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Acoustic Finishes, Aesthetics & Cost
By: Richard E. Walborn

Sound (be it the spoken word, singing or musical instruments) is simply air in motion. When that sound is inside a building with hard surfaces, the sound bounces back in the form of reverberation and echo, which can render a room to be not only annoying, but it could even be a complete hearing failure. 

Spending more on speakers, microphones and control panels will never correct the problem. The solution to bringing reverberation under control is to treat some of the hard surfaces with something soft that would work like a sponge. We call that an “acoustic finish.”

We choose an acoustic finish for basically three reasons:

1. First, we need something that really absorbs the kind of noise we are dealing with. 
Acoustic finishes come in various thicknesses. Lower frequency sound, like heavy base tones, have lots of energy and, therefore, need more thickness and absorption capability. A well-qualified acoustic engineer can correctly specify the right thickness for your specific application.

2. The second factor that goes into the choice of an acoustic finish is aesthetics. 
Be it sound panels, clouds, drapes or spray-applied acoustic finishes, not all products fit the aesthetic demands of the space being treated. Imagine a 100-year-old cathedral with vaulted plaster ceilings, marble walls and a marble floor. Carpet the floor? NO! Upholster the pews? NO! Put sound panels on the walls? NO! Hang drapes? NO! Spray a popcorn texture acoustic product on the vaulted plaster ceiling? NO! 

The bottom line is that aesthetics are just as important in the choosing of an acoustic finish as performance. Coarse textured acoustic finishes may be great for contemporary worship spaces, gymnoiseums and even noisy factories. Fine textures are okay for classrooms or offices. Super smooth finishes are intended for areas where the aesthetics demands that the product not distract at all from the room’s aesthetic personality.

3. The third factor and the most frequently asked question is how much is it going to cost?
The cost range to bring reverberation and echo under control can be great. Simply stated, the more refined the aesthetics, the more it is probably going to cost. 

Other cost factors include the scope of the project, the thickness specified, the height of the surfaces being treated, a custom integral colors, the number of penetrations in the ceiling (lights, speakers, HVAC ducts, sprinklers), and, yes, even the region of the country.

About10 years ago, a few European manufacturers began importing smoother acoustic finishes to the U.S.  Today, the demand for really smooth acoustic finishes has grown dramatically, in spite of the fact that some of them have high per square foot cost.  Fiber panel/plaster acoustic finishes have all the credentials for fire resistance, fungi resistance, acoustic absorption, light reflectivity, thermal properties and health matters. 

So, when your worship facility acoustic project demands the best in aesthetics, acoustic performance, choosing a seamless, super smooth acoustic finish will please your eyes, ears and your budget.

Seamless fiber panel/plaster acoustic finishes come in various thicknesses to meet your project’s specific acoustical needs.

The Forgotten Foyer
The foyer. The entrance. The reception area. The vestibule. The hallway. The entrance hall.

Whatever you call it, the foyer is actually where the building greets each and every visiting guest. The foyer is often designed to make a really great first impression.

However, so many facility foyer designers completely forget the fact that, oftentimes, many people may be congregating and be actively socializing in this area. Noise levels can quickly become so bad that you may find yourself saying, “Let’s go somewhere where we can talk.”  Being so noisy certainly does not make a good first impression. But then, the designer didn’t see noise.

Installing an acoustic finish would be one’s first thought, but that idea often becomes nixed because one’s knowledge of acoustic finishes may be of those with too much texture to fit the architect’s clean design objectives. It just would not fit the look he was striving for.

Well, there is a solution to that dilemma. Today there are acoustic plaster finishes that are so smooth that they are virtually invisible. And, a smooth finish is much less likely to attract airborne dust, which, if it does, can be easily cleaned with vacuum cleaner with a soft brush.  

A smooth acoustic finish on your foyer ceiling allows your foyer to warmly receive guests and be pleasing your ears, your eyes and ears.  And, yes, many of these systems can be installed in an already occupied area. 

Richard E. Walborn is national sales manager for Sonacosutic Finishes by Asona-USA, LLC, www.asona-usa.com.

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