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A THOROUGH LOOK: at the subject of acoustics

Charles Salter and Associates, Acoustics: Architecture, Engineering and the Environment, William Stout Publishers, San Francisco, May, 1998; hardcover,

A THOROUGH LOOK: at the subject of acoustics

Dec 1, 1999 12:00 PM,
Mark R. Gander

Charles Salter and Associates, Acoustics: Architecture, Engineering and theEnvironment, William Stout Publishers, San Francisco, May, 1998; hardcover,ISBN 0-9651144-6-5, $75.00.

Charles M. Salter and Associates is a well-known, San Francisco-basedconsulting firm specializing primarily in architectural and environmentalacoustics and A-V and presentation technology. Its staff of 30 is involvedin more than 400 projects per year. Readers will perhaps be most familiarwith such well-known Salter signature projects as Disney/MGM Studios, theLucasfilm Technical Building at Skywalker Ranch, San Francisco Museum ofModern Art, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Dolby Laboratories screeningroom, and CBS Studios.

The company has pooled its knowledge and experience to create alarge-format colorful reference book and educational text covering thedisciplines within which they work. The book also includes a wide range ofcase studies that demonstrates the breadth of their activities and providesinstructive examples of the many problems, approaches and solutionsencountered within the acoustics disciplines.

Of those 30 employees, 28 have contributed to the book’s 21 chapters.Beginning with history and fundamentals, then moving on throughpsychoacoustics and hearing, and measurements, the first chapters reviewthe basics of acoustics. Each chapter is nicely illustrated with sketchesand architectural drawings, much of it in color. Even charts that mightappear in clinical form in another book are rendered with colorful contrastand creative typeface. This style is typical of architectural referencetexts, but it serves to enhance the ease of communication to all readers,not just visually oriented architects.

More lengthy chapters on environmental noise, room acoustics, and soundinsulation give background on the theoretical principles as well asspecific practical details of design methods to achieve specific goals.Chapters on sound insulation, building vibration, and mechanical andelectrical systems are full of guidelines and typical implementations. Thechapters on active reduction of noise and sound amplification systems arebrief and limited in scope, but those covering one of Salter’s avowedspecialties, A-V and acoustical simulations in the multimedia age, bringthe experience of traditional disciplines up to modern surround-sound andvirtual-reality standards.

Audio forensics is discussed, mostly in its typical context oftape-recorded material for consideration as legal evidence. Design andconstruction issues and costs and benefits discuss value engineering andthe documentation and project process and compare specific tradeoff optionsin the choice of architectural and noise-reduction elements.

Some 32 case studies are briefly presented, each with a single accompanyingphotograph. These include theaters, performing arts centers and concerthalls; boardrooms, courtrooms and council chambers; theme parks andmuseums, studios and scoring stages, and residences, hospitals andindustrial facilities. Each vignette provides insight into thecharacteristic problems inherent in the type of facility as well as thespecific solutions employed within each example.

Problems and solutions for multi-family housing, office acoustics andspeech privacy, and industrial noise control include sample calculationsand predictive formulas and algorithms. Of particular interest is the finalchapter covering legal issues. The firm provides expert witness testimonyin court cases involving acoustics, and a discussion of such legalprinciples as negligence, breach of contract and liability is supplementedby 18 legal case studies. Most of these are typical noise complaint andhearing loss claims, many relating to the misapplication or installation ofacoustical materials. Some are fascinating examples of the role that soundcan play in the problems and conflicts of our everyday lives, such as theaudible fire alarm that might have saved a life.

The book includes as appendices a reasonably complete glossary ofacoustical terminology and a brief listing of essential units andequations, but it unfortunately has a spotty index. It will find its placeon my shelf of architectural acoustics and noise control books, alongsidethe classic M. David Egan book Architectural Acoustics. It serves a usefulneed in communicating the problems and opportunities of acoustics toarchitects, interior designers, developers and planners, and the casestudies and legal case examples provide reference points for comparison toother similar projects.

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