Tone It Down, I’m Trying to Eat Over Here!

restaurant2As someone who has spent 30 years preaching to the architectural community about the negative effects of poor acoustic design, I was pleased to see a recent feature article in a major U.S. newspaper take up the issue of how restaurant owners and designers are/are not addressing noise in their establishments. After all, noisy restaurants are a prime way to illustrate to the general public the importance of well-crafted acoustic design. I am a long-time believer that restaurant noise is a huge reason why many one-time patrons never return—even if the food is sublime.

For years, Craig Laban, a local restaurant critic here in Philly, has included decibel readings in his reviews. I often reference these evaluations in conversations with architects and designers as evidence that “noise matters” and that I use Mr. Laban’s acoustic evaluations as a deciding factor for where I will spend my hard-earned restaurant dollars.

I don’t think I’m alone in having had otherwise wonderful meals compromised by overly loud dining rooms. As detailed in a new white paper from the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), a 2011 Zagat survey revealed that noise was second only to poor service as diners’ most common complaint. Furthermore, in a Consumer Reports survey of 47,565 readers, reflecting 110,517 experiences at 102 different table-service chain restaurants, one out of four complained about the noise level at least once.

Yet some restaurateurs maintain that a lively space (what some might call noise) is a desirable ambiance that will attract diners. So you’re seeing a trend toward live music, densely packed dining rooms, and spartan designs that are open to the structure or to the kitchen with many hard, reflective surfaces. Curtains, tablecloths and sound absorbing ceilings—all of which traditionally helped control the decibel level in restaurants—are no longer as desirable as they once were. This is bad news for those of us who want to be able to carry on a conversation while we eat.

The good news is that there are options for restaurant owners and designers who want to control noise without compromising the modern design aesthetic. Though a traditional ceiling is usually the best way to add sound absorption, materials like fiberglass wall panels, acoustical trim and softer flooring options can help lower decibel levels where an acoustical ceiling isn’t possible or desirable. And in some cases, owners have found success painting or printing ceiling panels to combine style with superior acoustics.

At CertainTeed Ceilings, we’ve started a movement—Down With Decibels—to drive home the message that the sounds around us play a significant role in our wellbeing. Check out www.nonoisenow.com for real stories from architects, designers and building occupants detailing how acoustical design has impacted their lives. And while you’re there, we’d love to hear whether noise has ever negatively affected your dining experience.

Tips for Architects from the 2015 AIA Convention

Lucas Hamilton

Lucas Hamilton

I asked Lucas Hamilton, Manager, Building Science Applications for CertainTeed Corporation:

What is the most critical design element that Architects need to be aware of going forward in the built environment?

There are challenges in the new environment due to changes in the building codes but the most critical is indoor air quality – both with regard to building air tightness requirements and materials development.

This could be offset or decreased in importance if product transparency actually drives clear and better materials over time.

All that product transparency is showing us right now is just how bad the things we are using really are.  But that’s a starting point.  When we start looking at the transparency documents that are available in the market today, we realize that the things we are using are emitting a lot of materials and are not what we would start with in an ideal world.

One thing that transparency does drive is organic improvement in our building materials to be healthier for us.  But until that occurs, we have to take the information available to us which is so much more than we’ve ever had before and begin to address the issues.

The challenge has clearly been put before us.  Until materials improve, we have to pay very close attention to the materials we are currently using and how they work into our indoor air quality goals because the benefit of haphazard or uncontrolled natural ventilation has been removed from our future.

CertainTeed Set To Inspire at the 2015 AIA National Convention

CertainTeed is in Atlanta for the 2015 AIA National Convention with a team of experts guaranteed to provide insights and inspiration. From May 14 – 16 at the Georgia World Congress Center, our experts will be on hand to provide building knowledge expertise.

This year is a bit different for CertainTeed.  In our booth (#4037), attendees will be able to earn valuable learning units by chatting up our experts.  Expo Chat enables architects to qualify for 0.25 LUs following brief, 15-minute conversations with designated subject matter experts on key topics including indoor air quality and acoustics.

Learning Lounge AIAThis complements our robust CEU courses in our Building Knowledge Learning Lounge (#4027LL) where attendees will earn credits for our subject areas:

Net Zero Energy Home – Design Strategies and System Optimization;

Integrated Window & Lighting Systems Help Meet Challenging Building Codes;

Transparency Docs: How LCAs, EPDs & HPDs support product selection;

Balancing Act: Sustainable office design from multiple viewpoints;

Sustainable Landscape and Residential Fence Systems;

Optimizing Classroom Acoustics to Overcome HVAC Noise;

Electrochromic Glazing – Dynamic Control of Solar Energy

We are continuing our Down with Decibels campaign and will have a “Roving Report” talking to architects and distributors and asking for their perspectives on acoustics in the office environment.

But our booth itself is a reason to stop by if you are at the show to take a sneak peak at the making of a sustainable headquarters. In conjunction with our parent company Saint-Gobain’s 350th Anniversary, we are transforming more than 320,000 square feet of office space in Malvern, Pa., into a new LEED-Gold certified headquarters that will also serve as a learning lab utilizing CertainTeed and Saint-Gobain products. Lucas Hamilton, manager of building science applications for CertainTeed, will be on hand to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the dramatic transformation underway.

So join us in our booth (4037) or, if you are not attending AIA, follow @CertainTeed on Twitter for real-time updates from the show.

 

CISCA Honors Inspired Acoustic Design at Construction Excellence Awards

This week the Ceilings and Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA) recognized construction projects from around the world at its prestigious 2014 Construction Excellence Awards gala in Long Beach, California. I’m proud to say that installations involving our custom ceilings products were among those honored. In fact, this year we won silver and bronze in the acoustical solutions category and silver and bronze in the international category.

Our award-winning projects feature ceiling and wall materials crafted by Decoustics, CertainTeed Ceilings’ custom acoustic product division. These projects brilliantly bridge form with function to create inspired acoustic design. Don’t just take my word for it though, see for yourself. I’m posting a few shots of these award-winning projects because, after all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

 

Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus

Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus

The dynamic design of the Fordham University Lincoln Center Campus, Law School and Residence Hall in New York City includes unique curved and shaped Nuvola fiberglass ceiling panels, Quadrillo wood veneered acoustic ceiling and wall panels, and Claro fiberglass panels installed into a Ceilencio suspension system.

 

 

Statoil

Statoil headquarters

 

The spectacular dome ceiling created for Statoil’s headquarters in Stavenger, Norway, features custom curved two-inch fabric wrapped panels and a custom curved aluminum suspension system that masterfully mimic the contour of the vast dome and greatly improve the acoustics within the space.

 

 

 

Bridgepoint

Bridgepoint Health Care

The renovation of Bridgepoint Health Care in Toronto, Ontario, includes customized mini-perforated acoustical natural wood veneer ceiling panels installed in a Ceilencio suspension grid with custom butterfly clips. The wood ceiling panels span the interior and exterior of the building to create the illusion of open spaces while maintaining the heritage of the iconic 150 year-old building, which was originally built as a jail.

 

 

MinnesotaOrchestra

Minnesota Orchestra Hall

 

The beautiful and expansive renovation of the event space within the Minnesota Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, Minnesota, features custom Solo acoustical wood ceilings and walls that span over 10,500 square feet. The redesign is just spectacular.

 

 

 

We are thrilled to have these CertainTeed Ceilings installations recognized by CISCA this year. Congratulations to all my colleagues and peers who worked so hard on these and other award-winning projects!

Range Hoods with Fire Suppression Systems vs Residential Sprinklers

mElFRFhKH0pOoTU8RZfawHgThe 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) recommended the inclusion of residential sprinklers in all new home construction as added protection from fires.

However, according to a recent FEMA report, about 50 percent of the American home fires between 2002 and 2013 were cooking fires and contained to a specific area of the home.

Rather than requiring the installation of whole house sprinkler systems why don’t we evaluate the impact of range hoods with automatic fire suppression such as those used in commercial kitchens?  This technology is already available for residential kitchens and would not require as drastic a change to the building assembly.

To borrow a quote from Al Franken’s alter ego Stuart Smalley “it’s easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world”.

 

Tide Turns for Home Devastated by Hurricane Sandy

IMG_4853The Sunset Green Home, once a charming 1940s cottage resting five feet above sea level, was damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011 and decimated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In 2015, however, the tide will turn as it will be rebuilt as a sustainable, energy-efficient home registered through the LEED® for Homes Green Building Program. The certification goal is actually LEED Platinum.

Kim Erle, the homeowner, also happens to be a LEED AP. She and her team of architects and designers recently identified CertainTeed as a company with a range of industry-leading products that would work well in her sustainably built home. We are pleased that AirRenew® Essential Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) gypsum board, FortiCel™ Mold Prevention System, SMARTBATT™ with MoistureSense™ Technology batt insulation, GlasRoc® Diamondback® Tile Backer, and CertaSpray® open and closed cell foam were all specified for this project.

IMG_4722These products are bringing Kim and her family peace of mind. She says mold was visibly rampant in the walls and floorboards when the remains of her cottage-style home were demolished. She’s convinced this mold was there before Hurricane Sandy took out the house. Many of the products she has chosen, including ours, are there to help mitigate her mold concerns. The specified FortiCel, for instance, is a protective coating that is sprayed into the wall cavity to help prevent mold growth on structural framing surfaces. SMARTBATT also helps reduce the potential for mold and mildew growth as it comes with a smart vapor retarder that changes its permeability with the ambient humidity condition. This means the wall can essentially breathe when SMARTBATT senses moisture that needs to be released from within the wall. To further improve indoor air quality, the AirRenew wallboard will actually clean the air in Kim’s house by capturing VOCs and converting them into safe, inert compounds that safely remain within the board for up to 75 years.

Her home will be under construction through June, at which time the family hopes to move in for the summer. Check out her blog for updates on the project. It’s a great study on residential LEED design and construction.

Free Continuing Education Webinar: Acoustical Ceilings for the Eye, the Ear and the Mind

CTC_TCH_case study_409x240Unwanted noise in interior spaces can profoundly impact the way people work, learn and heal in the built environment. Well-designed interior spaces are key to combating this serious problem. Choosing the right ceiling panel material for a project makes a huge difference in managing the acoustical response of a room.

Studies also show that natural light that is more evenly distributed in a room can increase productivity. Ceilings manufactured with light reflectance properties can have a positive impact on the comfort of a room and decrease electrical costs.

To learn more, join our Building Knowledge Academy of Continuing Education (ACE) this Tuesday, December 16, from 1 – 2 p.m. ET, for a free educational webinar on acoustical ceilings. The course provides an overview of the principles of sound attenuation and light reflectance and can count toward CEU credits.

Robert Marshall, Manager for Marketing Technical Services for CertainTeed Ceilings, who has extensive experience with acoustical ceilings as a private contractor and now in the manufacturing sector, will lead the webinar. During this engaging discussion, you will learn:

  • The main properties of acoustical ceilings, their function and performance, and how they are tied to positive outcomes in healthcare facilities, schools and places of business.
  • How to calculate the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) when determining the acoustical performance of a product and compare acoustical materials as they relate to sound absorption and frequency.
  • The Luminous Reflectance Factor of acoustical materials as it relates to sustainable work environments.

Click here to register.

The CertainTeed Building Knowledge ACE program offers the industry’s most extensive and engaging collection of CEU courses available. Its breadth of educational courses provides architects, specifiers and others in the building industry with knowledge and skills needed to specify products smarter.

We hope you will join us for this informative session.

Green Thought Leader Helen Sanders, vice president, Technical Business Development, Sage Electrochromics

While at Greenbuild 2014, we asked our technical thought leaders the following question:

What is the most compelling thing happening in your universe with regard to sustainability?

Helen_Sanders_cropFor me the most compelling thing with regard to sustainability is the recognition of the human impact of day light. It is important for buildings to allow enough day light in but not to the point of being uncomfortable for the people inside. Day light is good for your health. It has been scientifically proven that if you don’t have enough day light at the right times of the day it can have significant health impacts such as increases in cancers, weight gain and mood disorders.

The design of buildings for the admission of day light is a 21st century imperative. We’ve got to try to design our buildings differently. In the 70’s and 80’s we started to build these massive footprints of buildings where very few people could be near a window. We did that because electricity was inexpensive so it allowed us to build bigger. Now we are seeing the downside of that from a health perspective. We’ve got to start doing something different with our building design to improve and harnass day light.

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 ArchitectureTemple 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.