Across Acoustics

ASA Standards

June 20, 2023 ASA Publications' Office
Across Acoustics
ASA Standards
Show Notes Transcript

Besides hosting exciting meetings and publishing the latest in acoustics research, the Acoustical Society of America has another branch: ASA Standards! In this episode, we talk to Steve Lind, Director of ASA Standards, Donald Peterson (Northern Illinois University) and Derrick Knight (Trane Technologies) about what standards are, why we need them, and current initiatives that those in the acoustics community can take part of.

Read more about recent initiatives from ASA Standards in Acoustics Today.
Check out the ASA Standards blog.

Learn more about Acoustical Society of America Publications .
Music: Min 2019 by minwbu from Pixabay.

Kat Setzer (KS)


Welcome to Across Acoustics, the official podcast of the Acoustical Society of America’s Publications office. On this podcast, we will highlight research from our four publications, The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, also known as JASA, JASA Express Letters, Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, also known as POMA, and Acoustics Today. I'm your host, Kat Setzer, Editorial Associate for the ASA.


Today we're having a bit of a different focus from our usual episode. One really important arm of the Acoustical Society of America is ASA Standards, which is an organization that develops national and international standards regarding acoustics. I've invited Stephen Lind, the Director of ASA Standards, as well as Donald Peterson of Northern Illinois University and Derrick Knight of Trane Technologies to talk a bit about what standards are, why they're important, and how acoustics professionals can get involved in the development of acoustical standards. Guys, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your backgrounds?


Stephen Lind (SL)


Hello, I'm Steve Lind, Director of ASA Standards. Prior to being the director, I worked at Trane Air Conditioning in the La Crosse acoustics lab. My focus was primarily on sound power measurements of HVAC equipment. I got my start in acoustical standards at the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute. I also represented AHRI at ASA Standards for many years. I've been active on ASA committee S12 on noise, and the US TAGs to TC43 on acoustics and TC43/SC1 on noise, as well as in various working groups. I also have experience as an acoustical consultant on a wide range of projects, mostly in building an environmental acoustics.


Donald Peterson (DP)


Hi, I'm Donald Peterson, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Northern Illinois University and I also served as the Dean of the College of Engineering and Engineering Technology at Northern Illinois University. My work has been focused on measuring and modeling injury, biomechanics, and human organ and cell performance, including exposures to various physical stimuli, and the subsequent biological and physiological responses, including exposures to vibration and noise. I'm currently the chair of the US TAG TC 108 on Mechanical Vibration, Shock and Condition Monitoring and the chair of working groups S2 WG39 and S3 WG39, both on Human Exposure to Mechanical Vibration and Shock. I'm also the chair of ASTM International Committee F48 on Exoskeletons and Exosuits.


Derrick Knight (DK)


And rounding out the panel, I'm Derrick Knight, an acoustic engineer with Trane Technologies, the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment manufacturer. My work includes acoustic lab measurements, equipment design, and application support. Prior to Trane, I'd worked mostly as an acoustical consultant, designing all types of rooms, from concert halls to cafeterias. Since starting at Trane eight years ago, I've gotten deeply involved in standards development. I'm currently vice chair of S12 on noise, and chair of AHRI Sound and Vibration Standards Subcommittee.




Can you guys give our listeners a general idea of what ASA Standards is?




Yeah, standards are published best practices, or guidelines, or terms or terminology. These are developed to maximize the reliability of materials, products, methods, and/or services people use every day. Standards are developed and approved by a broad range of interest groups, called stakeholders. Stakeholders include individual experts, companies, organizations, nonprofits and government agencies. The stakeholders participate in the development of standards as producers, sellers, buyers, users, and/or regulators. The standards covered by the ASA are the responsibilities of five committees that are organized by topic of main area of interest.




Okay, yeah, those sound incredibly useful. Can you take us through the process of developing a standard? 




Sure, the process of developing a standard is typically facilitated by a standards development organization, or SDO. An SDO adheres to fair and required processes that facilitate the development, distribution and maintenance of standards, and development of a new standard is typically started with a formal request. After the request is received, a working group or collaborative team of volunteers is formed to develop a standard. In a working group, no one interest is allowed to dominate the development process. The goal is to attain consensus within the working group. Once a draft has been developed, it is submitted to a standards committee for review and approval through a balloting process. If approved, the standard is published and made available for distribution and purchasing. Each standard is a living document and can be reviewed, reaffirmed, revised, amended, and even withdrawn at any point in time. But at no point in the ASA process does a standard go beyond five years before it is reviewed again.




Okay, that all makes sense. So why are standards important?




Well, standards are important especially because of the rapid development of new technologies and the rapid maturation of existing technologies, where standards play an essential role in the career of an engineer, or anybody that needs to apply them in their environments. Standards establish design specifications and testing procedures that ensure durability and reliability as well as established protocols to ensure functionality, compatibility, and user safety. Through these common specifications and protocols, good standards promote practical innovation, by emphasizing the interoperability of several technologies and systems. And furthermore, standards allow anyone to innovate simply because it provides access to an entire intellectual property palette. 


From an industry perspective, standards allow companies to enjoy both short- and long-term cost benefits, particularly through the access to intellectual property and technologies for product research and development, as well as access to new markets that may subsequently drive up a company's bottom line and accelerate its business strategies. I believe that the infrastructure that standards establish make innovation feasible and lead to continuous ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and domestic and global competition. In short, standards are the key for all of us to communicate.




Can you provide a few examples of standards?




Okay. Most people realize that a classroom is a learning environment. A noisy classroom, however, it can make hearing and understanding difficult. That noise, or those sounds, are due to many factors, such as the location of the classroom relative to outdoor noise sources, other indoor noise sources and the design and finishes of the classroom and its envelope. Since 1997, the ASA has led the way in developing a series of classroom acoustics standards, referred to as S12.60, that address acoustics in a wide variety of educational settings, from the classroom to the gymnasium. These standards provide acoustical criteria and design requirements to help school planners and architects create learning spaces in which speech communication is effective, and an important part of the learning process.




A second example that comes to mind is Criteria for Evaluating Speech, Privacy and Healthcare facilities, ASA American National Standard S12.70. This standard provides a relationship between speech privacy descriptors and speech privacy expectations for various enclosed and open-plan health care spaces, including treatment rooms, pharmacies, and waiting areas. For example, when visiting a health care provider, you have the expectation and become accustomed to confidential discussions between yourself and your provider while in the examination room. What many may not realize is the often muffled sounds you hear between exam rooms happens by design. ASA ANSI S12.70 provides design criteria for achieving acceptable speech privacy.




Okay, yeah, that's super interesting. So what are some of the ASA standards current initiatives?




Well, the use of standards in education and curriculum has been lacking in many cases. This lack results in a large percent of the acoustics community not being aware of the availability of standards, what they do, or how they're developed. We believe education and advanced training of the next generation of standards professionals are vital for US to remain competitive in global markets. The first step to improve these deficiencies is educating acousticians about the importance of standardization and standards application. Receiving postgraduate professional development, training, and certifications are also quite valuable. When combined, they provide the how and why around implementation and promote adherence to the best practices in the field. Our goals in ASA Standards are to create new partnerships with educational institutions, national standards bodies, and other professional organizations. This adds value by supporting education of new generations of acousticians. The goal is to build a framework aimed at reinforcing education, knowledge, and skills, as university students and then as practitioners as they progress through their education and careers.




Okay, so why now? How is it different from the past in terms of preparing students for post-graduation and so on?




Well, according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineering, almost 50% of early-career engineers lack knowledge on standards, which clearly illustrates the challenge facing academia. I myself learned about standards by working with professional colleagues who have been proactive in standards development, and not in my own academic setting. Standards did not really exist for me in my undergraduate or graduate education in the classroom and lab. For me, standards may have been introduced in passing with little or no emphasis placed on their importance. And unfortunately, given the ASME data, this likely remains the case today. If we look at faculty, they may not use standards in their courses unless it is something they already are comfortable with or working with. Many of them may not have much to do with the standards, or even have a need for them in what they do. It is possible that they might have not developed a solid standards background within their own educational experiences, much like myself. As ASME suggests, many engineers find themselves scrambling to understand the use of standards once they begin their careers. In my belief, it is very clear that more needs to be done in the undergraduate and graduate curricula to provide a strong foundation standards and they're importance in use.




Okay, so how can standards help with professional development or expertise?




Well, when one graduates from college and begins in engineering or other technical role, they are expected to have the theoretical background to perform many tasks, maybe with some guidance. A common early task is to complete a measurement in accordance with a standard. There might already exist a standard operating procedure, or SOP, but that's focused on the tactical details of using specific equipment and facilities. A common approach to developing a young engineer’s expertise is to ask them to review the SOP and compare it to the latest edition of the related ASA/ANSI standard, and then perform the test and update the SOP to match any changes found in the standard. As the engineer develops, they'll typically focus on a handful of standards most pertinent to their role. A specific ASA standard document, for example, will help them measure and report consistently. As their expertise deepens, they will typically begin to wonder why certain parts of the standard are written the way that they are. They will develop opinions about how the standard might be clarified or improved to reflect new techniques, materials, or equipment. At this point, the engineer is ready to contribute to standards development, where they can discuss the smallest details and biggest ideas with other professionals in their field to make improvements.




Okay, I see. So what's next for Standards?




Well, our immediate plans to discuss our next steps in our spring 2023 meeting and to begin to bring together resources from a wide range of expertise, such as from universities, or from different fields. We are also looking at potential collaborations and partnerships with other standards developers. In doing so, we hope to bring not only the role of standards, but their use into education professional development programs.




That's really exciting. So what do you see for the future of ASA Standards?




Our intention is to leverage the growing need for acoustic standards. We will work with any area to develop standards appropriate to the subject. The effort of connecting standards to acoustical professionals has the goal of aligning education and application.




Finally, how does one get involved in standards?




We encourage anyone who has an interest in standards development can go to our website at or more information, or to become a member. We currently have 62 organizational members, and we're actively recruiting more. We also have 62 working groups that individuals can join at no cost. And we welcome new standards. So if you have a project or proposal or new idea, bring it to us.




Awesome. Well, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I've always been a bit curious about what ASA standards is, and this discussion has really helped me see how important and helpful developing standards is. For any of our listeners who are interested in learning more about ASA Standards or who would like to get involved, we'll be including a link to the Standards website in our show notes. Have a great day. 


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