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Measurement of Acoustical Characteristics of Mosques in Saudi Arabia

Article  in  The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America · April 2003

DOI: 10.1121/1.1531982 · Source: PubMed


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Adel Abdou
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals


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Measurement of acoustical characteristics of mosques
in Saudi Arabia
Adel A. Abdoua)
Department of Architectural Engineering, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran 31261,
Saudi Arabia

共Received 19 November 2001; revised 24 May 2002; accepted 4 November 2002兲

The study of mosque acoustics, with regard to acoustical characteristics, sound quality for speech
intelligibility, and other applicable acoustic criteria, has been largely neglected. In this study a
background as to why mosques are designed as they are and how mosque design is influenced by
worship considerations is given. In the study the acoustical characteristics of typically constructed
contemporary mosques in Saudi Arabia have been investigated, employing a well-known impulse
response. Extensive field measurements were taken in 21 representative mosques of different sizes
and architectural features in order to characterize their acoustical quality and to identify the impact
of air conditioning, ceiling fans, and sound reinforcement systems on their acoustics. Objective
room-acoustic indicators such as reverberation time 共RT兲 and clarity (C50) were measured.
Background noise 共BN兲 was assessed with and without the operation of air conditioning and fans.
The speech transmission index 共STI兲 was also evaluated with and without the operation of existing
sound reinforcement systems. The existence of acoustical deficiencies was confirmed and quantified.
The study, in addition to describing mosque acoustics, compares design goals to results obtained in
practice and suggests acoustical target values for mosque design. The results show that acoustical
quality in the investigated mosques deviates from optimum conditions when unoccupied, but is
much better in the occupied condition. © 2003 Acoustical Society of America.
关DOI: 10.1121/1.1531982兴
PACS numbers: 43.55.Br, 43.55.Gx, 43.55.Jz, 43.55.Mc 关MK兴

I. INTRODUCTION Acoustic evaluations of other religious buildings5–9 have

been extensively reported. For example, the varying of the
Mosques are places of worship used for prayer, public acoustics of a large cathedral for satisfactory speech intelli-
speaking, preaching, lecturing, and Qur’an recitations. All gibility, by the use of carefully designed, installed, main-
activities performed in mosques are related to speech audi- tained, and operated sound amplification system has been
bility and intelligibility. Therefore, the design of their acous- demonstrated and discussed.5 In addition to assessing acous-
tical features requires careful consideration if good listening tical quality by using pressure-based room acoustics indica-
conditions are to be achieved. Although mosques are tors, visualizing the directional characteristics of sound fields
uniquely important buildings in every Muslim community, in at the listener position is also possible. Three-dimensional
general, their acoustical quality evaluation, problems 共if any兲 transient sound intensity impulse responses have been uti-
and possible remedies have not received adequate attention lized to assess the effectiveness of a sound system in a large
in the literature. Hammad1 in an early study evaluated speech reverberant church.7 Subjective and objective acoustical field
intelligibility via rapid speech transmission index 共RASTI兲 measurements have been conducted in a survey9 of 36 Ro-
measurements in mosques in Amman, Jordan. He concluded man Catholic churches in Portugal. The idea was to evaluate
that, in general, the acoustical characteristics of mosques had and predict the acoustical quality of these churches. Correla-
been largely neglected. In 1991, the acoustical problems of a tion analyses and statistical modeling identified relationships
huge mosque built in Amman were investigated.2 The au- between some room-acoustic indicators and speech intelligi-
thors recommended that acoustical properties of mosques bility in this particular style of church. Recently clarity and
should be considered at the early stages of design. In 1995, a definition acoustic indices in Gothic churches were measured
study3 established the relative influence of active environ- and compared with expected results derived from a semi-
mental control systems on the acoustical performance of a empirical analytical model.10 In the literature, objective and
typical mosque in the Gulf region. Recently, Abdou4 pre- subjective evaluation of halls used for other functions such
sented and discussed the potential of utilizing room-acoustics as concert halls, opera houses and classrooms have been
simulation in the early stages of mosque design, where deci- widely reported. However, developments employing impulse
sions are made to establish the mosque geometry, surface response techniques11,12 for evaluating the acoustical quality
materials, and speech reinforcement system 共SRS兲 distribu- in different types of enclosures have not yet been applied to
tion. mosques, at least not in widely known publications. In addi-
tion not many readers are aware of mosque design, its wor-
Assistant Professor of Architectural Engineering. Electronic mail: ship considerations, acoustical properties, and requirements. The objectives of the current work were the following:

J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 113 (3), March 2003 0001-4966/2003/113(3)/1505/13/$19.00 © 2003 Acoustical Society of America 1505
FIG. 1. The basic design elements of a simple mosque 共a兲 plan, and 共b兲 isometric.

共1兲 To give a background about the mosque’s basic design unchanged. However, the mosque architectural form, space,
elements as influenced by worship considerations and construction system, and building materials have evolved
mosque classifications; and developed to a significant and variable extent in different
共2兲 to characterize the acoustical quality of typical contem- parts of the Islamic world, influenced by many factors men-
porary mosques built in Saudi Arabia and, subsequently, tioned elsewhere.13,14
to objectively confirm 共or otherwise兲 the existence of
acoustical problems with respect to speech intelligibility B. Worship modes in a mosque
and compare design goals with results obtained in prac-
The mosque design is mainly influenced by worship
considerations. Worship in a mosque consists of two major
共3兲 to identify the impact of active environmental control
modes. The first mode, namely the prayer mode, involves
systems such as air-conditioning systems 共A/C兲 and me-
performing prayers either individually or in a group, as reli-
chanical ventilation incorporated into mosque designs on
giously prescribed. Group prayer must be performed with
the acoustical quality; and
worshippers standing, bowing, prostrating, or sitting behind
共4兲 to investigate the overall effectiveness of the SRS most
the Imam, on the same floor level, aligned in rows parallel to
commonly operated in mosques for enhancing speech
the qibla wall with distances around 1.2 m apart. The second
mode is the preaching mode, where worshippers are directly
seated on the floor in random rows listening to the Imam
II. COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF preaching or delivering the khutba while standing on the
CONTEMPORARY MOSQUES elevated minbar floor. The minbar floor height varies from
A. Basic design elements of a mosque one mosque to the other but usually is in the range of one to
three meters above the mosque floor. Figure 2 shows the
Historically, the first mosque built in Al-Madinah Al-
worshippers’ different postures and their orientation in rela-
Monawarah city, Saudi Arabia formed the model for subse-
tion to the Imam while performing the two different religious
quent mosques throughout the Islamic world13 in its combi-
activities in the mosque. The congregational capacity of the
nation of basic elements. It was a simple rectangular, walled
mosque is usually determined by the floor area divided by
enclosure with a roofed prayer hall. The long side of the
the area required for a worshipper to perform the prayer, i.e.,
rectangle is oriented toward the direction of the holy mosque
approximately 0.80⫻1.2⫽0.96 m2.
in Makkah city. This wall is usually described as the qibla
wall. The wall contains a recess in its center in the form of a
C. Mosque classifications
wall niche called the mihrab. This wall also includes the
minbar which is commonly an elevated floor, to the right of While, in general, traditional mosques can be classified
the mihrab, from which the Imam preaches or delivers the according to their architectural form and configuration, con-
Friday sermon, the khutba. These basic elements are the es- temporary mosques may be broadly classified according to
sentials of mosque design in Saudi Arabia, as they are else- their size and location in relation to the community.14,15
where in the Islamic world. Figure 1 illustrates the plan and Large mosques are located in large cities as public land-
isometric of a simple, typical mosque design. The basic de- marks. They are usually built by the government expressing
sign elements are emphasized. Since the construction of the the state’s commitment to Islam. They are generally grand
first mosque, the functions of every mosque have remained in size and of large congregational capacity. Community

1506 J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics
mosques 共i.e., Jamma mosques, where Friday prayer, pre-
ceded by Friday speech, can be performed兲 are distributed
throughout urban and rural communities and may house ad-
ditional functions 共e.g., a library, meeting rooms, clinic, etc.兲,
in addition to the prime function of a space for performing
prayers. They are usually utilized for both daily prayers as
well as the Friday prayer and occasionally are supplemented
with a separate annex on the same floor level or in a mezza-
nine floor for female worshippers. Small local mosques are
located in small neighborhoods, and are of modest dimen-
sions and congregational capacity. The planning and design
guidelines for the above three types of mosque are available
in Ref. 15.

D. Mosque prototypes in Saudi Arabia: Common

In Saudi Arabia, many prototypes of mosque design
exist.16 Mosques are built in various sizes ranging from small
and medium to large types. They are usually typical in lay-
out, shape, construction system, and building material, but
with different types of air conditioning and electroacoustic
sound systems. From a field survey of 90 mosques, it was
observed from site visits, design drawings, and ‘‘as built’’
sketches that mosques are fairly similar with respect to their
construction systems. They are commonly constructed of re-
inforced concrete skeletal structures with flat roofs. The flat
roof is commonly supported on columns that are arranged on
a regular grid 共i.e., structural unit兲. A dome is sometimes
constructed spanning the central part of the roof to eliminate
intermediate columns. The shape represented by the aspect
ratio 共i.e., the mosque length over width兲, and the floor area
of each mosque type is mainly controlled by the size and
proportion of the structural unit dimensions as well as the
total number of units 共e.g., 5⫻3 units兲. Interior materials of
these typical contemporary mosques vary. Walls are mostly
finished with reflecting materials such as painted plaster.
They usually contain a wainscot, around 1.0 m high, made of
marble tiles. The floor area is always covered with heavy
carpet. Hard, painted concrete ceilings with simple to elabo-
rate decorations are commonly used. Due to the harsh cli-
matic conditions in most of Saudi Arabia’s regions, air-
conditioners are virtually a necessity. Therefore, almost all
types of mosques are equipped with either a central, or a split
unit air-conditioning system or window-type unit, in concert
with ceiling fans for air circulation. Electroacoustic SRS
have also been implemented in mosques of all sizes to en-
hance the listening conditions in the mosque space, particu-
larly after the introduction of the air-conditioning systems
and the anticipated subsequent increase of ambient noise in
the mosque.


FIG. 2. The worshippers’ different postures and their orientation in relation Nowadays, numerous subjective attributes of the listen-
to the Imam in the two religious modes, 共a兲 sections showing congregations ing experience in enclosures can be described by the many
listening to the Friday speech 共i.e., the preaching mode兲 and performing
Daily individual or group prayer 共i.e., the prayer-performing mode兲, and 共b兲
available contemporary room-acoustic indicators. A compre-
a top-view plan showing the source–receiver path 共i.e., Imam worshippers兲 hensive listing of these contemporary indicators, definitions,
in group prayer performing. corresponding subjective attributes, and suggested tolerance

J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics 1507
range values can be found in Ref. 17. In mosques, the major A. Grouping of the sample mosques
acoustical concern is verbal communication. All activities in Considering the mosque volume as an important param-
the mosque are dependent on speech audibility and intelligi- eter influencing acoustical characteristics, the sample
bility. Speech intelligibility 共SI兲 is the percentage of speech mosques were grouped in five categories. Table I presents
material that is correctly identified by the average listener. data summarizing the main physical characteristics of the
The intelligibility of speech in rooms is related to both the chosen 21 mosques. It includes information such as number
speech signal-to-noise ratio and to the acoustic characteris- of structural units, mosque’s length, width, height, area, vol-
tics of the enclosure. That is, it can be influenced by the ume, and congregational capacity, all sorted in ascending or-
speech sound level, ambient background noise 共BN兲, and the der with respect to the mosque volume. Group 共A兲 includes
reverberation time 共RT兲 of the enclosure. Reverberation af- very small local mosques with volume ⬍1000 m3; Group 共B兲
fects SI by affecting the early-to-late arriving sound energies. includes small mosques with volume ⭓1000 m3 and ⬍1500
SI is directly related to the early-to-late energy fraction, m3; Group 共C兲 includes medium mosques ⭓1500 m3 ⬍2000
namely sound definition. In summary, in order to measure or m3; Group 共D兲 contains large mosques with volume ⭓2000
predict speech intelligibility, various objective-based mea- m3 and ⬍3000 m3; and Group 共E兲 contains very large
sures can be used. Definition (D50) which is related to sound mosques with volume ⭓3000 m3. The architectural plans of
clarity (C50), useful-to-detrimental sound ratios 共e.g.,
the selected mosques grouped into five categories as identi-
SNR95 , 18 U50 , and U8019,20兲, Speech transmission index
fied above and indicated in Table I are shown later in part 共a兲
共STI兲,21 rapid speech transmission index 共RASTI兲,22,23 and
of Fig. 11. The selected mosques varied from very small
the articulation loss of consonants (%ALcons) 24 are all indi-
local mosques with an average volume of around 630 m3 and
cators of speech intelligibility with varying degrees of accu-
a capacity of as few as 140 worshippers to large mosques
racy. Many studies have investigated and compared measures
with volumes over 3000 m3 and a capacity of over 800 wor-
of SI in rooms,25–27 particularly in classrooms.28 –30 In this shippers. Mosque shape is represented by the aspect ratio
study RT, BN, C50 , and STI were measured to characterize
共AR兲, i.e., length, L of qibla wall over mosque width, W,
the acoustical conditions in mosques and assess SI.
capacity, and volume per worshipper is also indicated. The
mosque shapes varied from a square 共AR⫽1兲 to an elongated
rectangular shape 共AR⫽2.7兲 with an average AR of 1.7. All
IV. METHODOLOGY FOR OBJECTIVE FIELD had rectangular cross-sectional shapes of various aspect ra-
MEASUREMENTS tios. Group 共F兲 includes a single huge 共i.e., landmark兲
mosque with a volume greater than 10000 m3 and an occu-
The first step in this investigation was to select sample pancy of over 2800 worshippers, used for Friday prayer
mosques representative of the majority of existing mosque only. The minimum, average, and maximum value range and
prototypes in Saudi Arabia. Ninety mosques were field sur- standard deviation 共STD兲, excluding the mosque referenced
veyed to assess their actual design and operation status. An DM43 in Group 共F兲, of the physical characteristics of the
audit form for collecting relevant and essential data such as sample mosques, are shown in Table I.
the ‘‘as-built’’ physical information of mosques during site
visits was developed. The audit form addressed major as-
B. Measurement system and procedures
pects such as the following: general information about the
mosque, including a given reference number and location; In order to characterize and evaluate the acoustical char-
physical data, including the number of structural units and acteristics of the selected mosques the maximum length se-
dimensions; and use whether for daily or Friday prayers, or quence system analyzer 共MLSSA兲31 was utilized. It is a PC-
for both, and the existence of a separate hall or area for based acoustic measuring system and analyzer for the
women to perform prayers. Due to the importance of identi- measurement and evaluation of room acoustics. MLSSA em-
fying possible interior sources of noise as well as quantifying ploys a maximum-length sequence 共MLS兲 for the excitation
ambient noise in the mosque, the type and unit distribution of signal as a preferred alternative to the conventional white
the A/C system were also considered. The mosque’s existing noise stimulus. The MLS signal technique measures the im-
SRS in terms of number of used loudspeakers, type, height, pulse response—the most fundamental descriptor of any lin-
and spatial arrangement was documented. A criterion was ear system—from which a wide range of important acoustic
then established to select representative sample mosques. indicators can be determined through computer-aided post-
The dominance of mosque shape, size 共type repetition兲, and processing. MLSSA was used for the measurement, in com-
other factors contributed to the final selection in addition to bination with an ‘‘omnidirectional’’ sound source of dodeca-
mosque accessibility and proximity for the ease of equip- hedral configuration. The sound source was located in the
ment movement. Out of the total of 90 mosques, 21 共i.e., a center of the qibla niche 1.0 m away from the qibla wall. The
approximately 23%兲 were selected for acoustical field mea- height of the excitation sound source was maintained at 1.55
surements. Subsequently, pilot experimental measurements m from the floor to represent a person talking in a standing
in one of the selected mosques were implemented in order to position. This source was used to determine RT30 , EDT, and
develop detailed procedures for the measurements. After re- C50 . Since SI is affected by the directivity of the sound
finement of the measurement setup, systematic acoustical source, a small test loudspeaker was used as the sound
measurements in all the selected sample mosques were then source radiating with sound directivity approximating that of
carried out and results analyzed. a human speaker for STI and %ALcons measurements to im-

1508 J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics
TABLE I. Summary of main physical characteristics of the selected sample mosques sorted in ascending order with respect to mosque’s volume. Range,
average, and standard deviations are also indicated.

On-site measurements Calculated parameters

# of Dimensions 共geometry兲 Aspect

Mosque structural ratio Area 共A兲 Capacity 共C兲b Volume 共V兲 V/C Mean
No. reference USEa units L W H L/W m2 Person 共P兲 m3 Groups/volume m3/P m3/P

1 TH16 D 3⫻3 11.55 11.55 3.90 1.0 133 139 520 Group 共A兲 3.7 4.2
2 TH32 D 3⫻2 13.57 9.65 4.49 1.4 131 136 588 共⬍⫽1000 m3兲 4.3
3 DM242 D 3⫻2 15.00 10.00 4.50 1.5 150 156 675 mean V⫽630c 4.3
4 TH27 D 3⫻3 13.49 12.04 4.60 1.1 162 169 747 4.4

5 TH48 D 5⫻3 24.65 14.66 3.33 1.7 361 376 1203 Group 共B兲 3.2 4.3
6 DM16 FD 1/2,3,1/2⫻3 19.50 14.70 4.25 1.3 287 299 1218 共⬎1000⬍⫽1500 m3兲 4.1
7 DM260 D 3⫻3 18.00 15.00 4.61 1.2 270 281 1245 mean V⫽1290 4.4
8 KH45 D 5⫻2 24.85 9.80 5.63 2.5 244 254 1371 5.4
9 KH17 FD 5⫻4 19.73 15.75 4.52 1.3 311 324 1405 4.3

10 KH03 FD 7⫻4 24.25 13.70 4.70 1.8 332 346 1561 Group 共C兲 4.5 4.2
11 TH42 D 3⫻3 24.20 18.35 4.00 1.3 444 463 1776 共⬎1500⬍⫽2000 m3兲 3.8
12 KH12 D 9⫻3 35.14 13.22 4.20 2.7 465 484 1951 mean V⫽1820 4.0
13 DH14 FD 1/2,5,1/2⫻3 29.56 15.33 4.40 1.9 453 472 1994 4.2

14 DM125 D 5⫻3 25.00 15.00 5.40 1.7 375 391 2025 Group 共D兲 5.2 4.7
15 KH59 FD 5⫻3 24.80 14.85 5.65 1.7 368 384 2081 共⬎2000⬍⫽3000 m3兲 5.4
16 TH06 FD 7⫻3 37.45 15.88 3.70 2.4 595 619 2200 mean V⫽2200 3.6
17 DM06 FD 7⫻3 32.10 15.80 4.94 2.0 507 528 2505 4.7

18 DH03 FD 9⫻4 43.43 19.43 6.05 2.2 844 879 5105 Group 共E兲 5.8 5.0
19 TH13 FD 7⫻6 42.25 29.68 4.80 1.4 1254 1306 6286 共⬎3000⬍⫽10 000 m3兲 4.8
20 TH01 FD 9⫻7 44.85 34.70 4.52 1.3 1556 1621 7034 mean V⫽6140 4.3

21 DM43 F 9⫻9 52.00 52.00 8.65 1.0 2704 2817 23 390 Group 共F兲 8.3 8.3
共⬎10 000 m3兲
Minimumd 11.6 9.7 3.3 1.0 131 136 520 3.2 4.2
Averaged 26.2 16.0 4.6 1.7 462 481 2175 4.4 4.5
Maximumd 44.9 34.7 6.1 2.7 1556 1621 7034 5.8 5.0
STDd 10.0 6.0 0.7 0.5 359 374 1780 0.6 0.3
D⫽Daily prayers only, FD⫽Friday and Daily prayers.
Capacity is calculated by considering a required area of 共0.80⫻1.20⫽0.96 m2兲 for each worshipper.
Average volume for each group to the nearest 10 m3.
Excluding DM43, Group 共F兲.

prove results. The small loudspeaker was located at the typi- It was necessary to measure the mosque BN and subse-
cal Imam praying position. quently determine the noise criterion 共NC兲 rating. The
Based on the shape and floor area of each sample octave-band sound pressure level 共SPL兲 of ambient BN was
mosque, an adequate number of listener positions was se- measured at each selected measurement location using the
lected for measurement in order to achieve a proper coverage same calibrated 1/2 in. condenser microphone maintained at
of the mosque floor area. The guidelines set by the ISO 3382 1.65 m above the floor. The same was conducted at the mea-
共1997兲32 were adhered to. Impulse responses were then mea- surement point located in the center of the mosque floor area
sured sequentially in each of the chosen listener locations.
with all ceiling fans operating. A wind screen was used to
Measurements were acquired using a calibrated 1/2 in. con-
reduce the effect of airflow due to the operation of the ceiling
denser microphone mounted on an adjustable microphone
fans. The measurement of BN was repeated with only the
holder fixed to a tripod, maintained 1.65 m above the floor
A/C system set to ‘‘ON’’ and then with the A/C system and
representing the location of a listener’s ear in a standing
position. The measurement was also repeated in the same fans operating concurrently The idea was to quantify the ef-
listener positions but with the microphone height lowered to fect of these active environmental control systems on the
a height of 0.85 m above the floor representing the location magnitude and spectral content of BN.
of the ear of a listener in a floor-seated position. Measure- With the use of the small test loudspeaker, STI and
ments were carried out with the mosque unoccupied, and RASTI were also measured from the acquisition of long-
with both the ceiling fans and the A/C system set to the duration impulse responses 共⬎1 s兲. The A-weighted SPL of
‘‘OFF’’ condition. The average of measurements taken on the the generated MLS signal at a location 1.0 m directly in front
two different heights at all listener locations in the mosque of the test loudspeaker was adjusted to achieve an
would represent worshippers at the two worship modes of A-weighted sound of 67– 68 dB 共A兲. A 65535-point impulse
preaching and prayer performing and therefore would char- response was then acquired, and analyzed for STI calcula-
acterize the spatial value of the acoustical indicator. tions. To determine the overall STI value, the original

J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics 1509
FIG. 4. The spatial average 共⽧兲 of 共a兲 RT30 and 共b兲 C50 measured in the
TH06 mosque. The shaded area represents the measured value range 共i.e.,
FIG. 3. Plan view of the TH06 mosque showing a geometric configuration spatial minimum and maximum兲.
of the prayer hall, A/C unit distribution, and the mosque’s SRS wall-
mounted loudspeaker distribution. The measurement positions and sound
source location are also shown. surement setup for appropriateness, to identify potential dif-
ficulties, and to assess on-site data analysis. Figure 3 depicts
weighting factors given by Steeneken and Houtgast33 were the mosque’s geometry, physical characteristics, and mea-
used. In addition, the modified weighting factors given by surement positions performed in the mosque. The mosque’s
French and Steinberg were also utilized, resulting in a modi- shape being symmetric, ten measurement points were exam-
fied version of STI denoted STImodified. 31,34 ined on one side of the floor area. These are denoted R01 to
SRS commonly used in a mosque consists of three or R10. Each measurement location was considered to represent
more microphones for picking up the Imam’s voice, pream- the floor area of one structural unit as defined on the plan
plifiers, a power amplifier, and several loudspeakers that view of the mosque. Measurement positions were selected to
reradiate the amplified speech sounds. Additional compo- represent listeners in the front, center, and back areas of the
nents like mixers and equalizers are added to the basic SRS floor. It was ensured, while selecting the measurement loca-
components in very few mosques. Many factors affect the tions, that the distance between any two selected listeners’
performance of SRS such as the acoustical power, quality of locations was more than two meters, and the distance from
the system components, loudspeakers directivity and fre- the microphone position to the nearest reflecting surface was
quency response, and reverberation time of the room in more than one meter, 共i.e., approximately equal to half the
which the system is operated. The purpose was to determine wavelength of the lowest octave-band frequency of interest,
the overall effectiveness of installed speech reinforcement 125 Hz兲. Measurement positions were also considered with
systems as set and operated in the chosen sample mosques. regard to existing A/C units and the location of the loud-
Measurements were conducted at each of the chosen listener speakers of the mosque’s SRS.
positions without operating the mosque’s SRS. The SRS was Figure 4共a兲 depicts the spatial minimum, average, and
then put ‘‘ON’’ and the MLS signal was sent via the ampli- maximum values of RT30 i.e., the value range of the
fier 共when accessible兲 or via the microphone of the mosque’s mosque’s RT30 spectrum in octave-band frequencies from
SRS. The volume controls and component settings of the 125 Hz to 8 kHz resulting from the processing of the 20
system were kept as usually set without any alteration. The impulse responses captured at heights of 0.85 and 1.65 m
impulse responses were captured at a height of 0.85 m rep- above the floor. As can be seen, the spatial-averaged RT at
resenting worshippers seated on the floor listening to the mid-frequencies 共500–1000 Hz兲, RT30 m is 1.90 s with a neg-
Imam. ligible STD. From a knowledge of the mosque volume 共2200
m3兲, the optimum RT30 m value for speech is approximately
C. Sample field measurements and analysis: 0.90 s. Therefore the mosque can be said to have a high RT
Unoccupied mosque
when unoccupied. In the literature, there is no specific data
Pilot field measurements were conducted in one mosque of the absorption coefficients of worshippers or audience
referenced TH06, Group 共D兲 共see Table I兲 to test the mea- standing or seated directly on a carpeted floor in rows 1.2 m

1510 J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics
FIG. 5. Spatial average of BN spectra 共䊉兲 measured in the TH06 mosque at
different operating conditions A/C ‘‘ON’’ 共䉭兲 Fans ‘‘ON’’ 共—兲 and A/C and
Fans ‘‘ON’’ 共〫兲. The shaded area represents the measured value range 共i.e.,
spatial minimum and maximum兲.

apart. Assuming the absorption area of worshippers when

standing in parallel rows 1.2 m apart is around 0.4 metric FIG. 6. 共a兲 A comparison of STI measured at all positions with 共⽧兲 and
sabines per person at mid-frequencies 共500–1000兲,35 then the without 共〫兲 the operation of the SRS, and 共b兲 a comparison of %ALcons
mosque’s RT would be approximately 1.32, 1.01, and 0.82 s values versus distance from the sound source with 共䉱兲 and without 共䉭兲 the
operation of the mosque’s SRS. SI ratings are shown on the right y axis. I
with one-third of the mosque occupied, two-thirds and fully ⫽(%ALcons⬍10%) very good, II⫽(%ALcons⬎10%⬍15%) good, and III
occupied, respectively. The measured RT would therefore be ⫽(%ALcons⬎15%) insufficient.
optimal with the mosque occupied up to two-thirds of its
congregational capacity. The spatial-averaged value of the
mid-frequency C50 as shown in Fig. 4共b兲 was ⫺2.4 dB, vary- respect to distance from the sound source. The SI average
ing from ⫺5.1 to 1.4 dB with a STD of approximately 2.0 rating was be poor without the operation of the mosque SRS.
dB. A C50 value higher than 1.0 dB or more is required for Figure 6共a兲 shows a comparison of STI measured values ver-
satisfactory speech intelligibility. This value corresponds to a sus the distance from the sound source with and without the
sound definition, D50 , of about 0.56. SRS being operated. The STI values improved when the SRS
Both the RT and the ambient BN affecting speech intel-
was used, shifting the SI rating to a higher range in almost all
ligibility were measured, in standard octave-band frequen-
measurement locations. STImodified values showed the same
cies, at all selected measurement locations in different oper-
trend, however, this modified parameter was found not to
ating conditions. Both the overall A-weighted and Linear
contribute to a significant difference or a different evaluation
SPL were determined along with the NC rating. The spatial
of SI rating for the case under study. Since STImodified is not
minimum, average, and maximum values of all measure-
also in general use as STI, only STI results will be reported
ments were then calculated. These spectra ranges are illus-
in this study. The %ALcons also shows the same trend of
trated in Fig. 5. Operating either the fans or the A/C only or
both proved that the BN increased from NC35 to NC60. The improvement at all locations except measurement location
spatial-averaged spectrum of the BN in a mosque can be R09. Usually the SRS is installed to achieve an adequate
considered quite high compared to the recommended value sound level in areas of the mosque remote from the Imam
range of NC25–NC30 for rooms intended for speech such as location. The %ALcons values versus distance from the sound
lecture halls and classrooms. It can be expected that the source with and without using the SRS are illustrated in Fig.
sound quality will further deteriorate when the ceiling fans or 6共b兲. It further confirms the efficiency of the SRS of reducing
the A/C units or both are operated. The causes of the high the %ALcons, particularly in the more remote locations. It
NC rating of ambient noise can be attributed to intruding can be concluded from the above measurement results that
exterior noise due to the low transmission loss of the exterior the mosque’s acoustical characteristics and quality are not
wall system, particularly windows and glazing types com- satisfactory for speech intelligibility when used without the
monly installed in mosques, in addition to interior noises operation of the SRS. The SRS was found to be quite effi-
such as buzzing and humming resulting from defective light- cient in improving speech intelligibility from poor to fair and
ing units and accessories. reducing the %ALcons, particularly in the more remote loca-
Figure 6 shows the STI values along with the %ALcons tions. However, when operating either the fans or the A/C
and SI ratings measured at all selected measurement posi- system, the ambient noise in the mosque significantly in-
tions with and without the operation of the mosque’s SRS. creases to unacceptable levels and SI can be expected to
Measurement positions are shown in ascending order with degrade.

J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics 1511
TABLE II. Spatial-average spectra of RT30 and C50 for each mosque group. The Mid-frequency average is
shown in the last two columns. Note that Group 共F兲 is excluded from calculating the value range 共minimum,
average, and maximum兲.

Octave-band frequencies 共Hz兲 Average

Groups 125 250 500 1000 2000 4000 8000 500–1000 500–2000
Group 共A兲 2.79 2.54 2.28 1.64 1.18 1.10 0.77 2.0 1.7
Group 共B兲 2.26 1.71 1.37 1.25 1.19 1.10 0.86 1.3 1.3
Group 共C兲 2.26 1.36 0.97 1.32 1.42 1.31 1.06 1.1 1.2
Group 共D兲 2.66 2.13 1.83 1.49 1.36 1.20 0.89 1.7 1.6
Group 共E兲 2.89 2.70 2.44 1.95 1.69 1.50 1.08 2.1 2.0
Group 共F兲 2.91 2.74 2.85 2.47 1.91 1.56 1.01 2.6 2.4
Minimum 2.3 1.4 1.0 1.2 1.2 1.1 0.8 1.1 1.2
Average 2.6 2.1 1.8 1.5 1.4 1.2 0.9 1.6 1.6
Maximum 2.9 2.7 2.4 1.9 1.7 1.5 1.1 2.1 2.0
STD 0.3 0.5 0.5 0.2 0.2 0.2 0.1 0.4 0.3
Group 共A兲 ⫺6.0 ⫺5.1 ⫺4.1 ⫺1.2 0.4 2.0 5.4 ⫺2.7 ⫺1.7
Group 共B兲 ⫺3.3 ⫺1.9 ⫺0.2 0.6 0.9 2.3 4.8 0.2 0.4
Group 共C兲 ⫺2.9 ⫺0.3 1.0 0.5 0.7 1.7 3.6 0.8 0.7
Group 共D兲 ⫺4.7 ⫺4.1 ⫺3.0 ⫺0.2 1.0 2.2 5.5 ⫺1.6 ⫺0.7
Group 共E兲 ⫺6.6 ⫺6.6 ⫺5.3 ⫺2.5 ⫺0.9 0.4 4.2 ⫺3.8 ⫺2.9
Group 共F兲 ⫺8.1 ⫺8.8 ⫺9.2 ⫺3.8 ⫺1.3 0.0 4.4 ⫺6.5 ⫺4.7
Minimum ⫺6.6 ⫺6.6 ⫺5.3 ⫺2.5 ⫺0.9 0.4 3.6 ⫺3.8 ⫺2.9
Mean ⫺4.7 ⫺3.6 À2.3 À0.6 0.4 1.7 4.7 À1.4 ⫺0.8
Maximum ⫺2.9 ⫺0.3 1.0 0.6 1.0 2.3 5.5 0.8 0.7
STD 1.5 2.3 2.4 1.2 0.7 0.7 0.7 1.7 1.3



The type of measurement and analysis described above

for one single mosque was systemically performed for all the
sample mosques. The purpose was to document the acousti-
cal characteristics of mosques and compare design goals with
obtained results in practice. This eventually would indicate
the overall acoustical quality of the different prototypes of
the selected mosques and how significant they deviate from
A. Acoustical characteristics of mosques
To summarize the measurement results of all sample
mosques in a comparative study, the average spectra of RT30
were processed in Table II. The average spectrum of each
mosque group 关i.e., Groups 共A兲–共F兲兴 is presented in Fig.
7共a兲. The mid-frequency region of 500 and 1000 Hz,
(RT30 m), usually provides a relative indication of the listen-
ing conditions in most rooms. The RT30 m values ranged from
1.1 to 2.1 s with a mean value of 1.6 s and a STD of 0.4 s.
The mid-frequency mean C50 m is ⫺1.4 dB, varying from
⫺3.8 d to 0.8 dB with a STD of 1.7 dB. Figure 7共b兲 illus-
trates the C50 average spectra range as measured in all the
sample mosques.
The measured RT30 of 20 mosques out of the total of 21
was found to be greater than the 1.0 s that is considered
optimal upper limit for speech intelligibility. The average
RT30 spectra depicted in Fig. 7共a兲 can be considered repre-
sentative of all the sample mosques. It shows a long rever-
beration time at low frequencies 共125–250 Hz兲 which is
more than 45% of RT30 m with high variations of 0.5 s at 250
FIG. 7. Spatial average spectra of 共a兲 RT30 , and 共b兲 C50 in each mosque
Hz. This long sound decay at low frequencies can be detri- group compared to the value range, i.e., spatial minimum, maximum
mental for speech intelligibility. For good speech intelligibil- 共shaded area兲, and average 共——兲 of all groups except Group F.

1512 J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics
FIG. 8. 共a兲 Recommended RT 共optimal兲 for speech versus room volume 共adapted from different sources兲, and 共b兲 mid-frequencies 共500–1000兲 RT values
measured in all sample mosques 䊊 unoccupied, ⽧ with 1/3 and 䊉 1/1 of the mosque’s occupancy in comparison with suggested optimal values 共shaded area兲.
共A兲 In large rooms 共Stephen & Bate equation兲 共Ref. 36, p. 34兲. 共B兲 共At 500 Hz兲 共Ref. 36, Fig. 3.9, p. 36兲. 共C兲 In conference rooms 共Ref. 37, Fig. 2.29, p. 68兲.
共D兲 共At an average of 500–1000 Hz兲 关Ref. 38, Fig. 26.25 共after E. B. Magrab兲, p. 1352兴. 共E兲 Maximum RT in large rooms 关Ref. 38, Fig. 26.26 共after Bruel
and Kjaer兲, p. 1353兴.

ity, RT values at low octave-band frequencies should remain several suggested optimal value ranges and trends. As can be
flat down to 100 Hz.35 An increase, at low frequencies of seen, only a few mosques, particularly those in Group 共C兲,
around 10%–20% of RT30 m values would still be acceptable were found with an RT30 m close to the optimal RT range
to yield a natural sound impression. when unoccupied. The RT30 m values of half of the sample
Various values and ranges have been proposed by many mosques were greater than optimal, even with each mosque
authors36 –39 for optimal RT values for speech. These were assumed to be 1/3 full, which is usually the case during
obtained and are presented in Fig. 8共a兲. The RT30 m of the performing Daily prayers. The RT30 m of all the sample
occupied mosques was then determined from measured mosques came close to the boundaries or within the optimal
RT30 m in the unoccupied conditions. The RT30 m values were RT range only with the mosques fully occupied, with the
calculated for 1/3, 2/3, and full mosque occupancy. Figure exception of mosque DM43 built with a huge volume as a
8共b兲 depicts the measured RT30 m 共unoccupied兲 compared to landmark mosque intended for use by worshippers to per-
RT30 m in the three occupancy conditions compared with the form Friday prayer only.

J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics 1513
FIG. 9. A comparison of the BN and NC rating measured in all sample mosques at different operating conditions of fans and A/C systems against target
ratings. I⫽‘‘very quiet’’ to ‘‘quiet,’’ II⫽‘‘moderate noisy’’ to ‘‘noisy,’’ III⫽‘‘very noisy,’’ and VI⫽‘‘extremely noisy.’’ 共See Table III.兲

B. Impact of air-conditioning and mechanical improve SI in many, but not all, mosques. The effectiveness
ventilation systems of many of the installed SRS can be clearly seen in the nar-
To characterize the BN in mosques at different operating rowing of the wide range of STI 共without using the SRS兲 to
conditions, the spatial-average spectra of BN measured when a smaller value range 共i.e., shortening the horizontal bar to
fans and the A/C system were ‘‘OFF’’ are shown in Fig. 9. narrower limits兲. This indicates that the SRS was effective in
The spectra total A-weighted and linear values are also reducing the wide variation of SI to a more uniform value
shown along with the NC ratings. It also includes the mini- over the mosque floor area and improving SI. It must be
mum, average, and maximum of mean spectra measured in indicated that the SRS were operated without the operation
all the sample mosques. Figure 10 depicts the BN average of fans and A/C systems, i.e., with BN rating ranging from
and value range compared to the average spectra measured in NC35 to NC-45. Operating the fans and A/C system in-
the three conditions of operating the active environmental creased ambient BN to NC-60 and above. The effectiveness
control systems. The NC rating of measured BN ranged from of the SRS in this case was not assessed and is questionable.
NC-35 to NC-45. However, for very good speech listening
conditions in spaces such as meeting rooms, conference VI. CONCLUSIONS
halls, and courtrooms, NC is preferred to range from NC-25 Typical mosques of different sizes and shapes are usu-
to NC-30. Similarly, the maximum NC-30 criterion should ally designed considering the functional requirements with
not be exceeded because higher levels can be noticeable, and
annoy many occupants 共worshippers兲 or interfere with TABLE III. Average BN measured in all sample mosques in comparison
speech communication. The measurement of BN in mosques with NC curves at different operating conditions of fans and A/C systems.
indicates a moderately noisy to noisy environment, but when
Overall SPL NC
the fans and A/C systems were operated the BN rating in-
creased, resulting in a very noisy to extremely noisy environ- Mosque Average FANS A/C A/C⫹FANS
ment. This can be expected to negatively affect speech intel- reference dB共A兲 dB共L兲 BN ‘‘ON’’ ‘‘ON’’ ‘‘ON’’
ligibility. Figure 10 compares measured BN at all selected TH16 45.4 63.3 45 55 60 65
mosques at different operation conditions with the NC-25, TH32 48.7 62.7 45 50 55 60
NC-30 range as a design goal. DM242 42.9 56.8 40 45 60 60
TH27 39.1 54.7 35 45 60 60
TH48 39.4 57.0 35 35 60 60
C. Speech intelligibility and overall effectiveness of DM16 45.2 65.9 40 60 55 60
SRS DM260 40.5 60.4 35 45 55 55
KH45 39.4 51.1 35 45 50 50
Following the measurements procedure motioned ear- KH17 37.7 59.5 35 60 55 60
lier, it was possible to characterize and rate speech intelligi- KH03 36.8 54.6 35 45 55 55
bility in the sample mosques. Figure 11共b兲 comprehensively TH42 42.9 61.1 40 50 70 70
compares speech intelligibility expressed by the STI. Aver- KH12 36.6 57.1 35 45 65 65
DH14 34.9 53.8 35 45 60 60
age measured values are indicated by a vertical tick on each
DM125 36.6 58.4 35 55 60 60
horizontal bar, which presents the value range of minima and KH59 38.3 56.0 35 35 60 60
maxima or all measurements conducted in each mosque. The TH06 40.3 60.4 35 50 60 60
number of measurement points is indicated along with the SI DM06 36.6 58.4 35 50 60 60
rating with and without the SRS being operated. As can be DH03 37.5 54.7 35 55 65 65
TH13 40.1 56.8 40 45 65 70
seen, the average SI ratings, for almost all mosques not op- TH01 44.2 63.0 40 60 55 60
erating the SRS, determined from STI values, lie in the range DM43 39.3 57.1 35 NA 60 NA
of poor to fair SI rating. The effect of using the SRS did

1514 J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics
mosques, particularly those of Group 共C兲, possessed an
RT30 m close to the optimal RT range when unoccupied. The
RT30 m of half of the sample mosques was greater than opti-
mal values even with the mosques 1/3 full. The RT30 m of all
sample mosques 共except mosque DM43兲 approached the
boundaries came within the optimal RT value range only
with the mosques fully occupied. The recommended volume
共m3/occupant兲 for rooms intended for speech is 3.0 m3 up to
a maximum of 5.0 m3. Volumes per worshipper in all sample
mosques ranged from 4.2 to 5.0 m3 expect the mosque
DM43, which had an 8.3 m3 per worshipper, exceeding the
recommended value range.
In all mosques, the NC ratings obtained from measured
BN range from NC-35 to NC-45. In the literature there is no
explicit preferred NC range specified for mosques. However,
for very good speech listing conditions in spaces such as
meeting rooms, conference halls, and courtrooms NC is pre-
ferred to range from NC-25 to NC-30. The cause of high NC
ratings obtained from measurements can be attributed to in-
truding exterior noise due to low transmission loss of exte-
rior wall systems, particularly windows and glazing types
commonly installed. An additional factor includes interior
noise such as buzzing and humming from defective lighting
FIG. 10. The average BN measured in all sample mosques in comparison unit accessories. It is recommended that the NC-30 criterion
with NC curves at different operating conditions of fans and A/C systems. should not be exceeded because higher levels can be notice-
The shaded area represents the measured average value range. able and annoy most worshippers as well as interfere with
speech communication. The measurement results of BN in
regard to size and aesthetics, but with little attention paid to mosques indicated a moderately noisy to noisy mosque en-
their acoustical quality. Acoustics in mosques are generally vironment. The measurements also showed that when com-
considered after mosques are built and involve mainly the ponents of active environmental control systems such as fans
process of providing sound system equipment. Audibility, and A/C units were operated the NC rating increased, result-
not speech intelligibility is considered important and the ing in a very noisy to extremely noisy environment. This can
acoustical considerations are not thought of either in the de- be expected to adversely affect speech intelligibility. Care
sign phase or in the selection or installation of SRS in should therefore be taken to select and install or mount A/C
mosques. In this study, field measurements employing im- system units with low noise output and lighting units with
pulse response techniques were conducted to identify the high quality ballast and accessories that require minimal
acoustical characteristics and performance of selected maintenance. The mosque exterior wall should be designed
mosques in Saudi Arabia. Representative sample mosques to minimize intruding exterior noise to satisfy the NC-25
were objectively selected and investigated. A database of im- criterion.
pulse responses captured in the sample mosques 共unoccu- The average SI ratings resulting from measurements in
pied兲 utilizing impulse response measurements was estab- the sample mosques without operating the SRS determined
lished. The impulse responses were then analyzed to from STI values, were found to be in the range of poor to fair
document and indicate the overall acoustical performance of SI. The use of SRS did improve SI in many but not in all
the different mosque prototypes. Room-acoustic indicators cases. Many of the installed SRS in mosques contributed to a
including RT30 , C50 , BN, and STI were examined. Obtained reduction in the variability of SI. This indicates that SRS
results were compared to design goals. The following con- were generally effective in reducing the wide variation of SI
clusions can be drawn. to a more uniform one over the mosque floor area, particu-
RT30 m relating to the mid-frequency region of 500 and larly at more remote locations away from the Imam’s posi-
1000 Hz usually provides a relative indication of the listen- tion and slightly improving SI. It must be indicated that the
ing conditions in most rooms. The RT30 m of 20 mosques SRS were investigated with fans and A/C units set to the
共unoccupied兲 out of a total of 21 was found to be greater than ‘‘OFF’’ condition 共as is the case in the autumn, winter, and
1.0 s. The types of mosque investigated in this study can be spring conditions兲, resulting in an average ambient BN with
characterized by long sound decay at low frequencies. This NC-40 rating. Operating either the fans or the A/C system
long sound decay can be detrimental, especially for speech only, or both, proved to increase ambient BN to NC-60 and
intelligibility. For good speech intelligibility, RT values at above. The effectiveness of the SRS in this case was not
low octave-band frequencies are preferred to remain flat assessed and is questionable. The developed database can be
down to 125 Hz. The RT30 m of the occupied mosques was utilized as a valuable source of objective acoustical indica-
determined from measured RT30 m . The RT30 m was calcu- tors and comparative information for further investigations.
lated for 1/3, 2/3, and full mosque occupancy. Only a few Research work is needed to characterize the frequency-

J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics 1515
FIG. 11. 共a兲 Grouping of the selected sample mosques based on volume and congregational capacity of prayer-performing hall 共a relative scale is used兲. Note:
The distribution of loudspeakers installed in each mosque is shown, and 共b兲 a comparison of STI measured in all sample mosques with and without operating
the mosque’s SRS. The target value range is highlighted. 共Note: mosques are arranged in ascending order with respect to volume.兲

1516 J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 113, No. 3, March 2003 Adel A. Abdou: Mosque acoustics
dependent absorption coefficients of worshippers in mosques 13
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