Tag Archive: cafeteria

  1. Summer Sound Series: When The Kids Are Away… Fixing School Acoustics

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    Gymnasium – School Acoustics

    The Situation

    School is out for summer, and we want to take advantage of the time to work on the acoustics in our gymnasium, classrooms, and cafeteria. What would you recommend?

    The Solution

    You’re in good company! Teachers and administrators researching acoustical treatment for classrooms, cafeterias, common areas, etc. often contact us for help, and summer and winter breaks are usually the best times to make improvements. Large common areas like cafeterias and gyms have different acoustical needs than most classrooms due to their size, and they must be approached differently. However, there are some common factors and things to consider that can be applied across the board.

    In order to find the right acoustical solution for your particular situation, a bit of planning and preparation is required to learn the advantages and disadvantages of different acoustical products and methods of installation. Some of these products are custom made and will require a 1-4 week lead-time, so you’ll want to make sure to allocate enough time for that. It’s always good to request product samples so that you can see and feel the differences between products to make the best choice for your situation.

    Taking the Edge Off

    In the interest of simplicity, I’m going to discuss the basics of “taking the edge” off of a large space, such as a gym or cafeteria. The goal here is to reduce the reverberation time (echo) in the room so that it is simply easier and more comfortable to occupy.

    I developed the following equation about seven years ago and have been using it ever since, with positive feedback from hundreds of customers. The idea here is not to try to achieve perfection, but rather to give you an idea of how to approach a room that needs acoustical treatment without having to hire an acoustical consultant.

    Assuming your room has hard (usually tile) floors, drywall or cinderblock walls and either a sheetrock or metal deck ceiling:

    .04 × (cubic volume of space) = approximate number of square feet of panels to put into your room.

    This is probably a lot simpler than you thought it was going to be. Awesome.

    The next two questions are always: “Well, where do I need to put the panels?”, and “What type of panels are you talking about?”

    Where Do I Put The Panels?

    The first question is easy to answer. The nice thing about acoustics is that in most elevations, sound travels in the ballpark of 1,116.43701 feet per second, which means that the sound in a room travels too quickly for the exact location of the panels to make any audible difference on the overall echo reduction. In almost all instances where one is just looking to reduce the echo, there is not going to be any overall performance differences between a wall or a ceiling mounted panel. Most of the time, in a gymnasium, it is best to put the panels directly onto the ceiling or high on the walls so that they are not hit as often with volleyballs, basketballs, etc.

    What Type of Panels?

    Now, when it comes to what type of panels, there are three panel types that are probably the most common for schools to install:

    1. Echo Eliminator recycled cotton panels
    2. Fabric-wrapped-fiberglass panels
    3. PVC or Sailcloth hanging baffle

    Echo Eliminator

    Echo Eliminator Cotton Acoustical PanelsThe Echo Eliminator panels are going to be the most cost-effective option; they are generally in stock in 2′ × 4′ panels and are available in ten different colors. They are easy to ship and install, but are also generally found to be less aesthetically pleasing than the other two options.

    Fabric Wrapped Panels

    Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels – Edge OptionsThe fabric wrapped fiberglass panels are very decorative and finished looking, can be made in any panel size needed up to a 4′ × 10′ board and come in hundreds of different colors and fabrics. We can also print custom graphics on the fabric before wrapping for a premium price. They are, however, heavier, and can be more difficult to install.

    PVC and Sailcloth Baffle

    PVC Acoustical BaffleThe PVC and Sailcloth baffles are hung from the ceiling like a flag. They are also custom made with plenty of choices for both baffle size and color – so school colors (or something similar) can be chosen. The downside to baffles is that they cannot usually be used in rooms that have fire-suppression sprinklers. When they are installed in the ceiling, they will commonly inhibit the throw and coverage of the sprinklers, which can violate the fire code for the building. Check with your local fire marshal before getting too far down the design path for a baffle installation.

    As always, I’m happy to do what I can to help you make the best choices for both the type of panel as well as quantity. Feel free to contact me with the dimensions of your room and a few digital pictures, which are great aids for me to help you. Also, please feel free to include your personal or school address so that I am able to send you a few different product samples for your review. Finally, some schools have rooms that need to meet specific ANSI standards, and for these you can contact me directly and we can discuss your particular room further.

  2. Acoustical Baffles


    Picture a cafeteria or lunch room that can hold 150 people. The picture in your mind is going to depend on the age group of people using the room. Grade school, high school or college cafeterias usually have vinyl tile floors, painted concrete walls and either a drop ceiling or a painted sheetrock ceiling. Large corporate cafeterias may have a thin pile carpet on the floor because some adults are cleaner than some kids. Either way, large rooms with hard surfaces are perfect environments for echo and reverberation. Large rooms hold lots of people. Lots of people usually means lots of noise. Lots of noise means occupants get headaches. People with headaches call me.

    In April of 2008 I got a call from Maria Williams from GEICO who was doing some research to find the right product or products to reduce the echo and reverberation in their cafeteria. We talked about a couple of different products and I sent some products and literature to review. Taking into consideration the professional aesthetic of the cafeteria, Maria decided that the company wanted to go with our pre-fabricated fabric wrapped fiberglass wall panels and baffles.

    During the product selection process, Maria asked about the possibility of using these baffles as decorative accent to the room by possibly getting some company specific images printed onto the fabric before we wrapped the fiberglass. The timing of this question was perfect as we had just gotten some prototype printing done for a job with the Jacksonville Jaguars from a local printing company. This company has the technology to take a digital image and transfer the image onto fabric. Maria sent me a few low resolution images and I forwarded them onto the printing company for a quote.

    Based on the size of the room as well as the fact that this room does not have a fire suppression sprinkler system a layout of wall panels as well as hanging baffles was a very effective way to reduce the echo and reverberation in the room. For this room, twenty-eight (4’ wide x 2’) tall baffles were chosen along with eighteen 4’ wide x 2’ tall wall panels, two 4’ x 4’ and two 4’ x 8’ wall panels were purchased. All of the acoustical products for this installation are an overall thickness of two inches.

    Because this was my first job working with the printing process I wanted to make sure absolutely everything went perfectly. Maria had her graphics department make high resolution files of the art work that the company wanted to use and send it directly to the printer. I sent the fabric to the printing company so that it was on hand when it came time to start production. In the interest of making sure GEICO was completely happy with the finished product, I had the printer make one full size sample and we wrapped it around a piece of fiberglass just like the glass we would use for the finished product. I noticed that the little GEICO lizard guy’s foot was so close to the bottom of the image that it would wrap around the edges of the panel and look odd. I sent the full size sample to Maria for her review and it was decided that the lizard should be moved more toward the center of the panel so we did not “loose” his foot over the edge.

    After the issues with the art work were sorted out, I gave the green light and had the fabric printed. We printed images for both sides of all eight baffles, wrapped them around the fiberglass and glued the pieces on either side of two mounting brackets. The panels were crated and shipped to GEICO and installed a few weeks later.

    Custom Fabric-Wrapped Hanging Baffles in GEICO Employee Cafeteria

    Maria’s summary of the installation:

    Hi Ted!
    I am SO sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you! I finally took some pictures of the cafeteria with the panels and baffles installed. It really does look great and significantly cuts down on the echo! Take a look and let me know what you think! I may have a few emails coming your way with pictures.
    Thanks again,
    Maria Williams