(Valley Forge, Pa.) – Failing grades. Lost productivity. Interrupted rest. All are symptoms of buildings that lack adequate acoustics. Students, teachers, nurses, patients and others who spend their days straining to hear and be heard are doing something about it. Through the new movement, Down With Decibels, building occupants are imploring the architect and design community to help restore peace of mind through Environmental Acoustics™ Design.
The campaign, sponsored by CertainTeed Ceilings, seeks to rally the architecture and design community around the idea that acoustics profoundly impact the way people live. A new website—www.nonoisenow.com—
offers powerful stories and compelling facts on how noise adversely affects those who spend their days in clamorous buildings. Visitors are encouraged to sign a pledge to "restore the silence."
"If we can arm architects with compelling stories—about a classroom that has a good acoustic design and, as a result, test performance improves, or a hospital where patient satisfaction scores go up, or an office building that sees a reduction in employee turnover, it will help them impress the importance of proper acoustics upon their clients," said Robert Marshall, manager, marketing technical services, CertainTeed Ceilings. "We have all experienced these types of scenarios, and once building owners see how acoustics affect our everyday lives, it becomes harder to overlook."
The role of acoustics in how people learn, work and heal is considerable. For example, when ambient noise in a hospital reaches 65 decibels (dB), the risk of a patient suffering a heart attack increases. This is especially concerning as noise levels in some hospitals have been measured as high as 95 dB —roughly equivalent to the sound of a subway train at 200 feet.
In classrooms, if students can't hear they can’t learn. A 20 dB increase in classroom noise has been shown to delay a student’s reading level by up to eight months. Workplaces are at risk, as well. It's not uncommon for productivity to drop as much as 66 percent when an employee can overhear nearby conversations while trying to read or write.
"At some point, everyone has experienced the results of a poorly designed space—not being able to converse with friends and family above the ambient noise in a restaurant or losing concentration at work because of chatty co-workers," Marshall said. "Yet acoustics are often taken for granted during the building process. Enhancing acoustical control can pay big dividends for years through improved test scores, shorter hospital stays, greater productivity, and countless other ways."
Leading the Way
A growing number of architects have received the message. One recent example of Environmental Acoustics Design put into practice was the construction of Texas Children’s Hospital’s Pavilion for Women, where FKP Architects and Inventure Design made it a priority to create a soothing, restful environment for expectant mothers and newborn babies. Because babies are very sensitive to noise, a very high level of sound absorption was needed for their well-being.
Another example is the School of Visual Arts' new MFA Design for Social Innovation Department, where Spacesmith, LLP ensured students would be able to hear their instructor no matter where they sat in the school's central auditorium. Marrying engaging visual design with sound containment, the architect acoustically isolated the space from the rest of the 8th-floor Manhattan loft; meaning study groups could collaborate in open spaces nearby without disruption.
With a little help from CertainTeed Ceilings, a Temple University School of Architecture instructor and her students took Environmental Acoustics Design principles into their own hands, remedying poor speech intelligibility by installing fiberglass wall panels in their classroom. Carefully conducted acoustic testing confirmed reverberation time was 41 percent higher prior to the installation, and all involved reported much easier communication within the space.
Join the Movement
Join the growing ranks of those who have pledged to make Environmental Acoustics Design a priority in their projects. Visit www.nonoisenow.com to learn more, sign the pledge and share your story.
Through the responsible development of innovative and sustainable building products, CertainTeed, headquartered in Valley Forge, Pa., has helped shape the building products industry for more than 100 years. Founded in 1904 as General Roofing Manufacturing Company, the firm's slogan "Quality Made Certain, Satisfaction Guaranteed," quickly inspired the name CertainTeed. Today, CertainTeed® is North America’s leading brand of exterior and interior building products, including roofing, siding, fence, decking, railing, trim, insulation, gypsum and ceilings.
A subsidiary of Saint-Gobain, the world's largest building products company, CertainTeed and its affiliates have more than 5,700 employees and more than 60 manufacturing facilities throughout the United States and Canada. For five consecutive years, the company has received top honors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its contributions in protecting the environment and was most recently the recipient of the 2013 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award. The group had total sales of approximately $3.3 billion in 2013. www.certainteed.com