to simulate acoustical designs for our clients by creating digital files and playing them back over headphones. However, headphones have their own effect on the sound, and are not convincing at low frequencies. As well, different head and ear shape between individuals can result in different experiences between listeners. This made it difficult for a client to obtain a “true” picture of the experience.
For some larger projects like Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall, we have rented rooms and equipment to try and provide a simulation. This was challenging since most rooms or venues were too noisy to be used for simulation purposes – especially if we were simulating environments that were significantly quieter than the room itself.
The other challenge was trying to tune for a specific room. A simulation room should eliminate the effect of the room as much as possible but it can be difficult to achieve. Not only was finding a suitable room challenging but the costs could add up quickly so it was limited to very large, high-profile projects.
A brand new way to conduct sound simulations
We decided we needed The Bridge so every project could benefit from simulation and achieve the best acoustical experience. This project was a labour of love and was built to ensure our clients truly understand how a space will sound before construction begins.
Canadian’s first advanced audio visual simulation room
The technology in the room can provide accurate audio and visual simulations to clients, informing their design and budget decisions based on an actual experience versus the cold hard engineering numbers.
This room is like no other in Canada. Using an array of 12 loudspeakers in a spherical arrangement, The Bridge can recreate any acoustical environment in three dimensions. When combined with a virtual reality simulation, this technology provides an in-depth understanding of the way a space will sound and look before breaking ground.
Simulating real world sounds
We also developed a special system which ensures accurate reproduction of low frequency sources such as a bass guitar or a subway train which are typically not possible to accurately reproduce in rooms of a similar size due to the room modes. Every room has modes, and they can radically change what you hear at specific frequencies depending on your listening position. We designed a bass management system that relies on 4 subwoofers to excite room modes in a controlled way. So, if you’re designing a space near a subway line, The Bridge can help you accurately reproduce the rumbling sound of the subway and see how it will impact your design.
With the ability to create the simulations in-house, we can use The Bridge to synthesize any space – concert hall, office, residence, outdoor noise, anything where the client wants to truly understand what they could hear. Now we can play back for them to help make better decisions.
State-of-the-art sound simulation
Designing The Bridge is a dream come true for our team because it makes our engineering better. We can hear how the actual numbers will sound during the design. Having our own simulation room ensures all of our clients – no matter the project size – can get a sample of the design.
Being the first of its kind in Canada, The Bridge is not limited to our own design projects. It is a much-needed facility that is available for others in the industry looking to get a more accurate “feel” for their project before it is built.
As consulting engineers, our job is to help clients bring their vision to reality. Sometimes this can mean difficult decisions trying to balance functionality and cost. Our goal is that The Bridge will literally help us to bridge this gap for our clients and beyond.