Assessment methods and factors determining positive Indoor Soundscapes in residential Buildings: a systematic Review
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The design of an indoor acoustic environment positively perceived by building occupants requires a perceptual approach to be adopted in order to define what makes it sound good. Soundscape standards ISO 12913 have been introduced to assess how the acoustic environment is perceived, in context, by people. According to the standards, a straightforward characterization of a soundscape as positive is currently possible only through measurements by persons, because of a current gap in linking perceptual metrics to acoustic or psychoacoustic measurements. In addition, despite applying also to indoor contexts, methods and perceptual metrics described by the standards have been mainly derived from studies related to outdoor urban environments and it is not clear whether they could be directly applied indoor. For this reason, a systematic review was performed to investigate: (i) Data collection methods used in the literature for indoor residential soundscapes and (ii) factors, output of such methods, that characterize them positively. For this purpose, a systematic review has been conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines (preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses) guidelines. The Scopus database was searched for peer-reviewed journal papers published in English, between 1 January 2009 and 24 June 2019, including: (1) field or laboratory studies relevant to residential buildings and (2) studies assessing factors that influence the perception by building users of indoor acoustic environments. The search excluded studies related to: (a) Speech perception issues; (b) noise-induced sleep disturbance; (c) acoustic perception by hearing impaired building users; (d) perception of vibrations or impact sounds. The search returned 1087 results. After the screening process, 37 articles were finally included. Given the differences in methodologic approaches, a quantitative meta-analysis could not be performed, and a qualitative approach was adopted instead. A large part of the selected literature reflected a general effort of minimizing noise annoyance by reducing noise exposure and, in particular, noise levels. Questionnaires and guided interviews were used to capture people’s perception, while the adoption of soundwalks and non-participatory behavioral studies did not emerge in the review literature and need further investigation. The evaluation of a variety of auditory sensations both in their positive and negative dimensions, beyond annoyance, would be required to explore the positive perceptual potential of sounds. Besides sound level, a variety of factors related and unrelated to the acoustic environment were found to affect perceptual outcomes and a framework of evaluation has been proposed as a reference for future assessments. Results encourage the integration of soundscape methodologies into IEQ research, in order to enhance user health and well-being.