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    Review of 'Space sound absorbers with next-generation materials: additional sound absorption for post-pandemic challenges in indoor acoustic environments'

    Space sound absorbers with next-generation materials: additional sound absorption for post-pandemic challenges in indoor acoustic environmentsCrossref
    A good commentary on an acoustic solution developed by the authors but some improvements are needed.
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        Rated 4 of 5.
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    Reviewed article

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    Space sound absorbers with next-generation materials: additional sound absorption for post-pandemic challenges in indoor acoustic environments

    In this study, we first point out the possible acoustic problems associated with the post-pandemic operation of built environments. Particularly, we focus on the problem of acoustic deficiency due to the lack of absorption. This deficiency, which is likely to be encountered in most enclosed spaces in a range of establishments, is due to the reduced number of audience members or users of the space as a result of social distancing. As one of the promising solutions to this problem, we introduce a sound absorption technique using three-dimensional space sound absorbers developed through our recent research projects. Significantly, the type of sound absorber propose herein is made of materials that are especially suited to hygiene considerations. The materials are microperforated panels (MPPs) and permeable membranes (PMs), both of which are easily washable and sanitised. Furthermore, we point out that three-dimensional MPP or PM space absorbers possess the additional value of aesthetic designability.

      Review information

      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      microperforated panel,Built environment,sound absorption,indoor acoustic environment,post-pandemic 'new style',permeable membrane

      Review text

      This is a commentary on potential usage scenarios of the self-standing microperforated acoustic absorbers developed by the authors and more thoroughly described in their previously published works. The potential novelty lies in an original point of view of this commentary. Therefore, I believe the text should be improved so the overall narrative becomes its strongest point. The main improvements could be achieved by briefly describing a wider context. There is a strong intention to advocate for usage of the self-standing absorbers at events held during times when certain epidemiological measures are in place to compensate for the acoustical effect caused by lower numbers of audience allowed due to social distancing. However, I would suggest the C-19 aspect should be either omitted or made stronger. While appreciating the argument that the 3D-PMAs described are hygienic and economically viable as very flexible to install and remove, one of the reasons for suggesting to reconsider the focus on the C-19 pandemic is the temporary nature of all the epidemiological measures we are witnessing all over the world.

      The use of self-standing objects intended to acoustically enhance rooms is not new but they are not very common in performance spaces, especially from the viewpoint of a listener / audience, so I wholeheartedly welcome this commentary as a contribution to reflect on the potential reasons behind that and how and why this could be changed. The mention of the three-dimensional absorption units that are usually hung from the ceiling weakens the overall argument as they are common as they allow a more flexible plan interieur. A clear distinction should be made between those and the units this commentary focuses on.

      For instance, there is a record of self-standing items for enhancing acoustics used in ancient theatres and churches in Europe. On the other hand, in more recent times transparent microperforated absorbers became commercially available so perhaps the ongoing development of acoustic metamaterials should be briefly mentioned. Also, I would suggest that the introduction incorporates a clearer connection between the two concepts (self-standing acoustic units and (transparent) microperforated absorbers) with a very brief history overview of both concepts and how the authors came to combine them. This could be reflected in the introduction and discussion. I believe there is a strong argument for such an approach from the design point of view, even for residential uses and perhaps combining similar design with furnishing such as lighting. It should be made clearer in the introduction if the focus of the commentary is on multipurpose halls or residential use and why.

      It is not clear from the text how much is known about the interaction between coronaviruses and the usual porous absorber materials. It is sensible to suggest that the harder, self-standing panels are easier to clean and disinfect but it might be too hasty to suggest all the other absorbers would now be in need of replacing and/or cannot be used anymore. More references on this point are needed.

      Another important point related to the context is the acoustic effect of human bodies. It might be self evident, but considering the wide range of backgrounds the readers of this journal come from, please stress already in the introduction that multipurpose public spaces usually host many people where human bodies then significantly contribute to the overall sound absorption in the room. A reader should perhaps get more knowledge about the significance of the effect in rooms of different sizes than mentioned in the ‘Some simple examples’ section. Further, information on the effect of human bodies on room modes and speech intelligibility would be beneficial so readers could fully understand the context. This is crucial as this is a strong part of the conclusions but not elaborated in sufficient depth throughout the text.

      A minor point I came across is the mention of the effect of wearing face coverings which is not clear. While it is clearly related to speech intelligibility per se, it is not clear in relation to 3D-PMAs so it could be omitted or explained in more depth, i.e. source vs receiver relation.

      In the face of venues all over the world struggling to survive the financial effects of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, it is hard to imagine they could afford additional costs to compensate for the acoustic effect of missing human bodies. I believe this aspect should be considered to strengthen the narrative. Perhaps suggesting how the 3D-PMAs could be used in the pre/post-pandemic life could be beneficial for the narrative.

      Moreover, the narrative is mostly built based on the epidemiological measures implemented in Japan so far. This should be acknowledged in the title and discussed as a limitation.

      Some minor typos are present, but the overall presentation and language are very good and very clear. I enjoyed reading it.

      To conclude, I believe this commentary on potential usage scenarios of self-standing microperforated absorbers is a valuable contribution. Therefore, I would suggest to slightly revise the paper by giving more attention to the context and the narrative, mainly: different usage scenarous, the absorptive effect of human bodies compared to 3D-PMAs across the scenarios, the acoustic requirements of multipurpose halls, and the infection risks related to coronaviruses and porous materials, with clearly laid out limitations of the commentary, such as policy (focus on Japan and the temporary nature epidemiological measures) and economics.


      Many thanks for your thoughtful and constructive comments on our commentary paper. We have revised the manuscript accordingly to address all your concerns and summarise the revisions as follows:

      -    As for the point about the C-19 connection, this context is necessary because these acoustic problems discussed in this paper probably would not occur without the pandemic caused by C-19. We remarked out this point in Introduction.

      -    Although suspended sound absorbers from the ceiling have been used in the past, they are more difficult to set up and remove than floor-mounted ones, and the authors pointed out that they are not as flexible as floor-mounted ones. It is emphasized in the text that this flexibility will become even more important for future interior planning.

      -    For the historical background, the use of resonant absorption has been practiced for a long time, which is briefly mentioned in this article by citing a book by Bruel. Since there is a very large number of studies on ongoing metamaterials, we have narrowed the discussion to MPPs and cited some review articles by Herrin et al that may be useful to readers. Whether or not it is for residential use is based on the premise of adding value-added applications for residential use, taking into account that it is necessary to select an appropriate sound absorption treatment according to the scale of the target space.

      -    Because the hygienic properties of materials other than plate or membrane materials depend on their characteristics, the authors suggest that there may be other materials that can be used, as pointed out by the reviewer.

      -    As pointed out, the effectiveness of this proposal depends largely on the size of the space and the existing sound absorption capacity.Therefore, it is pointed out that there may be cases that are not as simple as those discussed in "Simple Examples", and it is suggested that there is a limit to the application of this paper.

      -    A more detailed explanation of the face-covering issue has been added, as noted by another reviewer, with some limited discussion of its relationship to 3D-PMA.

      -    The title has been revised to suggest that this point is based on considerations from the Japanese context. The title is now: Some considerations on the use of space sound absorbers with next-generation materials reflecting COVID situations in Japan : additional sound absorption for post-pandemic challenges in indoor acoustic environments

      Once again, we appreciate your constructive and thoughtful comments. They are really helpful to improve the quality of this manuscript.

      Kimihiro Sakagami

      2020-10-22 06:50 UTC

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