News & Views
24 Nov 2022

Bringing acoustic experts in from the start of a building project and the importance of early engagement

In 1963, a simple fold-out sheet was given to architects that illustrated the role of participants in design and construction projects in a simple matrix format. After being revised and adapted in response to continuous industry changes, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) Plan of Work was published just a year later. Here, Kyriakos Papanagiotou, founder and director of acoustics consultancy KP Acoustics Group, explores the best time to bring in the acoustics experts when following the RIBA Plan of Work for a project.

Since its publication in 1964, the RIBA Plan of Work has constantly evolved to reflect the increasing complexity of projects and the change in regulatory requirements — moving from a simple matrix to include multi-disciplinary teams, different procurement routes and stages before and after design and construction. Last updated in 2020, the RIBA Plan of Work now consists of seven stages; from stage zero, strategic definition, to stage seven, use.

RIBA Stage six

Stage six in the RIBA Plan of Work relates to the building handover, aftercare and the actual building contract concluded. It is here where contractors or owners of the building usually bring in acoustic consultants for acoustic conditioning and testing. This is fine in itself, but if anything is wrong, it is too late in the process to change without significant resources, time and investment.

There have been examples in the past where acoustic consultancies have been brought in too late, such as in a five-star hotel where, once experts were brought in, it was found that the acoustic design was wrong and hotel users could hear their neighbours — either side, above and below — walking and talking. The impact? The hotel was gutted, and the construction and design had to start again.

RIBA Stages three and four

Stages two and three are the coordination and technical design stages, where acoustic consultants can be brought in to produce an acoustic strategy report to guide designers in their system sections. The purpose of stage three is to spatially coordinate the design and ensure that all the information is there so that there are only minor changes in stage four, which is used to develop the information required to manufacture and construct the building.

Bringing an acoustic consultancy in at these stages means that architects will benefit from design advice for all elements of the building, ranging from sound insulation, room acoustics, external noise intrusion and building services design review, as well as advice and documentation for design and build tender bids.

While bringing in an acoustic consultancy at stages three and four is significantly less risky than at stage six, there are still potential sticking points when it comes to acoustic design. It could be found that the building as a whole is not suitable for its intended purpose, or that there are certain designs that do not consider the acoustic requirements of both the building, and its environment.

RIBA Stages zero and one

Bringing in acoustic services from the beginning significantly reduces the risk of any work having to be redone in subsequent stages of the Plan of Work. This means that in planning and feasibility meetings, acoustic consultants can present a number of approaches to the design and construction of the building, as well as giving architects a realistic view of the designs and considerations being focused on.

When you bring in an acoustics expert at this stage, you are actually getting a broad scope consultant who can draw on their experience to make the process throughout the whole Plan of Work run more smoothly. For example, bringing in a local expert means that they probably have the connections in the local council to understand what may or may not be approved, or whether there needs to be additional paperwork or permissions that the architect might come across during the project.

As always, there are a few exceptions to this advice. Smaller projects, for example, may not need an acoustic consultancy in the first stages, but it is always worth getting in touch to ensure what the requirements are. Acoustic consultancies can also help to specify a range of materials that are suitable for the project, as well as details, links to materials and prices so that it is easier for contractors to work, creating an efficient process when moving through the stages outlined in the RIBA Plan of Work.

The eight stages of the RIBA Plan of Work have been devised to help anyone involved in a building project, from experienced designers through to a client undertaking their first project. While the plan acts as a basis for professional services or building contractors, it does not set out in detail at which stage acoustics should be considered, but with the experience and connections acoustic consultancies may have, it is worth bringing them into the discussion in the early stages so that clients and architects alike can benefit from a safety net that spans the entire process.

You can see a summary of how acoustics fits into all RIBA stages HERE.

KP Acoustics Group is a full spectrum acoustics consultancy that provides bespoke advice on noise, vibration and acoustics to a range of industries, including the construction sector. To find out more, visit or contact our team on +44 (0)208 222 8778 |


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