Designing NHPR's Acoustics

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It was important to NHPR that the new facility include capacity for future growth, and the plans included more studios than what the station would need on day one. "Initially, we expected to leave space for a second main control room and talk studio, plus an additional production studio, but to do as little as possible to finish them out," Schrag explains. "Fortunately, the bids came in lower than our conservative estimates, so NHPR was able to add in the work necessary to complete all the rooms. That way, even though some of the spaces are not yet outfitted with equipment, everything is already in place, from the air conditioning to the wiring pathways. The station could literally have a new program stream up and running over a weekend."

Due to the low ceilings, acoustical finishes were applied directly to the underside of the sound isolation ceilings, rather than in a suspended ceiling system. "The goal was to maximize the acoustical performance in the minimum possible depth," Schrag says. "To meet the project budget, we used pre-fabricated acoustical panels, but they were spaced off the wall surfaces to gain additional low-frequency absorption."

"In a tight floor plan like this," he notes, "sound-rated doors and windows are essential to maintain reasonable sound isolation where the rooms cannot be physically separated from each other." In fact, the sound-rated glass turned out to be a hitch in the project schedule when several large sections had to be replaced due to manufacturing flaws. "That's part of what you deal with on every job," Schrag says. "You can't anticipate which material or which subcontractor might end up having problems, but you have to plan the design and the schedule to be able to handle the unexpected."

"We've designed more than 70 public radio stations across the country, and the reason they're such fun projects is that the stations are really passionate about quality, both in terms of the technical performance of the studios and in establishing a work environment that inspires the staff to be more creative," Schrag concludes. "When a radio station is capable of producing high-quality local content like NHPR is, it can continue to be a vital, relevant asset to its community."

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