Selecting an Expert
Experience is truly the number one qualifier. The portfolio of a highly experienced Acoustical Consultant will demonstrate a wide range of solutions – from the complex and technical to the practical and straightforward. Many acoustical standards and criteria are set by regulation, but often the first task of the consultant is to set appropriate acoustic goals for a new project, or for the resolution of an existing problem.
The achieved quality of sound comes from knowing how to solve real world problems through both technical and creative approaches – through the skillful blending of Science and Art.
What to look for in an acoustical consultant:
- Develops innovative, yet practical solutions to enhance desirable sound and mitigate noise
- Works in concert with the design team, regulatory agencies, and the public
- Plays the role of advisor, designer, and mediator – often all three on the same project
- Focuses on the aural comfort of the user
- Understands and supports the function of the facility
- Respects and often contributes to the visual as well as acoustical aesthetics of the space
- Strives to meet or exceed all schedule and budget parameters
- Relies on independent testing labs if impartial data is required beyond manufacturer published data.
- Understands how to read lab testing reports, how to apply those results to the “real world” situations of current construction, and how to apply those results practically to the project/design under consideration.
Selection of an Acoustical Consultant:
Every project undertaken by a consultant is unique. While many assignments may be similar in nature, no two ever are identical. For this reason, it is essential that a consultant be chosen with deliberate care. In essence, the more experienced and qualified they are to undertake a given project, the more likely their services will be in accord with the goals and objectives of their client. Moreover, provision of consulting services, by definition, implies a close, privileged relationship between the consultant and their client. To give less than full consideration to the selection/retention process, therefore, would be to jeopardize a successful consultant-client relationship before it begins, thereby jeopardizing the successful outcome of the project at hand.
In the event that you have not already established a relationship with an acoustical consultant, the National Council of Acoustical Consultants recommends for your consideration the following method of selection and retention, tested through many years of successful application:
- Determine to the extent possible the nature and scope of the problem or assignment involved.
- Through contact with mutual acquaintances who have previously utilized acoustical consultants, or from directories of qualified independent consulting firms provided by an organization such as NCAC, identify one or more acoustical consultants who, by virtue of previous experience, stated capabilities, availability and proximity of location, as well as other relevant factors, appear to be generally qualified to undertake the project.
- Provide project details to the consultants so identified and request from each statements of qualification, including a complete description of the firm, previous assignments and clients, names and biographies of persons who would be working on the project, anticipated time schedules involved, and other factors which relate to the quality of work to be performed.
- After thorough review of applicant firms’ credentials and experience data, possibly include direct contact with firm representatives if such can be arranged, identify the firm which appears most qualified to serve your specific requirements.
- Contact representatives the selected firm and begin negotiations to establish a mutually acceptable consulting fee arrangement and payment methodology. Most consultants are experienced in at least several types of retention agreements, including hourly rate, fixed fee, cost plus fixed fee, percentage of overhead, etc. Usually one of these will be most suited to the type of work involved.
- If the negotiations prove satisfactory, the client should at this point retain the consultant to ensure their availability for the project. If negotiations are not successful, start a conversation with other qualified firms, one at a time. It should be noted that NCAC encourages open and frank discussion of financial concerns between the client and consultant. Experience demonstrates that mutually satisfactory client-consultant relationships rest predominantly on the consultant’s ability to deliver cost-effective services on time and within the scope of the agreement. In fact, most successful consultants pride themselves on their ability to tailor their efforts to the scope of the project and the budget available for services, as well as for implementation of the recommendations resulting from their services.
It is urged strongly, however, that discussions of fees be divorced completely separate from the ranking of qualifications to prevent financial considerations from biasing the selection process. True economy results only when services provided are cost-effective in the long-term, helping ensure results which satisfy the client’s needs from an overall standpoint. A consultant who is fully competent to undertake the work is the one most likely to provide such results.