Walsall College is the largest provider of qualifications for 14- to 19-year-olds in the West Midlands Borough of Walsall. In addition, it also provides education and training for adults, which is delivered both at the college campuses and on-site at workplaces and community centres. In total, more than 11,000 people study vocational technical qualifications, apprenticeships and higher education programmes with the college each year.
Its main Wisemore Campus was built in 2009 following a multi-million pound investment programme designed to provide a vibrant, lively environment that inspires and motivates students. The state-of-the-art facility includes bespoke areas for studying business, creative arts, computing, health, public services and automotive.
As is the nature of modern building design, the Wisemore Campus features many hard interior surfaces such as plastered walls, glazed partitions, large windows and carpet-tiled floors. Despite being integral to creating a visually appealing, energy efficient, safe, secure and comfortable learning environment, these materials were also hindering the acoustic conditions within the college’s learning pods and boardroom.
Hush Acoustics were invited to carry out a site survey in these relatively poor acoustic environments by Lee Bate, Head of Operational Services. He sought to find an effective response to a large number of complaints from college users in relation to noise in these areas of the building, chiefly as a result of sound reverberation, echo and ambient noise. These issues are known to affect concentration, focus and engagement of students and staff in schools, colleges and universities, so Walsall College were keen to take the necessary action.
The learning pods are used for online training, enabling students to participate and collaborate in Zoom and Teams calls or simply access a quiet area to work. Due to the construction of these rooms, there was a significant acoustic issue that could only be addressed by the introduction of a Class A sound absorber. These would prevent noise reflecting back into the room, which was the cause of the issue.
The boardroom presented similar issues. It also features many hard reflective surfaces which were causing it to be very echoey, especially during conference calls and training sessions. To reduce the issue here, a number of Class A absorbers would also need to be installed.
Step one was for Hush Acoustics to conduct a site survey. This allowed information to be gathered in order to carry out a series of reverberation calculations with a view to determining how sound absorbers could be used in the affected spaces to control reduce reverberation and echo.
The solution came with Hush Absorber 50 panels installed to the ceilings and walls. These Class A absorber panels utilise a specially formulated 50mm thick acoustic foam, hand finished with interior fabric that is applied to the face, edges and back return. They are designed to fit on any alignment and angle including slopes and ceiling in both portrait and landscape, with a choice of stylish and visually pleasing designs available in sizes, colours and finishes to suit any internal environment.
Hush Absorber 50 panels have been highly effective in controlling the problem noise within the areas, dampening the sound issue with a level of absorption material that complies with the design guidance of BB93.
The transformation of the learning pods and boardroom has been a great success according to Walsall College’s Head of Operations for the campus, Lee Bate. He said:
“We are delighted with the difference the Hush Absorber 50 panels make and the service from Hush. We are extremely happy with how the areas are instantly more comfortable to work from and the panels look good in the spaces they have been installed.”
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