Acoustic Ceilings: Classroom Acoustics Webinar and Panel Discussion

ASSAABLOYWhat impact can you as the designer bring to a classroom setting given that you are not going to be teaching? One of the things you potentially bring is the ability to impact the environmental acoustical value of the space.

The 21st C classroom is a more diverse place than ever before. With the mainstreaming of children with learning disabilities, physical challenges and language barrier issues, it is more important than ever to have an acoustically efficient environment. To create a design which does not addresses the lowest common denominator just seems wrong.

On Wednesday, November 12 from 12:00 – 1:30 pm ET CertainTeed will conduct a Classroom Acoustics Webinar followed by a panel discussion that will explore, in depth, the challenges of educational space design. Attendees will learn:

  • Why Acoustics Matter
  • Fundamentals of Sound and Acoustics
  • Understanding the Primary Acoustic Problems in Schools
  • Background Noise
  • Reverberation
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio
  • Classroom Acoustics and LEED
  • Challengers and Solutions through Academic Research

Robert Marshall, Manager for Marketing Technical Services for CertainTeed Ceilings, has spent a career working with acoustical ceilings as a private contractor and now in the manufacturing sector. He will share his vast knowledge on this subject and will also participate in a panel discussion lead by Mark Fowler, Editorial Director, Walls & Ceilings. Also on the panel will be:

  • Christopher Pollock, PE, CTS, LEED AL BD+C – Partner, DC Regional Director, Cerami & Associates
  • Edward Dugger, AIA, ASA, NCAS, INCE – Senior Acoustical Consultant, Edward Dugger & Associates
  • Alana F. Dunoff – Associate Adjunct Professor of Facilities, Tyler School of Architecture\Temple University
  • Dawn R. Schuette, FAIA, LEED AP – Partner, Threshold Acoustics

 You can sign-up for this webinar/panel discussion right here. We look forward to having you join in this great discussion.

 

 

Shedding Light on Fair, Affordable Housing

HFH 806 houseDay in and day out we’re consumed with the products aspect of building and remodeling homes at CertainTeed. As a building materials manufacturer, we are committed to helping create high-performing, energy-efficient comfortable homes for families.

 We take pride in the fact that we contribute to healthy, thriving communities — especially through our partnerships with YouthBuild, Habitat for Humanity and Homes for Our Troops.

 However, despite the number of available homes in our communities, the stark reality is that not everyone has access to quality, affordable housing. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there are more than four million violations of fair housing laws each year. This means that discrimination based on race, disability, familial status, national origin or religion is a reality for many individuals that are attempting to rent an apartment or buy a home as well as securing a mortgage and home insurance.

 In terms of affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity reports that in the United States 48.5 million people are living in poverty, without stable, decent housing.

 There are only 30 affordable and available housing units available for every 100 low-income households. This is a very complex issue that organizations such as Make It Right — which is rethinking the design and construction of affordable housing — are tackling.

 There are dozens of organizations dedicated to fair, affordable housing issues and we encourage you to get involved. To learn more, check out this list of 101 resources that are helping to build better communities.

 

 

Ready for Action: AIA 2014

aia_chicagoOn the eve of the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) annual conference, we’re rearing to go and carefully compiling our “must see” list for day one of the show. We have a full schedule of activities at the CertainTeed booth, so be sure to stop by and say hello. If you aren’t in the Windy City for the big event, we’ll do our best to share interesting insights from the exhibit hall. Drop us a line and we’ll report back to you. In the mean time, here’s what’s on our radar.

  1. Architect magazine is hosting Chicago Tribune architectural critic, Blair Kamin for a live interview session on Thursday at 11 a.m. A Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Kamin offers a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities of urban development, public spaces and historic preservation.
  1. Bust a move at the YKK booth. The company will debut its “Do the Architect” video, offering a much-needed respite from a long day of strenuous, CEU courses.
  1. Sign the “Down with Decibels” petition to tackle unwanted noise in interior spaces. The petition was designed to rally attendees around the idea that acoustics profoundly impact the way people work, learn and heal in the built environment.
  1. Experience a whole new dimension of upcycling with Rail Yard Studios. The company transforms old railroad ties into coffee tables, bed frames and bookshelves that are design savvy and sustainable.
  1. Get schooled on classroom acoustics. ASSA ABLOY and CertainTeed will host a panel discussion at Learning Lounge #4067 at 1:20 p.m. From concept to installation to real-world testing, this team of experts has a compelling story to share about their work at a Pennsylvania elementary school.
  1. Ready to put your pedometer to the test? Take a walk to one of the many Chicago-area buildings designed by Perkins + Will. Check out their online map to get the scoop on all of the sites to see.

Looking ahead, there’s still two more days of exploration at AIA. What should we see and do next?

 

 

 

Acoustics – Designing Classrooms for Optimal Learning

Santa Monica Public LibraryWhat impact can you as the designer bring to a classroom setting given that you are not going to be teaching?  One of the things you potentially bring is the ability to impact the environmental acoustical value of the space.

The 21st Century classroom is a more diverse place than ever before. With the mainstreaming of children with learning disabilities, physical challenges and language barrier issues, it is more important than ever to have an acoustically efficient environment. To create a design which does not addresses the lowest common denominator just seems wrong.

This gives students a better chance of staying engaged. It is especially critical where younger students are concerned (K-5). They do not yet have the skills to fill in the words that are lost when listening to the teacher in a less-than-adequate acoustic environment.

I worked in ceiling construction earlier in my career and built hundreds of school classrooms knowing all the while that they were poorly designed spaces accountable only to the installed cost per square foot. I then moved into working with the architectural community in an effort to bring a better focus on the power of and necessity for efficient acoustic design. I have observed through numerous academic studies that the attention to acoustic design in classrooms has a significant impact on learning for all students; but especially early learners. I was also afforded the opportunity to observe this need for acoustic design close-up as the parent of an autistic child attending a public school.

Thanks to LEED taking an active part in acoustics and environmental design, this topic is now required for certification in a LEED for Schools project. It is our responsibility as designers, specifiers and advocates to put a human face on the critical importance of this topic.

I will be teaching a webinar on Classroom Acoustics on Tuesday, March 11, from 12:00 – 1:00 pm. I will cover issues such as: Signal to noise ratio – reverberation time – speech intelligibility testing – how all these metrics and academic testing have shown that a quieter environment is a better learning environment – and more. 

If this is a topic of interest to you, take advantage of this free webinar by registering here: Ceilings: Classroom Acoustics (GBCI Approved)

 

Building Knowledge Experts at AIA2013 – Expertise that Inspires

AIA2013CertainTeed Technical Marketing Manager for Ceilings Bob Marshall conducted a session at AIA2013 on Ceilings in the Health Care Segment.  During the presentation while Bob was discussing the noise levels in hospitals and how it impacts healing, the question was raised:

“Why do we accept higher noise levels in hospitals if we know that it impacts the patients’ ability to heal?”

Two things work in our favor. Acoustical standards and guidelines are well documented and hospital administrators are getting validation regarding just how much acoustics matter and they are starting to make better choices when upgrading their facilities. We have to keep in mind that hospitals are very competitive but we are starting to see changes that have positive effects on patients and recovery. Rooms are painted in pastels now with artwork on the wall so administrators are starting to make the environment more pleasant for the patients.  At some point, they will have to address the noise levels as they relate to healing to continue to remain competitive. There is research that will speak to just about every architectural decision from an interior perspective. We are just validating and giving them the tools to go ahead and sell the acoustical benefits for making these changes.

If you have a question or comment, we would love to hear from you. Although AIA 2013 is over, we know these questions will continue to be raised.

The Razor’s Edge – Casual Greening versus Authentic Sustainability

It’s remarkable when you think about it: there are literally hundreds of courses, webinars, certifications, and trainings all geared towards the re-education of built environment professionals for the purposes of moving towards a sustainable future.

But the colleges who teach future designers, architects, engineers and construction managers continue to lag behind the curve when it comes to the development and promotion of sustainable curricula. Sure, you’ll find a plethora of courses that feature “green” additions to an otherwise traditional course or new “Sustainability” programs that are cobbled together from existing courses under the mantle of collaboration and interdisciplinary work. Part of the disconnect lies in the fine line that can be drawn between “casual greening” and “authentic sustainability.”

The Razor’s edge, shown below, demarcates a chasm between “Greening”, which can be categorized as the mitigation of damage that results from the construction habitation and demolition of built structures; and “regenerative”, which seeks to reverse the long centuries of damage caused by the design and construction industries. In this model, “greening” is an important step towards more ambitious and more effective sustainable design. 

 

Razor's Edge

As we move further into the 21st century, the signals of pronounced climate change become more apparent; rising temperatures, wild weather, finite fossil fuels, and catastrophic oil spills form the context of a new era in the history of humanity. The question then remains, can the universities ramp up their offerings to authentically address the challenges that lie ahead? The answer is yes, but. Yes, educators are generally open to new ideas and are interested in change, albeit at a slow pace. But university structures as they are currently configured do not encourage teaching and learning pedagogies that are increasingly inclusive, collaborative, and interdisciplinary.

Collaboration is inhibited by antiquated credit structures. More ambitious holistic sustainability courses are blocked by outdated divisions between disciplines and the connection between what is taught in school and what happens in the real world continues to remain as wide as ever. So, what to do?

A major change can come from industry itself by building deeper and more meaningful relationships with university programs. By offering expertise, small amounts of funding, and some face time, industries can entice collaboration across disciplines at levels not seen before, engage with students and faculty in thoughtful discussions on the future of sustainability and ultimately help to build the kind of work-force that will play a pivotal role in leading companies to increased profit while building a more resilient and sustainable future.

This is a guest blog post and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of CertainTeed Corporation

If it’s Not Beautiful, it’s Not Sustainable?

Lucas Hamilton

Let’s face it – we don’t take care of things that are ugly. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, correct? Then why is it some things are universally agreed upon to be beautiful?

When we consider the buildings of the world which we all look to as a part of our shared heritage, I struggle to think of any that are not beautiful. Sometimes we get lucky and points germane are captured in a first draft. When talking about buildings in general we need to look to the Romans who were the definers of architecture.  For them three rules applied:

  • A building must be durable.
  • Serve the purposes of the people inside.
  • It must be aesthetically pleasing.

Today we may add a fourth requirement which is sustainability but as the title of this blog suggests, you won’t get sustainability without beauty. To understand beauty we must have a working knowledge of aesthetics. One of the things we know to be true is that aesthetics remain consistent. It is style that changes. Style is an expression of aesthetic principles based on a current philosophy, trend or societal influence.

A great example of this can be found in Chicago on the river with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe‘s IBM Tower.  Directly behind it is the Marina City complex which was designed by his protégé Bertrand Goldberg. Having a teacher and student design side-by-side doesn’t happen often so it is a fascinating place to observe the style change that took place from one generation to the next. It’s like we need to show our teachers and our parents that “we’ve heard, we’ve learned, and we’ve grown.”

As a society, we are seeing a shift in style once again.  Prior to the great recession, many people where building McMansion style homes which were the expression of more, more, more – look at what I have accomplished or gained. 

Now, we are seeing a maturity to the thinking – wouldn’t my life be easier if it were simpler? This is manifesting itself in a smaller footprint of our homes. We’re choosing darker colors to make our homes appear smaller and using coordinated palettes to bring the sense of harmony we seek.

I believe as a result we will create a generation of homes which will hold their aesthetic appeal much better than the recent phase.

Do you think that in 50 years anyone is going to be chaining themselves to a bulldozer to prevent a McMansion from being torn down?

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

Can We Design Buildings for Heat and Cooling that Mimic the Human Body

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

I spend lots of time thinking about buildings. Sad; I know. Lately I have been wondering how we wound up in such a confusing state. It’s like looking under your car hood. Have you looked under your hood lately? It looks like a building design. Who in their right mind would have started out to design such a complicated mess? No wonder we need so many building scientists and we pay a hundred bucks an hour to get our cars fixed. Can we step back for a minute?

Thermal comfort in the built environment needn’t be so complicated. If we could start from scratch and try to make buildings comfortable based upon our own organic experience, what would we do? I live in Philadelphia.  If I go outside in the winter and try to passively stay comfortable – passively meaning to not use any outside energy sources – I would use lots of layers of clothing, would zip up tight and cover my skin.

Coincidentally that is what we require in our cold climate building codes.  Lots of layers of clothing means R-value. When you wear lots of layers of clothing you are trapping gas inside layers.  The gas is the insulation – gas gives you resistance to conductive energy heat flow – that’s R-value.  So when you are wearing lots of layers you are wearing R-value. When we say zip up – that’s getting air tight. We finally woke up and added that one to the cold and mixed climate codes as well.

The problem comes in the summertime. To stay cool, you would take off those layers, wear light colors and try to get air flow around you.  You would wear airy fabrics to release as much heat from your body as possible and light colors which don’t get hot in the sun. If you were stuck wearing lots of layers and were zipped up tight, you would have to blow cold fresh air into that outfit to stay comfortable. Our goal should be not to do that. Remember, passive technologies rule and active technologies cost $$$.

We need to find ways to help a building be warm in the winter and stay cool to begin with in the summer. I am looking for changes to our practices that will enable us to do to buildings what we do to ourselves. How would you build your building differently?

If you can’t strip off all the layers of clothing the very least you will do is unzip so can we figure out a way to unzip our buildings? I know we want to be air tight in the winter but can we figure out a way to use air to remove surface heat in the summer? I think ventilated claddings may be one answer.

Can you think of some others? To go back to the car analogy, let’s stop bolting more stuff onto the internal combustion engine to make it more efficient and drop in an electric motor. It needn’t be so complicated.

Off-Site Manufacturing Could Play a Larger Part in the Building Renaissance

Danny Small

Danny Small

Danny Small is Manager, Building Science Development for CertainTeed Corporation

Lately I’ve been revisiting the benefits of modular or prefabricated home construction, otherwise known as off-site manufacturing (“OSM”). There are several advantages to this method of construction that could be attractive to consumers looking to build a custom home.

This isn’t your daddy’s mobile home we’re talking about here.  The traditional manufactured (“mobile “) home is built to special Housing and Urban Development (HUD) building codes.  These homes are extremely simple, lower-end homes constructed in one or two pieces on a steel frame.

Today’s modular home can be beautiful, complex, exquisitely detailed and of the highest quality.  It’s built in modules or panels, in a clean, climate-controlled facility to meet (and often exceed) standard building codes for the area where the home will be finished.   The modules or panels are then shipped to the construction site, where they are permanently assembled on a full foundation, and the final details are finished.  Once completed, these homes are indistinguishable from site-built homes.  For some examples, check out Haven Custom Homes’ gallery.

While off-site construction has been around for decades, most of the earlier homes fell into that category of mobile (HUD-code) homes.  However, the move toward more sustainable, energy-efficient, healthy homes creates compelling reasons to look at modular as a truly viable method for all construction.

Some of the advantages of offsite construction are:

  • Construction can begin while foundation work is done, reducing the overall build time by several weeks.
  • Because building is done indoors in a climate-controlled facility, there are no weather delays.  Crews can work year round with no problem.
  • The home is built dry and clean because the wood is not subjected to dampness or dirt.  This could make for a healthier house.
  • Greater accuracy in cutting is possible because precision equipment can be utilized.
  • Lower costs because of consistency with crews and minimal lost time.  An off-site built home can cost up to 15-20 percent less than the same home built on-site. (Source: NAHB)  Savings for commercial construction can be much higher.
  • Very low waste.  Just about all remnants can be re-used for other projects.  This enables contractors to purchase more wisely.
  • Off-site manufacturers can ship up to 500 miles from their factory.
  • The building envelope is fully customizable, enabling increased energy efficiency in the wall and ceiling systems, as well as design features that meet the needs of the occupants.
  • Modular building, especially in commercial, enables easy expansion to buildings when needed.

Although off-site construction currently accounts for only two percent of construction in the U.S., the industry is gaining popularity.  In Europe, especially countries like Sweden, this type of construction is on the rise and accounts for up to 40 percent of new construction. 

If you are considering building a new home, a vacation home or a small office, do a cost comparison for on-site versus off-site construction.  You may be surprised by what you find.

The 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention and Design Expo Takes on the Nation’s Capital

 
 

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton is Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation

The 2012 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention and Design Exposition was held in Washington, D.C this year.  The show was jam packed with exhibitors and educational programs for architects and design professionals and, according to early estimates, attracted 30 percent more attendees than last year’s event which was held in New Orleans.  Could it be the location?  Could it be an improved building environment?  It is hard to say but the show appeared to be busy.

The Saint-Gobain booth this year had a listening room component and we had experts from several of our businesses CertainTeed, ADFORS, Grenite, Norton, SAGE, Saint-Gobain Glass, Saint-Gobain Solar, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and SolarGard who stood ready to help architects solve their unsolvable problems.  This was a new concept which created some interesting conversations in our ‘listening rooms’ – pod-like areas to sit and hold private conversations.

I was speaking with an architect in our booth about a variety of products and systems when he spied my name tag and exclaimed, “you’re the guy who does the webinars. It’s great to actually meet you.”  Since our webinars only provide a photo of me on the title page and frankly I’ve got a face made for radio, I was surprised that he would recognize me. He provided some valuable feedback about why he thought our CertainTeed webinar series, which is part of our Continuing Education program, provided him not only with valuable credits for his continuing education credentialing, but also information that he can put into practice as an architect.  I really appreciated the feedback and it’s rewarding to know that what we are sharing with people is helping them every day.

I would say that we are beginning to see an improvement in the design community especially from markets such as education, healthcare and multi-family housing.  At least Washington, D.C looked like building projects were in abundance.

If you have thoughts about the industry or comments about our CertainTeed webinar series, I would love to hear from you.