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Unit outline_

DESC9138: Architectural and Audio Acoustics

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal evening] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit introduces the fundamental concepts and issues of audio and architectural acoustics, with an emphasis on theory. The unit introduces topics such as: basic acoustical concepts, quantities and units; principles of sound radiation and propagation; sound absorption and room acoustics; psychological acoustics; noise measurement and specification; speech intelligibility; and principles and specification of airborne sound insulation. Acoustics theory involves mathematics, and this unit aims to provide knowledge and skills so that such theory can be applied, with the help of spreadsheets and computer programs. Teaching is supported by demonstrations and tutorials. By completing this unit students will be able to understand acoustical terminology, and perform calculations and analysis applicable to sound in the environment, in buildings, and in audio contexts. They will have the ability to critically assess claims of acoustical performance. This unit provides the theoretical foundation for advanced units in audio and acoustics.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Architectural and Design Science
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Densil Cabrera,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Assignment 2
exercise-based assignment
Due date: 01 Jun 2023 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10
Assignment Assignment 1
exercise-based assignment
30% Week 07
Due date: 16 Apr 2023 at 23:59
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Assessment summary

Assessments in this unit of study are exercise-based assignments.

Marks are assigned to each question, and the marks are summed to yield the total.

Some questions are mainly calculation-based. However it is important to demonstrate an understanding of the calculation (e.g., what it means, what it implies, how it compares to expectations, etc).

Some questions are mainly analysis-based. Again, it is important to demonstrate an understanding of the analysis. A description is not an analysis.

Some questions are based on a review of scientific literature. Intelligent use of high quality sources, development and interpretation of concepts, application to the specific issues in the question, etc, are among the important features of a good answer.

Assignment 1 is weighted 30%, and assesses concepts up to and including ‘Room Acoustics’ (learning outcomes 1-7).

Assignment 2 is weighted 70%, and assesses concepts over most of the semester (learning outcomes 1-10).

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Work of outstanding quality, demonstrating mastery of the learning outcomes assessed. The work shows significant innovation, experimentation, critical analysis, synthesis, insight, creativity, and/or exceptional skill.


75 - 84

Work of excellent quality, demonstrating a sound grasp of the learning outcomes assessed. The work shows innovation, experimentation, critical analysis, synthesis, insight, creativity, and/or superior skill.


65 - 74

Work of good quality, demonstrating more than satisfactory achievement of the learning outcomes assessed, or work of excellent quality for a majority of the learning outcomes assessed.


50 - 64

Work demonstrating satisfactory achievement of the learning outcomes assessed.


0 - 49

Work that does not demonstrate satisfactory achievement of one or more of the learning outcomes assessed.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

Late penalties follow Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning policy ( (1) It is expected that unless a simple extension, special consideration or disability adjustment has been granted, students will submit all assessment items for a unit of study on the due dates specified. If an assessment is submitted or otherwise completed within a period of extension granted by successful application for simple extension, special consideration or an assessment adjustment determined by Disability Services, no academic penalty will be applied to that piece of assessment. (2) If an extension is not sought, not granted, or is granted but work is submitted after the extended due date, the late submission of assessment will result in an academic penalty as follows: (a) For non-public assessments, work submitted after the deadline will incur a penalty of 5% of the total marks earned for the assessment per calendar day. Work submitted 20 calendar days or more after the deadline will not be assessed and will receive a mark of zero. (b) For assessments involving public, oral, and/or visual presentations completed after the deadline, a penalty of 10% of the total marks earned for the assessment will be imposed per calendar day. Work completed 10 calendar days or more after the deadline will not be assessed and will receive a mark of zero.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction to the unit, and to acoustics Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 Sound sources and acoustic radiation Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO10
Week 03 Sound propagation Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 04 Sound analysis - levels, loudness, spectrum Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO5
Week 05 Room acoustics 1 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO6 LO7
Week 06 Room acoustics 2 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO6 LO7
Week 07 Room acoustics 3 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO6 LO7
Week 08 Speech and intelligibility Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO7
Week 10 Airborne sound insulation Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO8
Week 11 Acoustics of spatial hearing Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO9
Week 12 Loudness Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO9
Week 13 Loudspeakers + Research in architectural acoustics Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7 LO8 LO9 LO10

Attendance and class requirements

Please refer to the Resolutions of the University School:

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through the University of Sydney Library. Please refer to Canvas for recommended reading.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. understand acoustical values of sound pressure, intensity, particle velocity, and power. Be able to calculate relationships between these. Demonstrate a basic working understanding of the radiation characteristics of sound sources
  • LO2. understand and be able to work with sound levels. Be able to correctly transform fundamental values into sound levels and vice versa
  • LO3. understand how spectral, temporal and spatial integration are used in acoustical measurements, and be able to interpret measurements using this understanding
  • LO4. explain the main sound propagation phenomena, including dispersion, reflection, refraction, diffraction, and dissipation; and identify situations where these phenomena are significant. Be able to perform relevant calculations to predict the behaviour of sound in space
  • LO5. understand the main principles of spectrum analysis. Be able to perform spectral analysis appropriately, and correctly manipulate and interpret spectral data
  • LO6. understand sound absorption values, the ways by which they are derived, and to able to apply them in room acoustics
  • LO7. understand basic theoretical room acoustics, including statistical, ray-based and wave- based paradigms. Be able to perform relevant room acoustical computational modelling
  • LO8. understand the theoretical basis of airborne sound insulation, rating methods and how they are applied
  • LO9. understand the principles of spatial hearing, and the principles of loudness perception and modelling, and to apply this to the analysis of acoustic signals
  • LO10. understand the basic principles of dynamic loudspeaker drivers and loudspeakers, and be able to predict the performance of a driver in a loudspeaker box.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Unit of Study Surveys are used in this unit to help improve it each year.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.