Sunday, February 26, 2023

AANViS Conference Summary

by Dan Clayton, SLR Consulting Ltd.

Over 80 acoustics practitioners came together for the 2022 Fall AANViS conference, Sounding Alarms, Solving Problems.

It was great to see so many faces at the conference. There was so much buzz and energy in the rooms before the conference started. The coffee was at the ready and there was a sense of anticipation for the first time the industry had met up en masse since the pandemic.

The day kicked off with lots of people arriving in time for registration, buffet breakfast, and networking before the opening speech from Richard Patching, AANViS President.

Opening Plenary. Richard’s speech first acknowledged the many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit who cared for the traditional territories and lands which were being used for the conference that day. This acknowledgement was made as an act of reconciliation and gratitude to those whose territory we reside on or are visiting.

The conference sponsors were key to keeping the costs for attendees down. Richard thanked all the sponsors, including our Platinum sponsors, Motion Canada and Wallworks, Gold Sponsors, RWDI and SLR Consulting, and Silver Sponsors, AP dynamics, Behrens & Associates Environmental Noise Control, Merlin Integrated Services, NTi Audio, Patching Associates Acoustical Engineering and X-Scala.

Richard reflected on the challenging decision to postpone the original date of this conference from 2020 due to COVID. It was the right decision to make. The timing felt right to hold it in the fall of 2022, and the crowd of people there really showed support for wanting to get back together and get things moving again.

Richard closed off by welcoming everyone to the first of many AANViS conferences, with a hint at a longer duration one in the future (looking at spring 2024, watch this space).

The morning sessions had the conference split into two spaces: one a half-day workshop and the other a series of expert panels at the mercy of a keen audience to ask questions on an array of topics.

Introduction to Acoustics. Steve Bilawchuk provided his insightful “Introduction to Acoustics Workshop” to an eager audience of keen “students.” Steve walked the audience through the concepts of acoustics, with all sorts of sounds being played to demonstrate the points. The seminar helped to develop and enhance the participants’ knowledge of concepts and principles in Acoustics, providing an opportunity to apply theory to practical situations about sound sources and their control.

Why consultants cost so much…or do they? Dan Clayton of SLR Consulting Ltd., James Farquharson of FDI Acoustics Inc., and Jonathan Chui of Stantec were on the panel of experts. This was an interesting Q&A session with some honest and thought-provoking answers. A few highlights were a discussion around equipment charges to clients, what the panel has seen as changes in technology over the years, how to manage scope creep, and field measurements and analysis processes.

Defining the problem. Ian Bonsma of HGC Engineering, Jessie Roy of RWDI, and Pascal Everton of Soft dB gave opinions and answered questions on “Defining the Problem (RFP Requirements).” This session was targeted at individuals who develop RFPs and the challenges consultants face when trying to respond to them. There were some interesting points made about how difficult it often is for consultants to interpret RFPs for what the client needs and the inefficiencies around this process while being balanced with seeking a competitive bidding process, especially where public money is involved. There was also some discussion about the general RFP culture that is now integral to many procurement processes and how it can seem to be cost-advantageous but is becoming more of a competition of who can write the lowest bid with the tightest scope (having lots of caveats), knowing that soon enough scope change will be inevitable. Things wrapped up with some thoughts and suggestions around RFP issuers seeking support from the acoustics industry on how to relay the problem to be solved/scope clearly and posed the idea of having an interview stage in the selection process.

What didn’t work and why?  Andy Strasser of Merlin Integrated Solutions, Cliff Faszer of FFA Consultants in Acoustics and Noise Control, and Richard Patching, AANViS President, were on the panel to reflect on the ineffective choices in the design and construction of solutions for sound and vibration issues, along with solutions that worked. There were many historical projects shared by the panel and some fantastic questions to get to some real nitty-gritty details on what went wrong. A masterclass from the experts with some great insight in the session.

Lunchtime keynote. Prior to his move to Canada, Dan Clayton completed an undergraduate degree and worked for eleven years in the UK. This recent experience with the profession of acoustics in two countries gives Dan a unique perspective on the similarities and differences in the way the profession is practised, regulated and supported. Click here for a more complete description of Dan’s observations on the differences, how the UK developed its approach and some ideas that could improve the industry here in Canada.

Dan’s talk got everyone talking in the networking space about what they could do next to help with the big tasks ahead and the challenges they are facing. It was great to see everyone so passionate about what could be done.

The afternoon sessions split into two rooms again.

Noise regulations. Five key personnel formed part of the panels of this half-day session talking about upcoming changes to and expectations around assessment approaches. There was representation from four major decision-makers and stakeholders in Alberta. These were the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), Alberta Infrastructure, and City of Calgary Transportation Planning.

First off, Joan You (AUC) and Jason Cao (AER) went through some expectations for Noise Impact Assessments (NIAs) submitted to each regulator. After this, the floor opened to questions from the audience.

The requirement for NIAs to be stamped by professional engineers came up. On this, the AUC said this wasn’t a requirement but the AER said it was. There was some confusion in the room around this, especially for practitioners without this classification and how it may be seen as an overly bureaucratic requirement, especially where it may not reflect on competency for completing a technically satisfactory NIA.

They were asked if there was any in-person consultation planned for the upcoming updates to the regulations. The AER stated that they understood that their attendance at this conference would suffice as consultation, which surprised the room. A comment regarding the mix of wind farm assessment in AUC Rule 012 with the rest seems inappropriate and should be split into a separate document, with reference made to the IoA good practice guide. The AUC said that this may not be a bad idea and would consider this going forward.

The next panelists were Heather Leonhardt and Vedran Vavan from the City of Calgary Transportation Planning. The first thing mentioned was how the department now had an acoustics specialist, Vedran, to help with the more technical side of sound in transportation planning. There were lots of questions about the general plan for managing sound from transportation and especially in the general reduction strategy for the city. There were discussions around the benefit of a city-wide noise map.

Finally, Phillip Wloka presented some key elements that form part of the requirements for design under Alberta Infrastructure, with a focus on building design. Phillip gave a great introduction to the requirements and stated some general rules of thumb on their expectations. A notable mention was that Alberta Infrastructure is exploring IIC requirements for future iterations of its Technical Design Requirements (TDR). He also noted that if an acoustics consultant is onboard, he is generally happy and trusts their judgment. He also reflected on what it was like going from working in the private acoustics industry to working for Alberta Infrastructure, which was very insightful.

How to become a good consultant. Corjan Buma, MEANU at the University of Alberta, Justin Caskey of Patching Associates, and Teresa Drew of RWDI provided great insight and experiences on how to excel in this challenging industry, not from just a technical perspective but developing internal projects and resources to help deliver the best possible product to clients while managing the concerns and challenges of running a company.

Paper presentations. The technical part of the day closed off with a variety of technical presentations from the old pros and their new techniques and innovations. These presentations ranged from localizing low-frequency sound sources, temporary acoustic barriers, and innovative approaches to acoustical design and relaying the process to clients or end users through simulation.

Book launch & reception. The final part of the conference was the reception over a few light snacks and the launch of Dr. Marcia Jenneth Epstein's book, Sound and Noise: A Listener's Guide to Everyday Life. It’s a fantastic read if you haven’t had a chance to read it. All the copies brought to the conference were sold to the crowd of attendees.

AANViS would like to thank all attendees of the Sounding Alarms Solving Problems conference in November 2022. We couldn’t have done it without your support and participation.

Keep your eyes peeled for news about the 2024 conference soon.

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