Posted in education on March 27, 2017 6:10 pm EDT

Modern AVL Design for Ancient Spaces

In a true problem-solution scenario, New York-based Walters-Storyk Design Group is tasked with perfecting acoustic clarity and speech intelligibility in two Miami synagogues -- all the while maintaining ancient traditions.

The issue of overall quietness was equally important to that of achieving the highest quality speech intelligibility at Miami'a Lubavitch Aventura South Synagogue. Images courtesy of WSDG.











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TAGS: acoustics, audio, collaboration, historic renovation, reverberation, sound, worship space,


By Church Designer Staff

Contributed by Sergio Molho, partner and director of business development, WSDG/Excerpts edited by Church Designer staff

Modern technology offers a host of high-tech options for perfecting speech intelligibility and fine-tuning acoustic clarity. But, what can an architect/acoustician do when ancient religious dictums preclude the use of contemporary technology? WSDG faced that challenging situation recently when engaged to design the acoustics for two new Miami-area synagogues. In keeping with Orthodox Jewish tradition, congregations are not permitted to employ electronic sound reinforcement or amplification technology in their temples. So WSDG looked to traditional architectural acoustic options to serve the critical necessity of ensuring acceptable levels of speech intelligibility.

Critical collaboration

When the Lubavitch Aventura South Synagogue began planning a new Shul to accommodate its growing congregation, Rabbi Mendel Rosenfeld and an executive committee led by a successful relator, Morris J. Kaplan, reached out to local Miami architect Schapiro Associates for an appropriate design. Extensive knowledge of the technological restrictions for constructing modern temples in accordance with ancient traditions inspired Schapiro to engage WSDG to address the acoustical challenges.

To compensate for contemporary amplifiers, microphones, speakers, and other electro-acoustical technology that would be unacceptable in the space, WSDG developed a program based on time-proven, physical design and site-appropriate acoustic treatments to establish an environment that would clearly project prayers, hymns and announcements from the bema.

The issue of overall quietness was equally important to that of achieving the highest quality speech intelligibility. With the congregation separated into two sections, men on the ground floor, women in the balcony, and in the face of potential traffic noise intrusion from the busy street, effective sound isolation was a principal concern. And, as is befitting any house of worship, the interior design needed to reflect a warm, pious ambiance.

Sophisticated tools help maintain simplistic, reverent spaces

Fortunately, WSDG was engaged at the project’s pre-construction stage. This early involvement enabled the firm to address acoustic challenges at the design phase with the aid of advanced quasi-realistic 3D acoustic modeling and auralization programs.

These sophisticated tools produced a series of precisely detailed interior space simulations. Guided by these "auditory maps," WSDG's acousticians developed a comprehensive construction plan to eliminate potentially audible reflection issues and to enhance speech intelligibility by implementing effective technical interior design elements. WSDG representatives note that this process is a far more cost- and time-effective method than correcting errors discovered after construction has been completed.

Porous Jerusalem Stone has been used in temple construction for centuries, and it continues to serve as a beautiful and acoustically effective sound modulating resource to this day.

Precise geometrical calculations and ray tracing algorithms determined the optimal configuration of walls, ceiling height and related fixed construction components. Reflective acoustic issues were resolved with the aid of recently developed “invisible” construction elements such as aesthetically pleasing micro-perforated wooden wall diffusers and highly effective absorptive plaster. Yet, traditional and time-proven treatments were engaged, as well. Porous Jerusalem Stone used in the project, for example, has been used in temple construction for centuries, and it continues to serve as a beautiful and acoustically effective sound modulating resource to this day.

The rear walls of Young Israel of Greater Miami feature porous Jerusalem Stone, used in temple construction for centuries. The material serves as a beautiful and acoustically effective sound modulating resource.

The process

The acoustical simulations for the project were handled in a three-step process:

1- In step one, the space was translated from the architectural information (drawings and measured dimensions) to a so-called “model” -- a three-dimensional representation of architecture in the digital domain.

2- In step two, the model was outfitted with acoustical surfaces. Basically, every surface of the model (walls, floor, ceiling, and also furniture, curtains, installed acoustical materials, etc.) had to be assigned specific acoustical properties.

3- Step three is the fun part, according to WSDG reps. At this point, its team performed virtual acoustical measurements in the model and, guided by the results, reached decisions to modify some architectural parameters or acoustical surfaces determined in steps one and two to improve acoustical results.

A detailed description of the model from the words of WSDG designers follows:

Step 1 - The Modeling Process

As mentioned above, defining the model means the translation of three-dimensional architectural information to the virtual domain. On this base, the model was designed inside the simulation software in a wireframe or “skeleton” image – this was achieved by entering coordinates of all relevant corners and then relating every corner to every other corner it is aligned with, thereby defining wall planes, ceiling planes and so forth. Due to the complexity of the space, we had to detail every critical surface, which required more calculation time in the simulation process but gave us a good and reliable model.  continued >>