Gymnasium Acoustics and Noise Treatments

Controlling the Court – Gymnasium Noise Control

 

Gymnasiums are basically huge echo chambers. Not only do you have an army of adolescents chanting the same thing over and over again, but there is a very real echo occurring in the space. A gym’s noise production, transmission, and effects, also known as your gymnasium’s acoustics, can have more of a negative impact than many may realize. From the shrill sound of a coach’s whistle to screaming crowds that cheer on the home team, gym acoustics not only create noise levels that make communication and concentration difficult but can also result in noise-related hearing loss. Treating the gym with sound-absorbing materials creates a huge benefit for all those involved.

A woman working out in a gym with Acoustical Surfaces materials.

Another benefit to treating the gymnasium, which often gets overlooked, is that it will help cut down on noise traveling throughout the rest of the building. The walls of the hallways aren’t any more forgiving than those of the gym, so it’s always best to keep as much of the sound inside the gym as possible. In most schools, the gyms are used throughout the day, meaning the classrooms down the hall can be disrupted by the third-period rec sports class. That’s no help for the kid struggling through an algebra class. Keeping the sound output from the gym to a minimum will create a distraction-free learning environment that makes it easier for everyone to concentrate.

Why are gyms so noisy?

It’s all about the echo and reverberation. You’re probably familiar with an echo. Whether from the sharp slap of a textbook dropped in an empty hallway or your voice responding back to you as you yell across a vast canyon, we’ve all had a little fun with echo. Well, gym acoustics are a bit like that vast canyon. It’s a large, mostly empty space that’s lined with hard surfaces. As noise travels in this “canyon” we get reverberation that is noticeable in such a large, voluminous space. Add with noisy sports and spectators, you’ve got a recipe for reverberation.

When reverberation occurs in a hard-surfaced room (like your gym) the sounds can actually increase in intensity, lasting for several seconds. This can hamper communication and contribute to even higher noise levels as everyone gets louder and louder, cheering on their friends and trying to be heard. It makes sense to tackle acoustics when dealing with a room designed for squeaks and screams.

How do I stop my gym from echoing?

Due to the structure of a gymnasium, we recommend that gym sound treatments focus on walls and ceilings. The floor has a very specific purpose, and adding soft surfaces there would do more harm than good. Your basketball team wouldn’t be too thrilled if you carpeted the court. Hard floors are simply a necessity of the space. So, adding sound-absorbing materials to the walls and ceilings is undoubtedly the best remedy for tackling noise inside and outside of the gym. A variety of acoustic treatments are available to help you improve your gymnasium’s acoustics, so let’s get started.

What can I put on the walls to reduce noise?

A gym’s walls create endless echoes. Typically made of brick, and not very forgiving when it comes to sound waves,  gyms are usually huge since the seating in gyms can reach a few stories in height. A popular and common spot for hanging decorations, they need to be able to stand up to a bit of abuse. All of these factors make choosing the correct sound-absorbing system vitally important. Luckily, a few products lend themselves perfectly to this application.

A group of people dancing in a gym with a mirror and Acoustical Surfaces materials.

One of our favorite options is Sound Silencer™, which can be applied directly to both walls and/or ceilings. It’s a cleanable acoustic plank made from Rigid Porous ARPRO Acoustic Planks, so it’s ideal for the gym environment. This product is extremely durable and effective at sound control management. It is water-resistant and can be used indoors or outdoors, which makes it a perfect solution for gyms. It’s also moisture, impact, and bacteria and fungi resistant, so you don’t need to worry if the room gets a little steamy or your team’s center has a terrible free throw. Another benefit is that the surface is trackable, so your cheerleaders and team managers can pin-up posters to their hearts’ content. 

Another great option is the Wallmate® high tension stretch fabric wall system. The thing that makes this option so fantastic is that it can be stretched to cover any wall size. You can install it without the need for hiring expensive contractors, and you can choose the exact portion of the wall you want to cover. Whether you want to treat the entire wall or just a portion, you aren’t stuck working with standard sizes that don’t quite work for what you are doing. In addition, the fabric can be replaced fairly easily, while retaining the rest of the system, which makes it a cost-effective solution in the long run. The fabric comes in many different colors, you can surely find one that drowns your opponent in a sea of school colors. 

What can I put on ceilings to reduce noise?

The next large surface you have some level of control over is the ceiling. As such, it is an important area to consider. More than a minor detail, the ceiling encloses the box that is your gym. It’s also the thing that lets you know when inclement weather hits at halftime. Not only will treating the ceiling help tackle inside sounds, but it will keep spring storms from disrupting the game. Luckily, there are some great solutions for that too.

A great choice for tackling ceiling noise is the Echo Eliminator™. Sure, these recycled cotton panels can be applied directly to a wall for great effect, but they are fantastic when used as a baffle, suspended from your gym’s ceiling. Suspending them from the ceiling is a great idea because they break up an otherwise empty space. They also help absorb much of the sound that bounces from the wall to the ceiling and backs down again. They come in lots of great colors, one of which is sure to complement your school colors! Check out this blog post describing one school’s unique way of soundproofing their gymnasium so that noise was reduced while also being visually appealing. The Echo Eliminator also makes attractive hanging acoustical baffles that may count towards making your school LEED® certified.

A gym with acoustical baffles and wall solutions installed by Acoustical Surfaces.

If you are looking for something that conveys more movement, Acousti-Banners may be more up your alley. They are great for large, open spaces, and add another dimension to the room. Curves are a nice addition to the long, straight lines that make up gyms. They are easy to apply using the existing beams or bar joists in the ceiling and look great. You have options for wrapping the fiberglass core with either PVC, nylon sailcloth, or fabric, so you can achieve the perfect look for your gym.

Mitigating sound will not only make the game more enjoyable for spectators both visually and audibly but will also help protect the hearing of everyone involved. Your athletes spend a lot of time in the gym, so this is a sound investment that will pay off for the rest of their lives.

 


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