Testing or commissioning for sound and vibration is the same as commissioning for any other discipline—it works best at the beginning of the project to provide maximum benefit. This means the expected or acceptable levels must be clearly defined in the owner’s project requirements (OPR) and properly addressed in the basis of design (BOD). If you do not see these requirements in the OPR, you need to stop and ask both the owner and the design team why. Remember, there is no way for you prove that the systems are installed and operating as designed if you don’t have a target.
Sound and vibration levels are not unlike lighting levels, in that owners frequently do not know how to describe or quantify their expectations. Never assume that because you don’t see any expectations listed, the owner doesn’t have any. The owner does have expectations, and you do not want to be the one explaining to him at the end of the project why his new ceiling-mounted water source heat pumps are so much louder than the single-duct variable air volume (VAV) system he had in his previous facility.
A word of warning: Don’t be surprised if you initially get a lot of resistance when you raise these topics. Many design professionals do not believe in putting this type of information in writing. As one architect recently stated, “You’re asking me to give the owner the rope he’s going to hang me with.” That is a poor business attitude, and nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, you are doing the design team a big favor by putting the expectations in writing. Many projects are designed and built under tight budget constraints. This often leads to higher sound levels in the finished spaces due to less expensive HVAC equipment, and less expensive construction materials and methods. Documented sound and vibration expectations are your insurance that the owner receives what he is paying for, especially when the owner isn’t paying for a lot.
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