Posted in education on June 30, 2015 9:21 am EDT

A Sound Policy

Once you understand acoustics and noise control in the church setting, you can execute better sounding design.

Cornerstone Church, Caledonia, Mich. Image courtesy of Acoustics By Design.











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TAGS: acoustics, architecture, noise control, space design,


By Keith Loria

… acoustics is really the broad category of sound, usually “wanted” sound and its desired characteristics. Meanwhile, noise is unwanted sound, whether getting in or getting out.

Although some people think of acoustics and noise as having the same meaning, acoustic experts explain that acoustics is really the broad category of sound, usually “wanted” sound and its desired characteristics. Meanwhile, noise is unwanted sound, whether getting in or getting out.

“In the context of worship, I would define acoustics as the study of how natural and amplified sounds are generated and affected by the built environment to enhance or distract from the worship experience,” says Kenric Van Wyk, president of the Indianapolis-based National Council of Acoustical Consultants. “Generally, acoustics speaks to the size, shape, volume, and finish materials of the worship space. Noise control is the study of the separation of distracting or competing sounds with the music or speech occurring in the worship space. Noise control generally refers to the reduction or isolation of exterior sounds such as road, rail, or airport, or interior sounds such as mechanical noise.”

There’s a great deal that architects and engineers must consider acoustically when designing a space. For instance, once inside the building, noise from congregants waiting in the lobby for the second service to start can spill into the worship space if the doors are not sealed. Some churches have youth groups that meet at the same time as the “regular” worship service and they need to be properly separated so that one doesn’t cause a distraction for the other. Even nurseries or cry rooms that are adjacent to the worship space can cause sound bleed through walls or windows—and become a distraction.

The details of sound

Alec Biccum, application specialist
 for Auralex Acoustics Inc. of 
Indianapolis, says that when discussing room acoustics and noise control, one very important distinction needs to be made from the start: the difference between inner room acoustics and what he likes to call “room-to-room” acoustics.

“One of the most common misconceptions out there is that if a room is well treated with acoustic paneling, it simultaneously ‘sound-proofs’ the room. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth,” he says. “Sound isolation (room-to-room acoustics) is a completely different way of looking at room acoustics than making the room itself a pleasing listening environment.”

Western Theological Seminary Chapel, Holland, Mich. Image courtesy of Acoustics By Design.

Good sound isolation is something that is best integrated with the construction process, but it could be executed retroactively, as well. Treating inner room acoustics is far simpler since it is something that can be tailored to any existing space with the strategic use of the right products. In many instances, acoustic problems for a space can be easily predicted with enough information.

Making a plan

Nick Colleran, vice president of Acoustics First Corp.
Richmond, Va., says before undergoing any worship project, an architect and engineer must take into consideration the type of service plus average and peak attendance, or else noise can be a problem. “It will cost more later if they don’t consider acoustics first,” he says. “What is often seen in movies and on television is often not the source of what is being heard. It does not matter how good a facility looks if the congregation cannot understand the message or gets a headache from trying to separate it from the noise or echo. Often they do not know why it is that they don’t return every week.”  continued >>