Primacoustic acoustic panels bring an affordable and elegant acoustical solution to a school auditorium with high ceilings and angled walls.
Problem: Aspen Academy’s 1,000 seat school auditorium is used regularly for student plays and variety shows. Like many school auditoriums, the room was built in the early 1980s and was not designed for live production and live sound.
Prior to installing Primacoustic Broadway and ThunderTile acoustic panels, the auditorium’s high ceilings and angled walls led to echoes, reverb and sound bleed. The result was a high degree of frustration from teachers who had to compete with sound bleed when teaching. Parents were also frustrated because they were unable to hear their children adequately during school shows and performances.
Solution: Primacoustic Broadway and ThunderTile sound panels were installed to all of the sound reflection and echo issues, at a much lower cost and with less time than any other option considered. Linda Sailor, co-founder of Aspen Academy described the before and after difference with regards overall sound and speech intelligibility as “night and day.”
Read more about the installation of Primacoustic sound absorption panels in Aspen Academy’s auditorium in the following interview with Lynda Sailor.
Primacoustic: Share a bit about Aspen Academy.
Lynda: Aspen Academy is a pre-K through eighth-grade school. We’re located in Greenwood Village, Colorado, which is just outside of Denver. We are a national leader in innovative education and follow internationally acclaimed academics.
Primacoustic: What is it about the school that really sets Aspen Academy apart from other schools?
Lynda: What really sets us apart is our diligent focus on helping empower students to lead purposeful and extraordinary lives. We believe this quality is a mindset and skillset that they will learn here and take with them throughout their lives. With this in mind, we have developed an integrated pre-K through eighth-grade leadership and entrepreneurial development program that our students take part in.
Primacoustic — Solving School Auditorium Acoustic Problems
Primacoustic: Let’s talk a little about Aspen Academy and the installation of Primacoustic Broadway acoustic panels in the school’s auditorium. What was the purpose for installing the panels and what challenges were you experiencing in that space that led to the installation of the Primacoustic Broadway sound panels?
Lynda: Our auditorium seats 1,000 people and is used for the school’s productions and speaking events. The room was built in the early 80s and wasn’t really designed for theater production and sound.
Listen to this Soundcloud interview with Lynda Sailor about the installation of the Primacoustic panels at Aspen Academy.
Primacoustic: What was the design and layout of the room before the renovation?
Lynda: The room had many different angles, and different shaped wall and high ceilings. So there were lots of problems with echoes, reverb and things like that.
Primacoustic: And it’s also used as a multi-purpose room, correct?
Lynda: Yes, in the back of the auditorium we also have a music studio, as well as a dance studio.
Primacoustic: So this setup increased the challenges with designing a room with good sound?
Lynda: Yes, definitely. The challenges that we were having in our productions had to do with the entire audience being able to hear the children when they were speaking from the stage. We do a student-run variety show every other Friday, and it was very difficult for the parents sitting in the audience to hear the students when they were on stage.
Primacoustic: What types of sound problems were you having?
Read: “The Importance of Acoustic Treatment in K-12 Schools,” — FacilityManagement.com.
Lynda: Despite the fact that we had a cutting edge sound system and great equipment, the room and the way that room was designed caused the sound to just bounce all over the place.
Primacoustic: So it sounds like there was a significant intelligibility problem in the room because of the room layout and design.
Acoustic Design Challenges and Primacoustic Panels
Lynda: Yes, the acoustic design of the room made it really difficult for you to hear students when they were on stage speaking or singing. There was a significant echo, sound bouncing and things like that. So, addressing these issues was our first challenge.
Primacoustic: Talk about the multi-purpose use of the room and the challenges you were experiencing with the sound with regards to that.
Lynda: We conduct regular classes on the stage, in the music studio, and then the dance studio. So we were having a lot of spillover between those rooms, in terms of loud music being played loud interfering with the classes that were nearby. So, the sound bleed problem was also one of the main challenges we were looking to solve when we talked to Primacoustic.
Primacoustic: And how long had those challenges been going on and how had you addressed those problems in the past?
Lynda: We’ve been in this space since 2008, and so initially we just kind of lived with it. When we built the music room and the dance studio in the back of the auditorium, we put extra insulation between the walls, and then the ceiling. It didn’t work, even though we kept adding more and more insulation.
Primacoustic: What was the result of those attempts at sound baffling?
Lynda: It really just almost became a battle between the classes as to which class will get the volume today! So, the teachers were just trying to work together in terms of what volume is acceptable for them to hear. Basically, we were just suffering through it for quite a few years.
Read: “The Noisy Classroom” — School Planning and Management magazine.
Primacoustic: Talk about the point at which you began to look into acoustic panels as the solution.
Lynda: We had talked to several different acoustic companies and they weren’t really able to provide us with an economical solution. As a non-profit, their solutions just weren’t something that we could afford to do.
Primacoustic: What led you to the Primacoustic sound absorption panels?
Lynda: A friend told me about Primacoustic and the benefits of sound absorption panels. The company came out and took a look at the space and put together a plan that was not only workable but also extremely cost-effective.
Primacoustic: What was the outcome of that analysis?
Lynda: We were able to do the entire room for the cost of what other companies were only able to do the back wall for. So in addition to being an extremely effective solution, it was much more affordable than any other company we had talked to.
Primacoustic: The Primacoustic Broadway panels were installed to address the sound absorption issues. What else was important in your design criteria?
Sound Absorption, Room Acoustics, and Acoustic Panels
Lynda: Well, sound absorption obviously was most important, but the aesthetics were also important. With the Primacoustic Broadway panels, were able to select a fabric that went along with our color scheme and the décor of that room.
Interviewer: What other problems were the Primacoustic sound absorption panels able to address?
See an infographic (pictured left) with statistics on the impact of echo, reverb and other speech intelligibility issues in K-12 classrooms.
Lynda: Primacoustic Thundertile T-bar ceiling tiles were installed in the music room and the dance studio, which made a tremendous difference in the sound bleed between the different rooms.
Primacoustic: What has the response from parents, teachers, and students been since the Broadway panels were installed?
Lynda: The feedback has been extremely positive, not only in terms of the aesthetics of the room but also with regards to the comments about the improvement in the sound that we’ve heard from parents. Parent’s feedback has been that, now, no matter where they sit in the auditorium, whether in the front row, the back corner, the middle of the auditorium, the sound is the same. They can hear their children on stage, and it’s a very consistent and crisp sound, as opposed to that echoing we had previously. It’s been an enormous relief to get these types of comments from parents!
Primacoustic: You mentioned the benefits of the aesthetics of the Broadway sound absorption panels. Talk a little more about that.
Lynda: The Primacoustic Broadway acoustic panels were laid out in an artistic way that was visually pleasing. We also have some of the panels hanging from the ceiling, and they almost look like artworks as they kind of line the back of the auditorium and it looks really nice. So, when you walk in that’s kind of the first thing that you notice.
Primacoustic: So in addition to the improvement in the sound, the aesthetics were a real bonus, but ultimately the biggest challenge was addressing the acoustic problems in the room. Correct?
Lynda: Yes, it is night and day in terms of the difference between the before and after sound in the room. We did a before and after video standing in the back of the room and clapping and hearing the echoing. The “before” video has lots of echoes, and in the “after” video there’s no echo whatsoever. People might not realize that it’s the panels that have made the difference in the sound. They just comment on how great it sounds now. But the sound difference is just night and day with regards to the before and after.
Download this PDF case study on Aspen Academy’s installation of Primacoustic panels.
Lynda: It was actually really simple. The first thing that we did was to send floor plans and layouts of the room and pictures to the sound engineers. We shared the challenges that we were having with them.
Primacoustic : Talk about the process of working with the sound engineers and designers.
Lynda: The sound engineers came and visited our school and took a lot of pictures and measurements. They did a lot of evaluations in terms of sound and reflection. Next, they came back with a proposal which included a whole layout of what everything would look like with the panels in the room.
Primacoustic: And in the proposal, you were able to visualize the room with the panels installed.
Lynda: Yes, I actually had pictures of what it could look like in the room with the panels installed. And once I had approved the layout, we went through the process of selecting the actual style of the panel, and the fabric, and things like that. And then we scheduled the installation, where the team came and put the panels up. After that, the engineers came back and did more testing to make sure everything was as it should be. It was really, really simple and straightforward.
Primacoustic: How long from start to finish did the installation take?
Lynda: I would say maybe three months at the most. It was very quick. We had a renovation already planned, and so we started talking maybe in late March, and everything was pretty much done by mid-summer. So, it was pretty quick and easy.
Primacoustic Sound Absorption Panels — an Affordable and Effective Solution for School Auditorium Acoustics
Primacoustic: Before we wrap up, share more about the school’s curriculum and some of the progressive things you are doing in terms of education.
Lynda: We’ve developed a fully integrated pre-K through eighth-grade leadership and entrepreneurial development program. And we’ve recently received a grant from Oppenheimer and Sons that will help us roll out our entrepreneurial program nationwide. So we’re really excited about the opportunity to develop that into an online program that can go into many schools. This program will have a positive impact on many children across the country because financial literacy is just such an important topic.
This YouTube video features an interview with Linda Sailor on the reasons why Aspen Academy chose Primacoustic panels:
Primacoustic: And I understand you plan to install more Primacoustic sound panels at the school this summer?
Lynda: Yes, we were so happy with the results of the Primacoustic panels in the auditorium, we’re going to be doing a renovation of our cafeteria this summer and will be installing more Primacoustic.
Primacoustic: Do you have similar reverb and echo problems in that room as well?
Lynda: Yes, we have a large cafeteria that was an old military chapel at one time, with very high ceilings and it tends to be very, very loud. There’s a stage and what the Primacoustic panels will enable us to do is to expand our speech and debate program using the stage. So now that will be a space that we can use during the lunch hour as well as throughout the day for speech and debate. And we’re also adding a commercial kitchen and we’ll be able to use that area for demonstration and class instruction as well.
Primacoustic: It sounds like the Primacoustic Broadway sound absorption panels have helped you expand your programs and use of the facilities while eliminating many of the headaches that come with expansion and growth in a less-than-ideal space and on a limited budget.
Lynda: Yes! The Primacoustic Broadway panels have made it possible for us to expand our programs and activities affordably, with really great results and positive feedback from parents, teachers, and students.
For more information on Primacoustic Broadway panels, visit the Broadway acoustic panels product page. To learn more about Primacoustic ThunderTile ceiling panels, visit the ThunderTile acoustic ceiling panels product page.