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Noise Elimination at WKSU's Akron News Bureau
I stood in the 11'x12' room looking up at its 18'-high ceiling and out to Akron's noisy Main Street through the room's single-pane storefront window. The assignment was to turn the room situated within WKSU's Akron News Bureau based on the first floor of the city's historic United Building into a four-guest position, broadcast quality, street-side showcase studio that mirrors WKSU's on-air studio located 12 miles east of Akron on Kent State University's main campus. I already knew about the high hill located between Akron and Kent that prevented the use of an RF link between the two cities even though the building is eight stories high. I had experience designing and building a smaller, non-street-facing studio for this facility three years ago when Kent State University opened its WKSU Akron News Bureau on the corner of the city's busiest traffic intersection and across from the John F. Seiberling Federal Building and Courthouse. I also have lots of experience designing other regional news bureau studios including WKSU's news-gathering facilities in Cleveland and Canton. However, this room had the word challenge written all over it, and the time had finally arrived to meet that challenge.
My first call was to local acoustician friend Bill Hannon and the second call was to architect acquaintance Dave Molnar. I have employed their services on other projects with great success and knew having them on this project's team would yield the desired results. I then assembled the rest of the project team. With no second thoughts based on my past experiences using local company Cabinetworks Unlimited for broadcast studio furniture needs I contacted owners Ken and Brian Bagwell. Local contractor Dave Riley, who was intimately acquainted with the old building's structure as well as local building code and permit requirements, was employed to do the renovation work. WKSU's I.T. Department, consisting of Chuck Poulton and Dan Kuznicki along with my assistant Bob Kruppenbacher, rounded out the design and installation team.
The common use space has been occupied by Cleveland's WKYC-TV regional news bureau for many years and by Western Reserve Public Media's live television production facility along with WKSU's Akron News Bureau for the past four years. In addition to the street traffic noise problems, the internal common space noise issues included a high-level HVAC system sound level and all the other noises that go with three active broadcast organizations sharing the same facility. The proposed studio space was a former office - essentially a room within the larger and very open common space. The room's street side window faces west and the north and east facing internal walls each contain multiple eight-foot tall thin single pane windows. The construction of the north and east facing hollow cavity walls is typical studs covered with 1/2" drywall on each side. The HVAC system ambient noise as well as occupant conversations easily transmitted through the walls, internal windows, and existing wood core door. Our first focus was to determine how to eliminate the traffic noise, which, of course, includes noise from city busses and public safety vehicles.
A Quest M-2900 dosimeter was positioned in the proposed studio space to measure noise levels by frequency and intensity over specific time periods. The measurement results were then graphed using custom designed software to visually indicate the frequencies, sound pressure levels, and period of time per occurrence of the various noise sources. Using that data and the calculated total room air volume based on a proposed 12' ceiling height, our acoustician was able to specify absorption specific by frequency acoustical products that would collectively work together as a system to isolate the noise and, equally important, acoustically tune the room in what was to be its resultant physical state. The acoustician designed a dual-pane acoustical window assembly that would supplement the existing storefront window. Because of the span of the existing window, a two-unit acoustical window system was specified to minimize potential structure resonances and also ease installation. Further design efforts determined the best size for the two acoustical windows as being 7' high by 4'5" wide for unit one and 4'6" wide for unit two in order to further minimize common-dimension resonant frequency possibilities. Each window was designed to contain a 1.25" inch bullet resistant plate glass and a 1/2" inch laminated plate glass separated by a 4" wide sealed air space. To accommodate the window assemblies, a new wall was built 18" away from the inside of the existing store front window. Custom designed steel frames were locally manufactured and installed to accommodate the new glass. Each piece of the 1-1/4" glass weighed 450 pounds and required five professional glass installers to set it in place.
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