ACU-VENT call for volunteers – help develop comfort models for ventilation solutions

26 May 2022

How does acoustic comfort vary in a house ventilated by opening windows compared to a house where ventilation is mechanical? Answering this research question is the goal of the ACU-VENT project, a partnership between University College London and the Institute for Renewable Energy at Eurac Research (Italy), led by Dr Simone Torresin.

The project is currently seeking volunteers for a short-term acoustic monitoring survey. This is a one-off survey that would be undertaken at the volunteer’s home between June and August 2022, with the session taking 30-60 minutes.

Ventilation and acoustic comfort: a delicate balance in a warming world

Global warming and the recent pandemic have made space cooling and ventilation key issues within the EU, with implications for human health, environmental emissions and climate change. While mechanical ventilation (MV) and air conditioning systems may be viable solutions, widescale adoption would dramatically increase global energy consumption while creating new sources of noise within and outside buildings. Natural cooling and ventilation (NV) – in the simplest case, based on opening windows – can reduce the risk of overheating with little or no use of active systems. However, due to the ingress of external noise from ventilation openings, the adoption of NV is often impractical, as it is more difficult to meet the required noise limits than in the case of sealed and mechanically ventilated buildings.

The perception of sounds

In England, the interdependence between ventilation, acoustic comfort and overheating mitigation requirements has been addressed by the Future Buildings Standard. The document includes the new Approved Document O standards for overheating in new residential buildings, which will come into force for new building regulation applications from 15th June 2022. In this first edition, the government has decided to include consideration of night-time noise levels in bedrooms when designing strategies for overheating mitigation. The regulation follows the publication in 2020 of the “Acoustics, Ventilation and Overheating: Residential Design Guide” by the Association of Noise Consultants, which proposes a more comprehensive approach to acoustic assessments for new residential buildings.

However, is our perception of the acoustic environment (the soundscape) independent of the available ventilation? In analogy with the thermal comfort domain, a differentiation of acoustic requirements between mechanically and naturally ventilated buildings has already been hypothesised in the literature, based on:

  • a lower expectation of low noise levels,
  • an appreciation of non-acoustic benefits (e.g., the sense of fresh air)
  • different availability of control in buildings with NV compared to buildings with MV.

The specific acoustic requirements for buildings with NV are not available to date and this fundamental scientific knowledge is still to be provided. This evidence could be useful to develop ventilation-dependent acoustic requirements reflecting people’s perception of the sound environment – filling in this research gap is ACU-VENT’s main purpose.

The ACU-VENT project

The project is a pilot monitoring campaign in residential buildings involving socio-acoustic surveys. ACU-VENT looks for buildings (with centralised or local units) located in the London area. Researchers will make a short audio recording in the living room, recording the background sound environment under-ventilated conditions and will also take a photo from the window to account for the quality of the window view. At the same time, participants will be provided with a touchpad on which they will fill in a questionnaire on their perception of the acoustic environment, as well as on building features (e.g., type of windows), ventilation habits, and demographic data (age and gender).

Results will then be used to build comfort models, linking data collected from the physical environment to levels of comfort perceived by inhabitants.

How can you contribute?

Please volunteer and invite ACU-VENT researchers to your home to carry out this short-term acoustic monitoring and survey, which will be conducted on a one-off basis between June and August 2022. Each session will take between 30 and 60 minutes.

You will have the opportunity to contribute to research that is crucial in light of the issues of global warming and increasing urbanisation. In addition, volunteers will be offered £10 vouchers as a token of appreciation for your time. To get in touch, please contact Dr Simone Torresin:


About the author:

Dr Simone Torresin is a Building Engineer, a qualified acoustician, and a post-doctoral researcher at Eurac Research. He was granted the title of PhD in Civil, Environmental and Mechanical Engineering cum laude at the University of Trento, in cooperation with Eurac Research, Institute for Renewable Energy, and with the Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett, University College London (UK).