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Addition of ceiling treatments improves acoustics at Temple University School of Architecture

Reverberation time decreases average of 56% in exposed structure spaces.

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December 03, 2018 |

Optima Capz ceiling panels from Armstrong reduce reverberation time and improve speech intelligibility in the school’s presentation spaces.

Architecture students at Temple University in Philadelphia recently experienced the difference the addition of acoustical ceiling treatments can make in exposed structure spaces.

The acoustics in Temple’s School of Architecture building were exhibiting excessively high reverberation times, affecting students’ ability to hear and understand their instructors. Originally built in 2009, the facility houses a myriad of lecture halls, classrooms, studios, and conference rooms, all of which are exposed structure spaces. Acoustical testing by Metropolitan Acoustics of Philadelphia confirmed reverberation times were much longer than recommended, averaging 2.30 seconds.

Consultant Graham Everhart of Metropolitan explains he and his team created models based off the testing to develop solutions. “Our overall recommendation was to incorporate acoustically absorptive materials on all available surfaces,” he states, “and in most spaces, the most available surface was the ceiling, so we focused on that.”

The consultants then worked in collaboration with NELSON, the Philadelphia architectural firm responsible for the remedial retrofit project. “Considering the amount of hard surfaces, from an open metal deck to drywall walls to sealed concrete floors, it was easy to see why sound bounced around so quickly,” notes Scott Winger, AIA, Technical Director for NELSON.

Winger also notes that his firm wanted to get the architecture students involved in the design process and did so by letting them attend some of his design team working sessions and by creating their own design charrette. “It was the students that alerted the university about the problem, so it was only right to have them involved in the solution,” Winger says.


Tectum Direct-Attach acoustical panels provide sound absorption in the studios while maintaining the look and feel of the exposed structure.


Ceiling Panels Attached to Deck

To reduce reverberation time and improve speech intelligibility, the NELSON design team chose Optima® Capz ceiling panels from Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions for the lecture halls and other presentation spaces on the first floor.

A simple, affordable way to retrofit poor acoustic-performing spaces, the panels have a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) of 0.90 to provide sound absorption while maintaining the look and feel of the exposed structure. The panels were installed directly to the deck with a 4- to 6-inch offset to eliminate the need to move any sprinklers or conduits.

Tectum® Direct-Attach acoustical panels from Armstrong Ceilings were chosen for the classrooms and studios on the facility’s second and third floors. “Tectum and Capz panels perform in a similar manner acoustically, but we went with the Tectum panels here because we thought they were a little more rugged and better suited for these types of spaces,” Winger states.

Ideal for use in open spaces and high-traffic interiors, Tectum panels have an NRC up to 1.00 and can be easily installed on a wide variety of surfaces. At Temple, they were installed directly to the metal deck with an offset of 1½ inches.


Major Reduction in Reverberation Time

Acoustical testing by Metropolitan following installation of the ceiling panels validated the choice of treatments. Reverberation time dropped an average of 56% in the eight spaces that were tested, including a 79% drop in one of the classrooms and a 64% drop in one of the studios.

According to Winger, both the students and faculty have noticed the difference. “And, by installing the panels between the metal joists, we were able to maintain the look and feel of the exposed structure that the university desired while mitigating the reverberation time, which it also desired.”

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