Worship spaces are amongst the most challenging projects an acoustician can undertake. They are challenging not only because they demand exceptional acoustics for speech, music and congregational response, but also because their design and construction represents more than just a practical building exercise for the congregants.
Heavenly Acoustics with Down-to-Earth Budgets? Making Miracles Happen.
In many cases the building of a house of worship comes to embody, in bricks and mortar, a tangible manifestation of faith, heritage, beliefs and community. This strong emotional and spiritual connection to the worship space creates heightened expectations, which the acoustician is expected to fulfill. And more often than not, it is a tall order on a limited budget.
HGC Engineering understands these realties and has partnered with architects and congregational representatives to complete (in good faith), the acoustical design of dozens of places of worship for a wide range of Christian denominations including Evangelical, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, United, Mennonite and Community Congregations, with music ministries ranging from Casavant Pipe Organs and choirs to praise music rock bands. We have also provided acoustical consulting services for Jewish Congregations in synagogue developments.
Mixed-Use Acoustical Engineering Know-how
Today many houses of worship feature large theatre-style seating arrangements with sophisticated sound systems and include administration offices, schools, multi-purpose banquet halls and gymnasiums. We have experience and know-how addressing the acoustical concerns associated with all manner of mixed-use ecclesiastical environments. Moreover, we have worked on both new and existing place of worship projects including expansions, renovations and restorations including sanctuaries with as many as 1200 seats.
HGC Engineering offers consultation services relating to acoustics, noise and vibration at all stages of a project
Environmental Noise and Vibration Studies
In some municipalities, you may be required to submit an environmental noise impact study, especially if the place of worship is in close proximity to a major traffic corridor. These feasibility studies examine the noise impact of nearby roads, highways, rail and subway traffic on the proposed site and its future congregants. 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 rooftop HVAC units, generators, etc, 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. These may include general recommendations relating to building facade and glazing components, mechanical ventilation or air conditioning.
During Site Visit and Preliminary Drawing Review
If the project is an expansion or renovation, we will visit the existing building, and conduct measurements of the levels of reverberation and background sound. In all cases, we will discuss expectations with the architect and congregational representatives in terms of the types of worship and other activities anticipated and the acoustical requirements. Based on our discussions, we will identify criteria in terms of reverberation time, level of acoustical privacy, background sound levels as appropriate for the various acoustically sensitive spaces which may be included as part of the project such as banquet halls, entrance lobbies, meeting or recreational rooms, members lounge, classrooms. We will also provide recommendations for obtaining acceptable levels of privacy between classrooms and meeting rooms for example. We will review the preliminary architectural drawings prepared with regard to the proposed room volumes, geometry and surface treatments to develop an opinion of the expected acoustical qualities. Particular attention will be given to the main sanctuary. Conceptual recommendations will be provided to give guidance during design/development with regard to the acoustics in these spaces to achieve the reverberation criteria and good sound system performance. These will include recommendations concerning the most appropriate type of sound reinforcement system and loudspeaker placement. We will also provide acoustical criteria for background sound levels from the HVAC systems. The amount of background noise is another very important part of the perceived and achieved “acoustics” of a space and is important for privacy and freedom from distraction. These criteria could be used as targets by the mechanical consultant and designer.
During Design Development
Before the design drawings are complete, we will develop an analytical computer model of the interior acoustics. The model will be used to predict, through calculation, the expected levels of reverberation.The predicted acoustic characteristics will be evaluated with respect to the reverberation criteria to address speech intelligibility and musical quality. We then provide recommendations to optimize the interior acoustics and sound system performance with regard to the location and specification of interior surface treatments. A concise report will be prepared summarizing the results of the analysis and recommendations. Sketches, material specifications and the names of suppliers will be provided as necessary.