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Building Quieter
By: David Ingersoll

Construction and design teams are constantly balancing the desire for a high-quality look and feel with adherence to acoustical requirements and project budgets. This especially rings true when it comes to wall and ceiling choices.

Whether selecting from basic wall and ceiling panels to custom woodwork, noise is a primary consideration. No matter how it looks, it has to perform!

A Guide to Understanding NRC and STC
What many project teams neglect are the critical ratings that denote noise control performance: NRC – or the noise reduction coefficient, and STC – or sound transmission class.

While NRC and STC are often lumped together in the generic category of noise reduction, these ratings serve dramatically different purposes.

NRC boils down to the amount of sound energy that is absorbed when a sound wave comes into contact with a surface, which, in this instance, would be a wall or ceiling finish. STC is a measuring stick for how much sound is blocked out of a space.

Planning for Performance and Style
Of course, as much as the engineering-speak is important, most building owners and facilities teams are under equal pressure to make the space look good. While the aesthetics can drive the price tag higher, advanced planning can enable acoustical teams to have their cake and eat it, too.

When construction teams work in tandem with acoustical engineers, major headaches can be avoided later in the process. Other advantages of getting the acoustical team into the mix early stem from the cost incentives.

Labor rates will generally be cheaper if acoustical treatments are specified early on so the general contractor can layer those pieces in while installing walls and ceilings.

Wall Panels
Fabric wrapped acoustical wall panels are ideal for areas that require noise reduction such as schools, gymnasiums, corridors, churches, airports, restaurants and offices. The choice of the proper wall panel depends on the specifications for the project.

There are wall panel options spanning everything from economical, multi-purpose absorber panels, to models featuring impact resistance for absorption and durability, to composite options constructed to offer both superior absorption and noise blocking performance.

Ceiling Tiles
Ceiling tiles are designed to acoustically treat and soundproof interior wall and ceiling spaces with reverberation problems, including schools, music rooms, universities, churches and offices.

In cases where aesthetics are important, ceiling tiles can deliver customized options for satisfying both acoustical and design requirements, including cloth and wood finishes. Acoustic ceiling tiles are available in a variety of facing and edge details – with standard or custom sizes – backed by barriers meeting high STC and NRC requirements.

Standard and custom wood ceiling panels feature a genuine wood veneer on a MDF substrate with a generic balancing veneer on the back side to help achieve a custom look without the custom price tag.

Sound Diffusers
Sound diffusers are perfect for projects that require a high degree of sound diffusion such as music rooms, band rooms or concert halls. They are finely tuned to reflect sound and commonly come in barrel- or pyramid-shaped options.

Choose a diffuser that is constructed of high-strength, reinforced fiberglass molded into either a one-piece barrel shape or a one-piece pyramid shape.

Noise Barriers
Noise barriers are designed to stop the passage of sound through walls, ceilings and floors, making them a great solution for construction projects involving hotels, classrooms, condominiums/apartments or home theaters.

While noise barriers come in a variety of forms, flexible solutions are the most versatile and cost effective for reducing noise transmission as they come in an easy to carry and customizable roll.

Absorbers come in a several forms to meet a variety of project types. Regardless of the absorber required for the project, all components should meet Class A fire ratings per ASTM E-84 guidelines.

Baffles present the most economical option for addressing reverberation issues, as they are available in a multiple thicknesses and standard sizes.

Ceiling clouds are another absorber type ideal for reducing noise intrusion in ceiling areas. They can be suspended horizontally with eyehooks or in a T-grid attachment that may be attached in the field or at the factory before shipment.

Lastly, catenary banners are a popular absorber solution for areas that have a large open space such as gymnasiums and multi-purpose rooms.

Catenary banners can be easily installed on ceilings with grommets and are available in various thicknesses and lengths to meet the requirements of different project types.

Real World Results
A prime example of how advanced planning can deliver superior acoustical and aesthetic results is a wood ceiling panel installation at the Austin Chinese Church in Austin, Texas.

When church leaders decided to renovate the 3,420-square-foot worship facility, there were several goals, including an improved acoustical experience. As is often the case in worship facilities, the extreme height and angles of the church ceiling created less than desirable sound quality for congregants.

The ceiling panel solution for this project had to not only address these acoustical problems, but it also needed to reflect the design team’s goals of creating a welcoming environment and account for the extreme variations in temperature and humidity that is typical for the region.

The project utilized WoodGrille ceiling panels featuring a birch veneer finish. The wood panels’ finish ensured longevity, providing the Austin Chinese Church with a solution that was engineered to their specifications and designed to withstand multiple years of use.

The schedule for the project was tight. As is typical with religious facilities projects, scheduling was contingent upon the delivery and installation of the church pews.

All ceiling installation needed to be complete by a hard date to accommodate this phase of the project, requiring the teams to build around the specifications of the ceiling panels instead of adding them in later.

By adopting a coordinated approach between the design, installation and acoustical teams, the ceiling installation was completed on time and within the owner’s projected budget.

Since there were many panel groupings and at different heights, the acoustical engineering team created complex shop drawings to ensure proper layout. These drawings detailed a combination of reflected ceiling plans and sections through the multiple planes and levels of the ceiling.

The installation plan also dictated design and implementation of the panel terminations at specific distances from the wall and/or bulkheads, as well as incorporation of lighting, HVAC and fire protection.

Finally, particular attention was paid to the fact that at the extreme heights of the space, variations in temperature and humidity would occur throughout the year. Creating these panels to withstand these conditions ensured a rock solid installation that will offer beauty and quality for years to come.

The custom construction and installation of the acoustical wood ceiling panels resulted in a full 0.75 NRC rating per ASTM C423. Additionally, the beautiful, durable wood veneer panels delivered outstanding acoustical performance in a cost-friendly package.

David Ingersoll is with Sound Seal, www.soundseal.com.

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Religious Product News