The Stone Independent School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, serves students from seventh to 12th grade with interdisciplinary, hands-on, and project-based courses. As a result of expanding enrollment, the school moved to a larger space in a historic building that was originally a manufacturing facility built in 1865. The new space provides an open, collaborative environment that gives the students the freedom and flexibility to work together on projects. The school added a trio of ceiling treatments to improve the acoustic environment for students.
According to Mike Simpson, head of the school, one of the problems with moving into such a large, open building, especially one with high ceilings, was the acoustics.
“We endeavor to inspire students, and unfortunately, the architecture of inspiration is not always the architecture of sound management,” he said. “There were large amounts of windows and other reflective surfaces that would carry noise from one end of the school to the other. However, adding walls was not an answer because we wanted to keep the open plan so students could always collaborate. We did not want to change the space, only make it more functional by making it quieter.”
To remedy the noise problem, the school installed acoustical ceiling treatments in three of the facility’s principal spaces. The largest was the “Maker Space,” a hands-on area in which multiple student building projects may be in progress at any given time.
To reduce noise levels in the space, 139 m2 (1500 sf) of felt acoustical panels, especially well-suited for use in exposed structure spaces, were installed in the ceiling. The 1.2 x 2.4-m (4 x 8-ft) panels were installed directly to the deck between the beams. Black panels were chosen so that they virtually disappeared into the black deck.
Acoustically, the panels have a noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of 0.80, meaning they absorb 80 percent of the sound striking them. Initial onsite acoustical testing indicated reverberation time in the space was 1.6 seconds. Following installation of the panels, it fell to 1 second, an acoustically significant reduction of 38 percent. Simpson notes both students and staff were quick to notice the improvement.
In keeping with the school’s mission of hands-on projects, students were involved in the acoustical measurements. As part of the physics curriculum, the students performed acoustical measurements in the Maker Space, analyzed the data, and wrote the conclusions.
The “Art Space,” a 20-m (64-ft) long walkway where students congregate and that often features students’ artwork, also received acoustical treatment. Selected for use here was an acoustical solution for exposed structure spaces featuring an upscale soft, linear blade visual along with excellent sound absorption.
Since sound is absorbed on their front, back, and sides, blades can provide greater sound absorption efficiency than a continuous ceiling. In the configuration at Stone, they absorb 70 percent of the sound striking them, significantly reducing background noise and reverberation time. Acoustical tests showed a 27 percent reduction in reverberation time in the Art Space following the ceiling treatment.
A total of 192 rows of 8-ft wide felt blade panels, spaced 102 mm (4 in.) apart, were installed down the walkway. Instead of a traditional rectangular blade visual, a ‘Peaks and Valleys’ blade design was selected to impart more of an angular look reminiscent of a mountain range. The more dynamic visual was chosen to accentuate the fun, creative space.
Additionally, four different shades of gray ranging from light to dark were installed along the length of the ceiling. The gradient effect was implemented to bring more visual interest to the ceiling all the way down its length than a single color would have.
The third area to receive acoustical treatment was the “Coffee Space,” which features a student-run coffee shop. Three 8 x 8-ft open cell felt clouds were installed to reduce reverberation time and provide spot acoustics over the coffee bar. The clouds are installed in layers to obtain more acoustical performance.