Have you ever been to a busy restaurant that was so noisy you could barely hear your friend across the table? From an acoustics standpoint, restaurants are tricky spaces; the hard surfaces of the tables, bar, and floor are carefully designed to match the menu and overall aesthetic, but they can make a quiet Tuesday lunch sound very different from a packed Friday night.
It’s no surprise that crowded, noisy atmospheres result in dissatisfying customer experiences. In a recent Zagat survey, noise level was the second most common complaint of restaurant goers after bad service. Additionally, a Consumer Reports survey of almost 50,000 readers reported that one in every four dining experiences warranted a noise complaint.
Customers aren’t the only victims of sound pollution; the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) monitors volume to protect employees from environments that could cause hearing loss over time. OSHA’s standards include a maximum noise level of 90 decibels per every 8 hours and 95 decibels per every 4 hours. Oxford University experimental psychology professor Charles Spence noted that noise levels in many restaurants hover around 100 decibels.
Recent studies have found that not only do bad acoustics hurt our ears, but they can also affect the way we taste our food. A 2010 study in scientific journal Food Quality and Preference found that participants perceived saltiness and sweetness more strongly when eating with quiet or no background noise, compared to participants who ate the same foods with loud background noise. A 2012 University of Manchester study found that people enjoyed their food more when they also enjoyed the background noise (pleasant music, for example), while participants who ate with 80-decibel white noise in the background reported dulled flavor perception.
We’re learning that existing background noise, and the acoustical products used to counter it, have the power to transform the dining experience. Acoustical experts should be consulted at the start of any restaurant building or remodeling to harness this power. Products like fabric wrapped fiberglass or echo elimination panels can minimize the noisy cocktail party effect we’ve all experienced.
Acoustical Surfaces, Inc. has 35 years of experience in improving surface acoustics. Managing volume can be difficult in a continuously changing environment like a restaurant. At Acoustical Surfaces Inc., we offer a variety of mounted wall panels, silk metal, and ceiling-hung baffles to knock out the unwanted noise and offer a more pleasant experience for your customers and employees.
To learn more about our acoustical surface offerings and our proven restaurant industry success, please contact us to consult an acoustical expert.
This month’s edition of What’s That Noise? focuses on office environments—enclosed areas that depend on quietness to ensure the clearest communication possible.
Millions of Americans spend 40 or more hours working in office buildings each week. Unfortunately, not all the time spent by office employees is productive, as the buildings they work in are a constant source of unsolicited noise.
If you’ve worked in an office, or even briefly visited one, then you are well aware of the noises people encounter in these buildings—keyboard clicking, calls with clients or other employees, and loud music are a few prime examples. These individual noises are irritating and distracting, but they aren’t the biggest problem befalling offices today; sound transmission from room to room is the real culprit.
Interestingly enough, the construction of office buildings is what promotes sound transmission. During construction, components like heating and cooling systems, water pipes, are run along the ceiling of a building. Next, walls are built and a “drop-ceiling” is installed to cover the surfaces. Finally, doors are installed and the rooms are finished. In each of these areas, very little attention is given to sound absorbing materials.
People tend to assume that walls are the main source of sound transmission, but generally speaking, sound travels too fast (1,130 feet per second to be exact) to determine its precise location. Regardless of location, these sounds interfere with office productivity, and often cause confusion among employees.
How Can I Resolve the Problem?
It can be challenging, but the first step is to try and pinpoint the general problem area—your choice of noise abatement products will depend on the specifics of the room.
For ceiling tiles, the Acoustical Surfaces team recommends two exceptional products: NOISE S.T.O.P.™ Sound Barrier ACT Tiles offer both high sound absorption (for echo and reverberation within a room) and are designed with a noise barrier on the back of the tile to help to block sound from entering or leaving an office; Barrier Decoupler can be used on the back of STANDARD ceiling tiles to reduce sound transmission and contain intrusive noises.
For office doorways, we recommend Door Seal Kits—these products are adjustable, durable, and are ideal for decreasing the amount of sound transmission through door seals. Our door seals are easy-to-install and available in several custom sizes.
Finally, adding wall panels will help absorb echoes and reverberation throughout the office. Our NOISE S.T.O.P. FABRISORB™ fabric-wrapped fiberglass panels are custom engineered to provide high-performance noise reduction in any office area. These panels can also be fabricated with a core of a dense, heavy vinyl that will offer the ability to block sound transmission as well.
Large cities with large populations and lots of concrete are always going to be noisy, that’s just part of the game when it comes to living in the city. If you don’t like noise, it’s probably not the right place for you. But, even in a big city, people should be able to create quiet, comfortable spaces to unwind. Fortunately there are quite a few different products that can be used to reduce the amount of sound coming into a building.
RSIC-1 clips can be used for exterior walls to float the drywall off of the studs, allowing the sound pressure to be converted to heat by allowing the wall assembly to vibrate:
Green Glue and an additional layer of 5/8” drywall can be used to retro-fit an exterior wall to increase the STC rating of the assembly, and block more sound from making its way into the space:
Climate-Seal Window Inserts are a very effective, retro-fit way to reduce the amount of sound coming in a weak window. These windows snap into place and are held onto a metal frame that is installed around a window:
I run a community pool, and the noise from the screaming kids is disturbing our neighbors. How can we keep this noise contained?
Exterior acoustics and sound problems can be a bit tricky to deal with, since there are a lot of variables and environmental factors that need to be considered. Luckily, we’re up to the challenge. The advantage in this case is there is already a fence around the pool for safety reasons. You’ll see how we’re going to use this in a second.
Depending on your location, your pool may or may not be open year-round. Here in Minnesota, we only have about a sixteen-day window where it’s nice enough outside to use a pool, so it wouldn’t make much sense to have panels in place year-round. In other areas, that may or may not be the case.
Let’s assume, for this case, the pool is open for three months of the year. The Echo Barrier exterior panels are one of our new products that can be either purchased or rented. This type of approach would be perfect for a three month per year application. The pool or community organization would be able to rent the blankets on an as-needed basis, rather than purchase them for the full cost. If the approach met the needs of the space, the panels could be purchased, but if it was discovered that the panels were not the right approach, the endeavor is a much lower-cost solution than purchasing the product outright initially.
The Echo Barrier panels can be installed directly onto a standard chain-link or privacy-style fence through the grommets provided. It is important to note that these can act like a “sail” when they catch the wind. You’ll want to verify ahead of time that your fence/structure will be able to support the wind load as well. These panels will block sound from being transmitted directly through the fence, in addition to absorbing some echo on the noise-source side – rather than bouncing the sound in the opposite direction. They are aesthetically pleasing and can be made with the company/city/etc logo, to make it seem more personalized. Happy swimming!
Church acoustics in fellowship halls or multi-purpose rooms are some of the more frequent rooms that we are asked for recommendations for acoustical treatment. These rooms have a few very common similarities that are the reason for the need for acoustical wall panels or acoustical ceiling panels. These rooms are often quite large so that a large number of people can use the room at the same time. They also commonly have cinder block or sheetrock walls, a vinyl tile or linoleum floor. If carpet is present, it is almost always a very low pile, industrial carpet.
How Many Panels Do I Need?
As far as echo and reverberation are concerned, the larger the room, the more square footage of acoustical treatment is needed to get the proper level noise control. Over the last few years, I have talked to thousands of people and a series of the same questions continues to be asked. “How many panels do I need?” This is a simple question that needs to be asked. The answer, however, is not as simple because rooms and the needs of rooms are always different. For simplicity’s sake, I know that rooms like this don’t need “recording studio” sound quality. They do need a noise control solution that takes the edge off so that when the room is filled with people the noise level is not ear splitting.
I’ve come up with a very simple equation to start with to answer the question above. This is not a guarantee or a necessity, but it is a generalization that I have had an extremely high success rate with. The square footage of paneling generally needed is found by multiplying the cubic volume of the room by 3%.
Again, there is not a right or wrong answer to this question but there are some tendencies or trend that I do want to explain. Although there are hundreds of different kinds of acoustical treatments (including wall panels, ceiling panels, cloud baffles, diffusers, etc.), when it comes to treating a room like this, this extensive list of options is just about always reduced to two different types of panels. These are our Decorative Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass Panels and our Echo Eliminator Panels.
The Fabric Wrapped Panels are custom made boards of fiberglass that are cut to size and wrapped with a decorative fabric. This option offers the most freedom of panel size and color which is very attractive to quiet a few people. The unfortunate part about the product is that because it is custom made and made by hand, it also comes with a higher price tag. This price tag often makes this option less attractive or simply not an option. Especially for a multi-purpose room where aesthetics isn’t as critical as it would be in a room like a sanctuary, our Echo Eliminator recycled cotton panels become much more attractive.
These acoustical panels are made from recycled cotton fiber and we offer them in nine different colors. They have an absorption rating that makes them an extremely efficient acoustical treatment. Because they are made from a recycled material, they are also very cost effective. They can be used as wall panels or ceiling panels and are most often glued directly to the structure with a construction adhesive and a contact adhesive. They are Class A fire rated, which is always important as well.
Where Should I Put These Panels?
My answer to this question almost always surprises people. For all practical purposes, to take the edge off of a room, the exact location of the acoustical wall panels or ceiling panels does not matter nearly as much as the square footage of panels introduced into the room. This leaves the end user with a lot of freedom to put the panels in a location where they will be most discreet.
The only two recommendations that I would like to pass along would be to space the panels out as evenly as possible throughout the room and, if the aesthetic works, space the panels out (rather than installing them one next to the other). Installing them throughout the room will give you the most even acoustical result and by spacing them apart, you will effectively increase the overall surface area of absorption and increase the performance of the panels as a whole.
In December of 2006, Dennis contacted me about the multi-purpose room at the Bon Air Church of the Nazarene in Kokomo, Indiana. He was collecting information about products and treatments for the room. We talked briefly about the room and a few of the more popular products that he might be interested in and I put some samples and literature together and sent them to him. We spoke about the advantages and disadvantages of the products and he took the information to the committees and decision makers of the church.
Like all projects that I have done with houses of worship, the project was discussed and questions were asked, and ultimately the Echo Eliminator panels were chosen due to the low cost of the product and the high absorption numbers. Dennis sent me the measurements of the room and based on the size of the room and the surface that were present, I used the following equation to help him start to figure out how many panels the church was going to need.
This multipurpose room measures roughly 55′ × 65′ and has 20′ ceilings. The equation that I used to determine the square footage needed is listed above.
Based on the numbers from above, Dennis worked with church members to come up with a unique and decorative pattern for the cotton panels. The church purchased 64 panels of the Light Gray, 110 panels of the Pure Blue and 20 panels of the Navy Blue. They also purchased the cutting blade to cut the 2′ × 4′ panels down as needed.
Most of our panels are adhered to the walls or ceiling of a room, but this type of installation is very permanent. Although most people are never going to want the echo problem to return, the idea of using a construction adhesive to install the cotton panels isn’t ideal. In this case, the installers used small nails to hang the panels. I do not know the exact details of how it was done, but they pulled it off very well.
We have installed our sound panels. I have attached a picture to show you the pattern we chose. I will be sending the saw blade back to you tomorrow. We have seen a significant reduction in echo, and we especially can understand speech much clearer.
We used nails to put up the panels. The color consistency was good, and they look good in this application. I would be interested in your thoughts.
I finally got around to installing your product. I wanted to thank you for the installation suggestion. The install worked great and so does your product. Even with a cheap, noisy, builder installed garage door opener the noise was eliminated. Not just in the upstairs bedroom but down stairs and in the garage as well. Thanks a bunch.
Before the Kit Was Installed
After the Kit Was Installed
Other than a vehicle, a garage door opener is probably the most prominent noise source in a garage. They are strong motors that often introduce a large amount of vibration into a structure. Depending on the location of the garage, this can be quite bothersome. The situation below illustrates a bit more challenging of a situation than most – simply because of the way this motor is mounted. Patrick contacted me and explained the situation and I asked him to send a picture of the opener, which he obliged. Knowing how the RSIC-DC04x2 clips mount, I did a quick photoshop alteration of the picture illustrating that if a block of wood were bolted into the header, it would allow a surface parallel to the floor to which the DC04 clips would mount.
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.
Maria’s summary of the installation:
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.
If you think about it, having a noise problem in a restaurant is one of the best problems an owner can have. Noise means people enjoying themselves. A bigger problem, I suppose, would be if the place were completely empty all of the time. As I have noted in a few other restaurant based articles, restaurants can be a tricky space to treat for a few reasons which I will do my best to explain.
The room: Imagine sitting in a restaurant. You look around and see hard surfaces. The floor is a sandy colored hardwood, the table in front of you is a polished cherry, the walls were built of drywall covered with pictures, posters, art work, trinkets, etc. and the ceiling is a textured sheetrock. All of the surfaces in the room can easily be wiped down and cleaned, which makes sense. If you are sitting there by yourself, you can probably hear the light fixtures making noise, maybe the hum of the HVAC system or an ice maker working. How peaceful. All of the sudden, it’s 6:30p on a Friday and the place is filled with people. Big difference. Everyone is talking, laughing etc. I call situations like this the cocktail party effect. Everyone in the room is making noise and talking, but to be heard, they have to increase the volume of their speech so that their listeners can hear them over the background noise. Everyone continues to increase the volume of their voice until everyone is shouting. We’ve all been in rooms like that and frankly, its uncomfortable.
The two trickiest things about changing the acoustics of a restaurant and quieting a noisy restaurant are the décor and the amount of panels to get into the space. To reduce echo and reverberation you need to cover a reflective surface with an absorptive surface and covering something inevitably means changing the way it looks. Making that change while remaining within the existing look of the place can be extremely tricky. The amount of treatment is also something that needs to be done very specifically so the “edge” is taken off without over deadening the acoustic of the room.
One of the nice parts about reducing the overall noise level in a room is the fact that the panels ore treatment can, for all practical purposes, be installed anywhere in the room and have essentially the same result. The panels can be placed on the walls or the ceiling and have the same effect. Exposed room surfaces like the walls or ceilings will give a larger reduction than would panels on the under sides of tables and chairs. So, the location is totally up to you and gives you the freedom to use the treatment as accent pieces in the room or install them in locations that blend into the background.
Dialing in the exact square footage of panels to install is going to take some trial and error to get exactly right based on the right acoustic for your type of room. Some rooms need to be and should be quieter than others and getting to the perfect sound level for your type of room isn’t something that anyone can tell you because it’s far too site specific. With that said, I have been asked this question enough times that I’ve put together a simple equation that I have been very successful using. Cubic Volume of the room (height x width x depth) x .03 (3%) = Square footage of panels to install into the room. This relationship between room size and square footage of acoustical treatment is a middle of the road, educated guess that has worked very well in the past. Will this treatment be ideal and perfect for you? Maybe. Will this treatment make a noticeable difference in the room? Absolutely, without a doubt – and that is what your looking for or you wouldn’t still be reading this.
Ok, so now that you have determined the cubic volume of your room and multiplied that by 3% (if you haven’t yet, do that now, I’ll wait) you have an idea of how much product you will need and how much total surface are you need to cover. You also know that covering the ceiling will give you the same result as putting panels onto the walls. This is where you need to help me help you. Many people in the past have sent me a few digital pictures of the space which is a huge help and I’m happy to offer some suggestions. But, really, you already know where you want the treatment. Even right now, you’re thinking of where it will go, and you’re just wondering what effect it will have and “is it enough?” How do I know these things – just ask my wife, I know everything…
What products to use, you ask? Well there are hundreds of different types of products out there that are possibilities for each room and each of these will have its own advantages and disadvantages. To make both of our lives simple, I am going to narrow it down to two. The first being a utilitarian and cost effective panel – the other being a decorative and custom (higher cost associated with it) panel. Both offer the same basic absorption and will work within the equation that I noted above. If you’ve already forgotten it, grab a yellow highlighter and go to town, it really works.
The first option would be the Echo Eliminator panels which are made from recycled cotton. These panels are available in ten different colors and come in a 2’x4’ panel size. They are the lowest cost, highest performing class A/1 panel on the market. They are the utilitarian yet effective option and generally glued or attached in some way to the structure on site. They ship in boxes via UPS at small quantities and installed by anyone. These are not “ugly” panels, but the most common reason why they are declined is that they are not “finished looking” enough –which is understandable. When I send a quote for both options, however, this panel usually becomes a bit more attractive.
The second option would be the Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass panels which are exactly as the name says. We cut boards of fiberglass to size and wrap them with fabric. This panel offers the freedom of panel size and color. The largest panels we can make are a 4’ x 10’ board and the panel sizes and shapes can be as creative as needed. There are hundreds of fabric that we can use, all having different price points. The cost for these panels is going to depend on the sizes, shapes, quantity and fabric that you need. Because of the size, weight and more fragile nature of this product, they are usually shipped on wooden crates on the back of a semi-truck.
Here is a great example, and I truly wish I lived in or near Crystal River, FL as their menu sounds awesome. The E-mail below was sent to me by one of the owners of the Fat Cat Grill who were trying to fix a sound/noise problem on a budget. The restaurant purchased 200 square feet of our 1” Beige Echo Eliminator panels and installed them onto the ceiling.
We need sound control for our restaurant. 8 ft ceilings two areas, one 30 ft by 13 and the next is 13 by 13 in the bar area. Two areas separated by a 2 ft drop down area housing the AC ducts. We need an affordable approach.
Please advise. We have a web site on www.fatcatgrill.com
After the panels were installed, I received the following short description of the improvement: “It has knocked the echo off the room and we have had a full house and no noise complaints. It kills that high pitch.”
I have been getting quite a few inquiries about kennel or pet grooming salons lately, so I am putting together this little article to help those with similar use rooms.
We have quite a few different products that could all potentially reduce the noise in your grooming salon and each will offer it’s own respective advantages and disadvantages. Some are very economical, some are washable and some are decorative and customizable. I would be happy to offer my recommendations if you would be willing to send me a digital picture or two of the space along with the rough dimensions of the area in question. I will disclose that I don’t even pretend to be an interior designer, but I have helped quite a few people in similar situations so I could use what I have learned over the years to help.
The first three panels that come to mind are the Echo Eliminator, the Sound Silencer and the Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass panels. As I said, each of these options is going to offer a different advantage and I will do my best to explain each. We do have a larger number of options so if you are looking for a panel that is not listed here, please let me know and I can make a few other recommendations. Here goes.
The Echo Eliminator panels are definitely the most cost effective of the three options. It is an in-stock panel that comes in ten different colors and will usually ship in boxes via UPS Ground. They are made out of recycled cotton fiber and generally left as-is which is fairly similar in look and feel to a piece of felt. Most people install the panels onto the walls or ceilings with a construction adhesive and a spray adhesive. I have, however, had customers use grommets in the panels for mounting locations or even Velcro. Although these panels are the most economical, they are usually considered the least “finished looking” so depending on the aesthetic of the room and where you have the available wall or ceiling space, they may or may not work for you. These panels have an NRC rating of .80 (for the 1” thickness) which is very absorbent.
The Sound Silencer panels are also in stock in 2’x4’ panels but absorb about half of the amount of sound as either of the other two options. The big advantage to this option is the fact that these panels are completely washable and can be used in areas that other panels will simply not work. They also attach to the wall or ceiling with adhesive and I have had customers put screws through them to hold them in place.
The Fabric Wrapped Fiberglass panels are the most finished looking and actually a bit more absorbent than the Echo Eliminator panels. They are all custom made which offers the freedom of custom panel sizes and fabrics to use as the decorative facing. These two options allow the panels to either be used as accent panels or to hide within the existing look of the room. Because of the labor that goes into their production, they are also the most expensive. These panels are put onto pallets or crated and shipped on the back of semi-trucks.
If you are wondering how many panels you need, I would be happy to help you with this, which is where the measurements of the space and the digital pictures would come in quite handy. Although there is not a cut-and-dry answer to this question, I have used a very simple equation to get people started down the right path in determining how many panels are needed. Please note that this is a simple, generic guideline and may need adjustments based on the needs of each particular room:
Cubic Volume (height x width x depth) x 3% (.03) = square footage of surface area to cover.
The location of the panels is completely up to you and they can be placed anywhere in the room and have the same basic result. So, with that said, you can put the panels wherever you want to allow for the same functionality of the room and get the same acoustical result. If you feel that the panels will be best suited on the ceiling, go for it. If you would rather install them on the walls, perfect. It is more a determination of the square footage of panels installed relative to the size of the room than putting them in specific locations.
I hope this helps. Please let me know what questions you have.
Do you have a fellowship hall?!? Do the noise levels in your fellowship hall get to uncomfortable levels when filled with people?!? Have you been lucky enough to be the one chosen to find out how to fix this?!? Will you have an entire committee to report to?!? Do you have a limited budget but need to come up with a solution that is aesthetically pleasing enough to pass a committee vote?!? Well, friends, this is the article for you. (This has been written in my best used-car/infomercial sales guy voice) 🙂
I get quite a few calls from people doing research on how to acoustically treat fellowship halls as these types of rooms have a few things going against them from the beginning. Almost all fellowship halls have hard, tile floors either sheetrock/drywall or concrete walls which both reflect a large amount of sound. They are also large, spacious rooms that are intended to house a lot of people. When these rooms are full and people start talking the noise level increases. This causes people to increase their voice level and talk louder so they can be heard over the background noise, and the problem gets exponentially worse.
Acoustical panels are really the only way to control the noise pressure levels in these types of rooms which means that some of the walls or ceiling surfaces are going to need to be covered. There are a lot of different options on the market for acoustical wall or ceiling panels and each of these options offers it’s own advantages and disadvantages but for this, I am only going to talk about one. I am narrowing it down so absolutely for reasons that I will explain further.
The WallMate high-tension fabric system is the product that was chosen to treat the fellowship hall of the Oakwood United Methodist Church, here in Minnesota. This is a do-it-yourself system where we provide the pieces and parts for the system and the panels are built on site. The WallMatetrack frames each panel very similar to the canvas stretcher for a canvas painting; pulling tension in all directions at once. The absorbent core is the very cost effective and very absorptive Echo Eliminator panels which are adhered directly to the wall, inside the track. The customer then puts the fabric in place (being held temporarily by a two-sided, alignment tape) and clicks the top track shut followed by the bottom and then each side. Like anything else, there is a bit of a learning curve to the installation but once that is done the install should go pretty quickly.
The advantages of this option are quite plentiful in situations like this. First, and most importantly, the cost – the WallMate is the lowest cost, yet decorative acoustical panel system on the market. The pieces and parts can be shipped by UPS Ground at low quantities which is cheaper than shipping on a pallet. Second, because the panels are built on site, the customer is able to fabricate panels only limited in size by the size of the fabric bolt so the installers are able to get as creative as they want. Third, the acoustical core is a VERY cost effective, easy to use, recycled and formaldehyde free panel that can be cut with a sharp pair of scissors and glued easily to the wall. Fourth, the fabric can be swapped out or replaced at any time by simply popping the track open, putting new fabric in place and snapping it shut so if the look of the room needs to be modified or if someone hits the panel with a dirty volleyball, you do not have to completely replace the panel. Last, the performance. Because the cotton has an NRC of .80, it is a very effective product for controlling echo and reverberation.
Just about every congregation out there has a contractor or two, about six handy-men/women as well as a few that pretend to be handy-men but are willing to help. This product is able to be installed by two out of three of these kinds of people. There are some simple skills and common sense involved and I am always happy to field installation questions as the workers are planning how to tackle this job. I ALWAYS suggest that an extra stick or two of track are purchased and the installers build a small 1’ x 1’ or 18” x 18” board on a piece of plywood before starting on the wall. This will help them learn the two things that require tactile experience and trial and error – the pre-tension on the fabric and tucking the corners. These two things will require the most practice and skill.
Fabric – just about ALWAYS a topic of debate when it comes down to the final decisions. I’ve talked to hundreds of people who have been selected or appointed the task of finding an acoustical treatment for fellowship halls and the topic that is the most discussed is the fabric. Here’s the deal with the fabric – listen to whoever wears matching clothes the most often – they are going to probably make the best choice. I don’t have much to offer when it comes to color, and please understand that I don’t even pretend to be an interior designer, but years of doing this have taught me that it’s best to NOT try to match the walls – to use a complimentary color. If you try to match the walls, the color will be close enough to be close, but off enough to look bad. Like wearing two black socks that were purchased a few months apart. They’re both “black” but not the same black.
“How many panels do we need?!” Although I am going to spit out a simple one, the answer to this question is quite variable. There isn’t a cut-and-dry or “always do this” way to acoustically treat a room. I commonly tell people that the rooms and acoustical treatment are just as different from one place to another as are the people that use the rooms. So, my point is that the exact square footage of panels that is going to be perfect for your room is going to change from one room to another. With my disclaimer out there, here is the simple equation that I have used for years and been very successful with:
Cubic Volume of the room x 3% = Square footage to install.
Multiply the height, width and depth for the cubic volume.
Multiply that number by .03.
What ever number you are left with, the total area of your acoustical paneling should be close to that number. From there, it just comes down to a point of fine tuning the room once these panels are installed.
To “take the edge off” of the room and just lower the echo and reverberation of the room, the important thing becomes how many panels, not necessarily EXACTLY where they are located. This leaves you with a lot of freedom when it comes to panel location. You don’t have to put the panels in ANY specific location for them to do their job. If you were building a recording studio or something my answer here would be different, but in cases like these, put the panels wherever you want so they will either look the best or blend in with the rest of the room. You are going to get a bit more balanced acoustic when you are done by balancing them throughout the room rather than putting them exclusively on one wall, but that’s all the help I can offer.
If you have questions that aren’t answered by this article, by all means, feel free to call or e-mail me. I will do whatever I can to help make your quest for acoustical panels easier. If this looks like a possibility and you want some samples of the cotton, the track and a few sample fabric lines, feel free to ask.