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Revamping Architectural Acoustics using Computer Technology

By Maria Lorena Lehman — Get more articles like this sent to your email HERE.

Image Credit: © Norebbo | Dreamstime

We all know that computer technology has done a lot to advance not only the way the design process can work, but also to improve the constructed outcome of that design process.

That’s why I think it’s important to shed some light on what “aural renderings” can do. (1) You, as an architect, can actually listen to a designed space as built to the parameters of your three dimensional CAD model. Here is a detailed description of the process that goes into creating such an aural rendering:

A 3-D model of the space is built using CAD software, and this model is transferred to an acoustical modeling software package. The acoustical consultant assigns acoustical properties to the modeled room’s surfaces (or potential construction materials) and places sound sources and listener locations. The software then calculates the propagation of sound from the source to the listener using algorithms based on ray-tracing combined with statistical reverberation calculation and other techniques to account for sound scattering and diffraction. The calculated room impulse responses are then convolved with audio material that has been recorded anechoically – in a space free from echoes or reflections – to generate a realistic and listenable result (a piano recital, a busy wedding banquet, or a ceremonial speech as it will sound in the yet-to-be-built space). (1)


Yes, you can visualize your building’s design and perhaps its final outcome, but so many variables are at play once the building is constructed. Can you be certain that your designed spaces will not only function, but also feel the way you intend?

Simulation technologies can be an extremely helpful tool to you during your design phases. And they can be quite valuable as you must make many decisions during those phases to produce a quality architectural design that realizes your vision.

For instance, the aural qualities to a space may not be so evident in a fly-thru animation; however, an aural rendering may make that space come alive in a way the fly-thru does not. As you know, different modeling techniques can inform you of different things.

As technology develops with new ways to “visualize” your complex architectural designs, wouldn’t it be nice to have a way to fuse them together? Why not visually render a space capturing its light levels at a specific time of day while also aurally rendering how it will sound during a specific function?

Really, the possibilities (and opportunities) become endless. The key is to pull the best of what technology has to offer so you are informed with vital information that helps you make great design decisions.

Don’t use computer technology as a crutch, but strive to push the boundary with them.


(1) Sacks, Jonah & Pieleanu, Ioana. Technology Transforms Architectural Drawings into Aural Renderings. September 2009.





what members are saying...
Maria: I came across your website through a reference in today's Architect Weekly ezine and am delighted I did. I'll bookmark your site and check back often. I read the first article and then the second and thirty minutes later realized how much time had passed. I've been practicing for thirty years and have always missed the stimulation of academia. I find each of your brief dissertations sort of like a day in design studio. Thanks for the inspiration.

Ron Ward
AI Group Design
I am excited to see you touch a vein of values in architecture, I have been chasing myself for years. Your depth of involvement in these very deep subjects is really beautiful and passionately dealt with and well written. Sound, color and value, shape, texture, scale, smell.... all definitive measures of the spaces we should be alert to. [...] I will savor the rest of your investigation of sensuality in architecture. I'm Glad I found you.

Dennis McLaughlin
McLaughlin Architect
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Maria Lorena Lehman is a multi award-winning visionary author, designer, and educator from the United States. Maria holds a Bachelor of Architecture with Honors from Virginia Tech and a Master in Design with Distinction from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. CLICK HERE to learn more.

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