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A new approach to communicating acoustic recommendations using SketchUp

By Chris Perry

A frequent problem that we face as acoustic engineers is effectively communicating a problem to an architect/design team.

Calculation results are typically presented in the form of a table of values, which at first glance mean very little without a significant section of writing to back it up. This can often be misunderstood by someone who is not an acoustician. 

Environmental noise calculation programs such as SoundPlan and CadnaA are used by acousticians all over the world, in our case we use SoundPlan. These programs are most commonly used for the calculation of noise propagation in complex 3D environments.  The results can then go on to be used for the calculation of internal noise levels and facade sound isolation or simply the level at a receiver location. Most provide visual output in the form of  colour mapping the levels across the facade of the building, but it can be challenging for people who aren’t acousticians to interact with the data. 

Idibri’s SoundPlan Mapper bridges SoundPlan and  SketchUp.

We can build the model in SketchUp and import it into SoundPlan. SketchUp provides a much easier platform for building large scale and complex 3D models—and most importantly, is a program familiar to architects.  SoundPlan is used to create the sources and receivers and perform the calculations, but all of the model building and data analysis is done through SketchUp. This makes the model building process much simpler and faster.

Our SketchUp addon can read in the text file values and uses the x,y and z coordinates of every receiver in the SoundPlan model and maps them into the SketchUp model. We can also take the ground map output from SoundPlan in a similar way.

The user can click on any of the imported receivers in Sketchup and find out the calculated level at that location.


The SketchUp model can enhance communication with design teams.

As SoundPlan can simultaneously calculate daytime and night time levels, the Mapper gives you the option of choosing which values you would like to display, giving you flexibility. It also allows selection of your own upper and lower limits for the colour scale. This is useful as you can tailor the visual of the model based on the specific criteria for a project so that essentially red is “bad” and green is “good.”  

The big win is that we can then send this model to the design team and, with only a brief introduction on how to use it, they can open it up, spin the model round and look at the calculated level at any receiver location. They can also instantly see the level across every facade in the model and where problems may lie thanks to the facade colour mapping.

We have found this tool incredibly useful to us as acoustic consultants in working closely with the rest of the design team. We can discuss problems (often without the need to write a full report) by sending them the model. This saves time for both us and the rest of the design team, allowing us to solve any issues in the design quickly.

SoundPlan Mapper is an application created by our UK team in Coventry. 

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