Choosing the right acoustic consultant can be daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with specialist sound testing and design services. Why not just choose the cheapest quote and hope for the best? What makes Adrian James Acoustics different?
AJA was established over 25 years ago and has built up an enviable reputation. In 2003, Director Adrian James was called upon to draft the government’s groundbreaking Building bulletin 93 document. Subsequently Adrian also served as the chair of the Association of Noise Consultants.
His team of professionals have a wealth of experience and specialist knowledge. Of course this is essential when perfecting the sound design for a string of award-winning concert halls, schools and other buildings, but it also pays dividends in more routine work such as mandatory pre-completion Part E testing.
TESTERS v CONSULTANTS
It is important to know the difference between acoustic testing and consultancy. A lot of companies have set up as testers to get into the market for pre-completion testing in dwellings. Testing is a clearly-defined repetitive process and does not require an in-depth knowledge of acoustics. It is possible for a school-leaver to become a UKAS-accredited tester on the basis of a 5-day course in building acoustics measurement. This compares with the three or four years needed for a degree in acoustics, and the 1-2 years thereafter typically required for the IoA Diploma in acoustics.
Unfortunately there is nothing to stop testers – or anyone else – from calling themselves acoustics consultants and taking on work outside their experience and capability. There is a good analogy in the motor industry; you might take your car to an MOT test centre for its annual test but not to have a gearbox re-built.
So how do you tell the difference between an acoustics test house and a consultancy?
All acoustics consultants can do testing but not all testers can do acoustic design or consultancy. Membership of the Institute of Acoustics doesn’t necessarily help as this is open to testers, academics, acoustic hardware suppliers and almost anyone working in acoustics. A good start is to look for membership of the ANC – no, not the African National Congress but the Association of Acoustics and Noise Consultants. To join the ANC a company has to demonstrate real competence in acoustics consultancy as well as meeting stringent standards for CPD, PI insurance, professionalism and ethics. The ANC operates its own accreditation scheme for sound insulation testing, but to be registered with the ANC scheme you have first of all to be a qualified acoustics consultant.
Having done that, look for specific experience in the type of work that you want doing. If you want an environmental noise assessment, don’t appoint a company that only does building acoustics, or vice versa. If a company’s website claims that they do all types of acoustic work but doesn’t have a list of past projects, ask yourself why that might be. And seek references – a reputable company should be happy to put you in touch with past clients for similar projects.
Acoustic design and consultancy is a very specialised field. Like architecture or law, it demands a high degree of professional training. Sadly, some acoustic engineers have not gained the qualifications which all AJA staff must achieve. We are longstanding members of the Association of Noise Consultants, and all of our consultants are members of the Institute of Acoustics. Both of these require us to demonstrate continuing learning and professional development every year.
Unlike many smaller practices and one-man bands, we work in small teams on each project, so that every project benefits from discussions, exchanges of ideas and checking. All reports are carefully reviewed using our rigorous quality control procedures to maintain the highest reporting standards. We have a large amount of Professional Indemnity cover but we have never needed it.
We add value to every project by pooling our joint expertise in small collaborative teams and exchanging information within and between teams. We also have long-standing contacts with Environmental Health Officers and Building Control Officers. This ultimately can save money for the client, as we can agree on methodologies with the relevant authorities before starting work. This avoids the costs which can arise when planning authorities reject reports from consultants who have not consulted with them in advance.
Also, when designing the acoustics of buildings, we actually provide designs, drawings and details. Many other consultants merely provide performance specifications, so that you will have to pay directly or indirectly (often via the building contractor) for someone else to do the acoustic design. For this reason, when comparing quotations from acoustics consultants, it is very important to ensure that they are all quoting for the same scope of work. In acoustics, as elsewhere, quality comes at a price, and if you select someone purely on the basis of the lowest cost you should not be surprised if the results do not meet your expectations.
As it becomes easier to design impressive-looking websites, there is an increased risk of choosing a “Consultant” who may carry out work at a knock-down price using outdated equipment. At AJA we invest heavily in the latest measurement equipment and software, including the most advanced systems for modelling room acoustics, sound insulation and environmental noise. Combined with a real understanding of how these work, this guarantees reliable, traceable calculations – something which is reflected in our detailed reports.
SAFETY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
We are registered with the CQMS health and safety scheme, ensuring pro-active management of legal safety requirements. This offers peace of mind to the client – something especially important as site attendances may be carried out at night or under other challenging conditions.
VALUE FOR MONEY
You may be surprised to learn that in the UK, anyone can call themselves acoustics consultants, with no experience or qualifications needed. Whatever your project, choosing a good acoustician should not be based on price alone, especially in the current economic climate when many individuals and companies are desperate to secure work at any cost. We are always happy to discuss your requirements and offer advice which may ultimately save you money. No matter how unusual the job is, we have probably had experience of it and can work out how to deliver results at a keen price, while still maintaining quality.
If you would like to talk about how we can help, please phone us on 01603 721511.