Outside of cities themselves, you would be hard pressed to find any other location that can match the diversity of institutions and architectural styles and structures that are found concentrated on many Academic campuses today.

From Learning Centers, Administration Buildings, Research and Healthcare Institutes, Libraries, Lecture and Performance Halls, Theatres and Art Galleries to Residences, Cafeterias/Food Courts, Book Stores, Museums, Houses of Worship, Gymnasiums and Aquatic Centers, these dynamic centers of learning feature a wide range of academic, professional and recreational activities.

University, College and School Acoustical Engineering Know-how

HGC Engineering understands the unique set of acoustical engineering challenges that each of these areas creates due to the specific nature of the activities and operations being undertaken within them. We have spent nearly two decades building our expertise while providing noise, vibration and acoustics solutions for Institutions of Higher Learning across Canada and the United States.

Public-Private Partnership (P3) Project Experience

We are also an active contributor to both Planning, Design, Compliance (PDC) and Design-Build (DB) teams on P3 projects. We work with leading developers, school planners, builders, architects, and engineers, providing comprehensive assessment and design services for all acoustical-related aspects of these large, complex and often mixed-use developments.

Our experience includes private and public universities and colleges, as well as primary and secondary schools large and small. We have also collaborated on new construction projects, expansions, restorations and renovations.

Furthermore, one of the principals of HGC Engineering is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture and lectures frequently at Dalhousie University’s School of Architecture.

Acoustical Standards for Classrooms

Today, exceptional acoustics is recognized as a key component of successful learning environments. In fact, The Acoustical Society of America has recently published acoustical performance standards for teaching facilitieswith the aim of setting guidelines and expectations that school planners are expected to incorporate into project design specifications.

In the introduction to the standards the Society notes: “excessive noise and reverberation interfere with speech intelligibility, resulting in reduced understanding and therefore reduced learning. In many classrooms in the United States, the speech intelligibility rating is 75 percent or less. That means that, in speech intelligibility tests, listeners with normal hearing can understand only 75 percent of the words read from a list.” We are strong advocates of these high standards and have applied them in the acoustical design of projects where they are warranted by the project team and where budgets allow.

Large Seated Spaces

We are also well versed in the acoustical requirements of large seated spaces that are typical fixtures of academic institutions. We have been involved in the acoustical design of over 100 school auditoriums, lecture and performance theatres, sports arenas and worship spaces, including a 2000 seat indoor sports stadium and a 1200 seat theatre-style worship sanctuary.

Vibration Isolation of Sensitive Equipment

MRI and CT Scanners, DNA sequencing microarrays, Electron Microscopes, are just some of the advanced equipment often associated with research institutes and medical or engineering departments on College and University Campuses.

These advanced systems are often so sensitive that their performance and reliability are affected by vibration dynamics. that would be virtually imperceptible to building occupants. HGC Engineering has developed an international reputation and expertise in assessing and mitigating the impacts of vibration on these valued high technologies.

We also have the resources and capabilities to conduct vibration monitoring during construction.

LEED and WELL Certified buildings

We have also performed acoustical consulting for a variety of Green Building projects, which have become more prevalent in recent years. There are special challenges to developing good practices in acoustics for LEED and WELL Certified buildings, and we are familiar with the acoustical implications associated with their associated systems, standards and certification processes.

HGC Engineering offers consultation services relating to acoustics, noise and vibration at all stages of a project

During Planning

Environmental Noise and Vibration Studies

These feasibility studies examine the noise impact of nearby roads, highways, rail and subway traffic on the proposed site and its future occupants. As well, the study assesses the potential effects of vibration from adjacent subway or railway lines on a building’s foundation and structure. A study will also look at surrounding industries, buildings or activities nearby for potential stationary sources of noise or vibration that might impact the planned site. Additionally, we will review any early details the project team can provide on the site plans, looking for new noise and vibration sources associated with the design such as such as cooling towers, heating plants, loading bays, generators, helipads, that may in turn impact surrounding buildings and environments. These aspects are considered in a preliminary fashion in the context of a study and only general recommendations for mitigation of environmental noise and vibration are offered at this juncture.

At this Planning Stage we also offer:

  • Expert Testimony for municipal hearings
  • Peer Review
  • Acoustic Design Spec and Brief for Design/Build RFP

During Building Design

We review the internal design of the building and its systems in order to provide acoustical guidance and recommendations to the architectural, mechanical, and electrical members of the team, with appropriate follow-up through construction.

  1. Preliminary Acoustical Design Review
    Usually, it is beneficial to perform a preliminary review early in the design stage (at about 25% ready for construction), to ensure that provisions for unusual aspects are considered while there is still an opportunity to address them or to flag the issues for further analysis, ie stacking concerns, building orientation etc. As a result, alternative layouts or systems may be proposed for consideration. This will involve a review of the early architectural, mechanical, electrical drawings, as available. Many of our customers have come to recognize and value the benefits of our preliminary reviews and have now made them a standard part of their process in order to avoid costly changes and project delays that would otherwise have occurred later if not for our early input.
    Establishing Acoustical Criteria: Based on our discussions with project team members, we will identify acoustical criteria (Noise Criteria (NC) or Room Criteria (NC) Levels, Reverberation Time, Noise Isolation, Speech Intelligibility, Masking Sound Levels etc.), for the various noise sensitive spaces such as classrooms, auditoria, library spaces, meeting spaces, private offices, etc. We will consider the spatial separations and acoustic privacy expectations, space stacking and general building services or general occupancy concerns. The criteria targeted will be based on meetings with team members, any information or measurement gathered and will address spaces within the building as well as suggested limits for impact on adjacent uses. A criteria report will be prepared and circulated outlining the recommended criteria and comments on the schematic design, for discussion purposes.
    Façade and Glazing Specification: Once the drawings are sufficiently advanced, we provide refined glazing assembly requirements based on our previous environmental review and the latest floor layouts. This involves comparing the revised exposed glazing areas and associated room floor areas with those used in the environmental review and revising the glazing STC requirements, if appropriate, to meet indoor sound level criteria.
  2. Detailed Acoustical Design Review
    Once the working drawings are approximately 60% to 75% ready for construction, a full building design review can be provided. Our scope of work for such a review includes a thorough review of architectural, mechanical, and electrical drawings and specifications to identify areas where better details or modified assemblies may be warranted. Structural dynamics, for example, are sometimes identified as a potential source of vibration problem for sensitive equipment. (An Engineering department’s Scanning Electron Microscope can be adversely affected by the vibration caused by equipment in a adjacent mechanical room or the activities of a nearby Gymnasium or Basketball Court.) We will conduct acoustical analysis and treatment of sensitive spaces such as lecture halls, gymnasiums, atria etc. Where necessary, we will present mitigation recommendations on preferred noise and vibration control measures. This may include providing silencer recommendations for fan systems, cooling towers, generator sets, etc., vibration isolation recommendations of major or sensitive equipment to limit structure-borne noise, etc.
    Mechanical and Electrical Systems: We will review the M&E drawings and the mechanical specifications to identify potential noise issues. Where improved details or upgraded noise control systems consistent with the goal for this building are warranted, comments or recommendations will be provided. Where a potential problem exists but more specific information about a particular mechanical or electrical system is required to perform a full assessment or to design mitigation, we will outline general requirements that can be added to the tender documents, placing onus for design on the supplier or installer.
    Retail and Commercial spaces: Note that any planned retail and commercial spaces are reviewed as shell spaces, as the specific uses of such tenant spaces can change with a change in tenancy. The onus is usually placed on tenants to ensure that their activities are compatible with the building’s permanent space usages and provisions or precautions are incorporated in their fit-outs. However, in instances where specific tenant usage is indicated in the base-building design, our experience allow us to make sufficient assumptions on the nature of the types of equipment and activity which could be expected and offer mitigation suggestions accordingly (e.g., Coffee Shop, Healthcare suite, Fitness Club, Spa, etc.).
  3. Follow-up Review
    Once the design team has indicted that they have integrated our recommendations into the construction documents (95-100% CD), a follow-up review can be conducted to confirm that our recommendations have been incorporated. Additional follow-up reviews required to address specific omissions or design changes may be required

During Construction

There are several aspects of the project during construction where we are also able to offer additional assistance for the design/build team.

Construction Vibration Assessment: Toronto is one of the few cities in North America with a City By-Law, 514-2008, that requires that a Construction Vibration Assessment be conducted in support of an application for a building or foundation permit. It mandates that a Professional Engineer assess the potential for impact on off-site structures in a “zone of influence” by the vibration effects of shoring, excavation and demolition activities. HGC Engineering is fully versed in all aspects of Construction Vibration Monitoring and Assessment. We offer the in-house know-how and monitoring technology your require to efficiently and cost-effectively meet your assessment and timeline requirements. Visit our Construction Vibration Monitoring and Assessment page for more details. 

Shop Drawing Reviews: Shop drawings can be reviewed once the project enters the construction phase. We will review typical base-building equipment drawings for consistency with the specifications and recommendations contained in our initial review.

Site Inspections and Testing: Site inspections or field testing is often driven by the sensitivity of a specific issue or the complexity of its implementation.

Post Construction

Commissioning: During commissioning we will conduct measurements of reverberation and background sound to confirm compliance with the criteria.

Noise and Vibration Complaints: We offer on-going noise and vibration complaint forensics and troubleshooting to building managers of both new and mature buildings.

Case Studies

L.R. Wilson Hall for Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, McMaster University

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Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence, York University

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HGC has contributed knowledge, skills and experience to the education of young architects at Waterloo for two decades and made repeated contributions of technical expertise to institutions in the local area. Both the generosity and ability as teachers are extraordinary.”

Rick Haldenby, O'Donovan Director

University of Waterloo, School of Architecture

Over the years we have worked HGC on numerous projects ranging from 1300 seat performance auditoriums to 300 seat churches and in all cases we have been impressed with the high level of service and the excellent results. Our clients have all been very complimentary on the excellent acoustic results in their buildings.”

David Parker, President

Parker Architects

I first used HGC expertise some 17 years ago to solve a very tricky problem with commercial exhaust fan noise on a hotel project. HGC’s solution was so effective in reducing the fan noise level that it quelled all complaints from neighbors. Since that time I have used HGC expertise on a variety of Independent School projects with the primary emphasis on sound attenuation within the buildings and help with theatre acoustics. They are consummate professionals.”

Les Andrew, Principal

Andrew Incorporated Architect

We have worked with HGC Engineering on multiple projects in which the acoustics of a space has been critical.  This includes two performance theatres, university teaching environments, and multiple churches.  In all instances, we have been very pleased with the results.”

Lawrie Carter, Principal

Architecture Incorporated

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