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A Sound Footing

Our newest consultant Colin shares his thoughts on his first year in acoustics, and what he’s learned…

After ten years working in large public sector organisations, when I came to a small independent acoustic consultancy, I was like a fish out of water. Fortunately, I seem to have landed on my feet. It’s often said that the best way to learn a new language is by immersion. If one’s chance of success in a foreign land is determined by use of the language, one naturally exerts greater effort and, more importantly, one learns faster, too. And so it is with learning any new skill: greater effort is applied and faster learning is achieved by getting stuck in from day one. This was the approach chosen by my company directors and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s paying off.

I’ve been tasked with a wide variety of assignments in my first year as an acoustic consultant with the company. All kinds of things have come across my desk, from British Standard 4142 (BS 4142) assessments for major food retailers to acoustic design advice, such as Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) for schools and British Standard 8233 (BS 8233) for housing. Not to mention the oddities, like the guy building a recording studio out of refrigerated shipping container. The sheer breadth of experience I’m exposed to as a junior acoustic consultant is definitely a major plus-point of working directly with the senior consultants of the practice.

Throughout my first year at Acoustic Consultants Limited I have also been undertaking my postgraduate Diploma in Acoustics and Noise Control at Southampton Solent University. This has allowed me to build upon my academic knowledge and then apply this directly in real-world situations. I have also gained my associate membership of the Institute of Acoustics and become a registered Association of Noise Consultants (ANC) tester for Approved Document ‘E’ sound insulation testing.

While knowledge certainly is important, real-world experience is where firm foundations are laid for future work; there really is no substitute for experience, especially in acoustics. Noise is such a subjective phenomenon, and finding suitable methods of quantifying its effects and being able to explain this clearly to non-experts are some of the most important skills I’ve learned in my first year.

The combination of academic study and real-world consultancy has at times been challenging but the result is an understanding of acoustics I don’t think can be gained any other way. Working in a relatively small team of experienced consultants within the practice, and different disciplines within the design and client teams has allowed me to gain an understanding of how acoustics needs to be presented and explained to others; this, ultimately, is the purpose of a consultant: to advise and provide our knowledge to others.

So whether tomorrow involves assessing the acoustic qualities of a school or measuring noise levels underneath a flight path, I am confident that my first year as an acoustic consultant has given me a sound footing for my career ahead.