Tetra Tech High Performance Buildings Group Simulates Building Acoustics with Innovative Apple iOS Application

Tetra Tech’s High Performance Buildings acoustics team received Tetra Tech’s 2021 Excellence & Achievement Award for Technical Achievement for developing an iOS application that assists clients by simulating how a room will sound according to various physical parameters and noise types.

Acoustics team members Arif Zaher, Tim Beresford, Jack Wong, and Jeffery Chen developed the AiHear® application, which can simulate internal or external noise inputs such as footsteps, road traffic, aircraft, and stationary sources such as people conversing or building services equipment into sounds and graphics that users can experience and manipulate in real time. To use the application, users put on headphones and experience what a physical space will be like by listening to accurate audio samples while viewing matching augmented reality graphics. Users can then adjust various spatial and architectural acoustic parameters and hear the difference of treatment applied in real-time. For example, after hearing the simulated sounds coming through adjacent floors in a building, clients may request additional architectural acoustic treatment in the form of acoustic ceiling barriers to be installed to mitigate the noise.

AiHear enables real-time connection of multiple devices from different users into the same virtual world for a group meeting and can simulate how various sounds reverberate off different surface finishes or sound muffled through varying wall, floor, or facade constructions and barriers. The application has been designed to utilize calibrated headphones and will accurately reproduce user defined acoustic simulations. Users can create, save, and alter various augmented or virtual reality settings of potential and existing rooms in real time.

Environmental Business Journal recognized the AiHear team with a 2021 Technology Merit award for Acoustics Engineering for their innovative approach in using this technology to assist in acoustics engineering.

Making Expert Acoustic Advice Accessible with AiHear

Using this application is significantly faster than traditional presentations, which typically use amplified speakers in a dedicated listening room setup or a virtual reality headsets. It also provides potential cost savings and mitigates potential rework during the construction process. The Tetra Tech High Performance Buildings Group is the first in the industry to provide clients with this innovative, cost-saving technology.

The application makes acoustic advice accessible to even novice users, enabling them to easily experience and quickly manipulate alternative configurations and finishes for different rooms. This simplifies and reduces consultation time while still supporting informed decisions. The tool can provide guidance to clients on appropriate acoustic criteria and inform their decision-making process, again reducing the time and risk around making costly decisions.

Supporting Beneficial Project Outcomes in Real Time

A hotel client recently used AiHear to determine the need for an acoustic ceiling within a plantroom. During the design process, the acoustic engineering team and the client had undertaken several meetings and discussions spanning approximately a month to decide if the ceiling was required. It was not until the client could virtually experience the sound in the guest room above the plantroom that they decided to go ahead with an acoustic ceiling.

The application helps clients clarify the outcome of potential changes prior to construction, assists in the selection of appropriate materials, and provides potential cost savings in terms of solutions proposed and potential rework in both the design and construction phases. Clients who have used AiHear have reported a positive reaction to the tool and its application on their projects.