News & Views
13 May 2021

Immersive soundscapes and psychoacoustics:
How property developers can increase
commercial impact, ease sick building
syndrome, and improve occupants’
wellness levels

What is an immersive soundscapes and how is KP Acoustics helping property developers to create psychologically-pleasing acoustic environments?

It is a common misconception that psychoacoustics is a ‘nice to have’ that can only be delivered when a building is renovated or first built. However, there are plenty of acoustic improvements that can be made to existing buildings. It’s never too late to improve the aural image of a building because, just like visual stimulation, soundscape design can enrich the experience of being in the structure and increase the value of the property.

A high level of acoustic control in buildings isn’t just reserved for the obvious audio-centric places, like concert halls, festivals and broadcast studios. It can also deliver genuine commercial benefit in residential buildings, hotels, gyms and commercial spaces. Getting the atmosphere wrong will leave a negative subconscious impression on the people in the building, which may make the building less commercially viable.

However, when developers and architects get them right, psychoacoustics can be truly magical. The most satisfying soundscapes, such as a tranquil hotel or spa, do not happen by chance. Enhancing the right sounds and dampening the wrong ones takes a great deal of expertise and technology — going way beyond flooring and insulation.


Transforming audio feel

Nevertheless, getting it right isn’t easy. Bill Yost, research professor of speech and hearing science at Arizona State University wrote in Acoustics Today that, “There is no representation in the neural code flowing to the brain that the scene may be one of a car driving by as the wind blows the leaves and a child giggles. Yet that is what we can perceive usually immediately and effortlessly.”

In other words, we experience and interpret multiple sounds in an organised way most of the time. However, understanding how the brain does this, rather than merely knowing that it does, is a more difficult task. As a result, ensuring that the future occupants or visitors to a building interpret sound in the way you want them to is not easy either.

Everybody has been to a sick building, that makes you uneasy and leaves your ears humming. Psychoacoustics is part of the answer.

Property developers must be willing to combine science, creativity and acoustic consultancy, to ensure the optimal combination of acoustics and aesthetics in the building. With the right consultants on board, the entire audio ‘feel’ of a building can be transformed in line with the architectural constraints of the building and the laws of acoustics.

For example, at KP acoustics, our Echotectonics service begins with an initial consultation to understand the exact needs of the building and its owner. The team aims to understand the psychoacoustic factors as well as the commercial.

The next phase is to use a medley of reverberation control and fine-tuning of electroacoustic systems, to create a bespoke soundscape that encapsulates the client’s audio branding and purpose.

Psychoacoustic consultancy

Whether the consultancy team is working with natural and constructed urban environments, or completely virtual or augmented environments, their mission remains the same: to control the physical characteristics of sound and create a healthy acoustic equilibrium for all the participants experiencing it.

This kind of applied acoustic consultancy is continually evolving, with next generation technology setting the leaders in the acoustics industry apart. The heat detection sensors and data sonification that informs the decision-making process far surpasses old-school methodology.

In addition, industry leading research is continuing to drive change. In fact, KP Acoustics is currently funding a PhD on real-time immersive soundscapes in a collaboration with Solent University, Southampton.

Originating from research based on biosensor technology and affective computing, this research will explore multiple soundscape applications, including physical rehabilitation therapy and cue exposure therapy for treating phobias and anxiety, as well as improving wellbeing by supporting mindfulness and stress management in any type of commercial, or residential environment..

Watch this space for further updates on this research project. In the meantime, if you require bespoke urban soundscape design to improve a building’s audio branding, please contact Alternatively discover more about our architectural acoustics services.

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