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40 years consulting on noise and acoustics

Our most experienced consultant Stephen shares his thoughts on 40 years in acoustics…

It’s been over forty years since I first started in consulting on noise and acoustics.  It all started in 1970 when it was suggested by a Professor at the University of Bath that I try the multi-disciplined course in environmental building design. It was a great ground-breaking four-year sandwich course, with the first two years undertaken in conjunction with budding Architects and Engineers. Acoustics was my interest and I was able to use the newly constructed anechoic chamber for my projects.

From there I worked in a forward-looking firm of consulting engineers where they viewed their first graduate with great suspicion. I operated a one-man “Special Projects” section addressing noise, acoustics and other non-standard issues then such as energy saving, wind and solar generation. However noise and acoustics were the most frequently called subjects. It was a time when many air conditioning systems were just being developed and commissioned in the UK. In most, the noise levels were found to horrendous!  Unfortunately designers had not considered this new dimension, noise. It was not a matter that arose in radiator systems. This problem was compounded by the fact that most of the air conditioning equipment was sourced from the USA where noise was not a matter of such concern and where a different sound pressure reference level was used. As such I travelled around the UK investigating and solving noise problems within numerous types of recently occupied buildings.

In the early 1970’s there were no significant standards or regulations regarding sound insulation and acoustics. As I recall, there were only the Building Regulations containing approved constructions in dwellings. As such the design process was very interesting, consisting of determining the client’s brief and costings and then evolving cost effective solutions.

Acoustic Consultants Limited started off at home in a bedroom in 1987. It soon took off due to increased demand in the specialism when there were very few acknowledged acoustic consultants locally, yet at the time there were many major architectural practices in Bristol. During the first few years there was essentially myself and one “competitor” in the area, Dr. Tim Smith. Stan Simpson at the University of the West of England also carried out consultancy work and helped us on projects.  As time went by the amount of regulation and standards increased as did the number of acoustic specialists.

Over the years we worked on numerous varied and very interesting projects throughout the UK.  These spanned life, from maternity suites to crematoria.  From water supply treatment sites to sewage treatment and power generation. The great variety of sites includes quarries, landfill, and all types of buildings such as auditoria, factories and industrial processes.  One of the most impressive industrial sites was a caravan manufacturing factory in Bristol, Davan Caravans. It was fascinating to see completed new caravans being transformed from a base metal frame with two wheels to what is tantamount to fully serviced liveable accommodation in one long factory line.

The practice grew and we moved to office accommodation in Keynsham, Bristol in the early 1990’s. We are still  based in Keynsham and have a team of seven full-time employees who all continue to successfully work on a wide range of projects with numerous repeat clients.