Cal Green – California’s Newest Building Code

The importance of acoustics is often forgotten until a building is completed. However, the 2010 California Green Building Standards Code (CalGreen Code) which took effect January 1, 2011 made it mandatory for all new construction in California (non-residential and residential up to three stories) to comply with certain acoustical control standards. Why should you care – especially if you do not live or work in California? Well when it comes to building codes, as California goes, so does the rest of the country – at some point. The CalGreen Code is the 11th part of the California Code of Regulations, Title 24, held by the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) and contains five categories addressing sustainable construction. Acoustics is addressed under the fifth category: Environmental Quality.

Standard 5.507.4 Acoustical Control is mandatory for all new non-residential buildings and addresses both exterior noise and interior sound.

• The exterior noise measure requires buildings within 1000 feet of freeways, within 5 miles of most airports, or with property lines within sound levels regularly exceeding 65 dB to have a building envelop with a minimum rating of STC 50 and exterior windows with a minimum rating of STC 30.

• The interior sound measure requires wall and floor-ceiling assemblies separating tenant spaces from other tenant spaces or public spaces to have a minimum rating of STC 40.

Standard 5.507.5 addresses voluntary acoustical control measures for public schools and community colleges and follows the LEED for Schools design guidelines, addressing background noise levels and reverberation times. So it is now, at least in California, no longer enough to be green or sustainable. The CBSC now requires that the acoustical environment be addressed when buildings are sited in noisy areas so that sound levels are kept low enough to carry out activities without the distraction or discomfort of unwanted noise. We’d be happy to answer any questions regarding the acoustics portion of the code click here to contact us.

You can download a full copy at: www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/bsc/CALGreen/2010_CA_Green_Bldg.pdf

 

The importance of acoustics is often forgotten until a building is completed. However, the 2010 California Green Building Standards Code (CalGreen Code) which took effect January 1, 2011 made it mandatory for all new construction in California (non-residential and residential up to three stories) to comply with certain acoustical control standards. Why should you care… Read more »

Project Profile: TA’s Most Memorable Projects

We want to take a little trip down memory lane and showcase some of our most memorable and interesting projects.

Space Shuttle Launch Blast Berm – We were part of the team that evaluated the impact of an earthen berm on the Shuttle Launch Vehicle. Following the 9/11 security improvements, the outer perimeter fence was being damaged by flying debris (a normal part of every launch). NASA wanted to construct an earthen berm to protect the fence but was concerned that reflection of sound off the berm would impact the launch vehicle, as the launch vehicle lifted off the pad. Fortunately, it was one of those great, non-problems. Our engineering calculations indicated that because the shuttle lifts off so fast, by the time the sound would return to a point in the flight path for the primary reflection, the SSLV would be well past that point!

HP Briefing Center – We have had the good fortune of working over and over again with a number of our clients. Hewlett Packard is one of those clients for whom we have completed over 70 different projects (to date). The Cupertino Campus Executive Briefing Center was one of the more notable and larger projects. Though this project was back in 2000, the center’s rooms were controlled by an AMX networked control system; at the time the largest IP networked control system in existence. This and the in-room video monitoring systems for catering, allowed the staff of the EBC to view into the rooms and control (i.e. fix something) from any point on the campus when the call for help came up.

Littoral Warfare Training Center – This is a Situation Ready room for when command staff review training for use of new warfare equipment and technologies. Because of the room’s security requirements we designed cell phone blockers and other acoustical treatments. The rest of the AV was really cool but… if we told you…..(check out the full blog post)

John W. Pope, Jr. Convocation Center – Campbell University needed a new space for graduation ceremonies and other campus wide events, including hosting the basketball team and other court sports. The acoustical design addressed the reverberation control, but care was taken not to make it too quiet for the home team advantage. The sound system was designed to allow for quick reconfiguration of the signal routing to change from court sports to presentations to support for concerts.

LEGOLAND – This project is the work of our new partner, Patrick Gallegos of Gallegos Lighting. For this 35-acre themed experience he provided lighting for all of the interior and exterior architecture and attractions. One of the neat aspects is that flickering firelight and blue moonlight defines the lighting and helps to provide depth and life to the Castle, the centerpiece of the medieval Castle Hill area of this California theme park.

Cerritos Library – Another project from our lighting studio’s prior experience is the Cerritos Library in Cerritos, CA. The children’s library portion of this amazing “Library for the 21st Century” incorporates an indoor ‘weatherdome’ which simulates diurnal and storm cycles, achieved through the careful integration and programming of red-blue-green color sources, theatrical and projected lighting effects.

Not all of our projects are big, for example during one project meeting a team member remarked that his wife had just bought a fish tank and had filled it with fish. The tank was located in the living room, and on the other side of the wall from the niche that held the tank was the head of his bed. The problem was the small circulating pump was just too noisy. He told us the size of the footprint of the pump. We had a sample of a vibration isolation pad about the right size. He tried it and said it did not work. It turned out the pump was too light. So we found an old brick that had been used in college, as a book end. We sat it on the pad and then the pump on the brick. The outcome – a happy couple! She got to keep the fish and he got to sleep with the fish without the noise and vibration from the pump. All we needed was a little mass for that inertia base to work. Yes, this was a small project, but it was very rewarding.

We hope you have enjoyed our trip down memory lane!

 

We want to take a little trip down memory lane and showcase some of our most memorable and interesting projects. Space Shuttle Launch Blast Berm – We were part of the team that evaluated the impact of an earthen berm on the Shuttle Launch Vehicle. Following the 9/11 security improvements, the outer perimeter fence was… Read more »

The Recession Is Over!

By: Steve Thorburn

As I walked into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) 2010 trade floor, it was clear that there was an energy level on the floor that I had not felt in 10 years. This industry took a big hit after 9/11. IAAPA was a ghost town in 2001, and no one traveled for almost a year. Now, it seems, everyone is wheeling and dealing, optimistic about the future. Combine this with reports that things look much better for the design and construction industry in 2011 and you arrive at my bold claim in the title of this column.

I’m reminded of the giant mechanical pirate ship in front of Treasure Island in Las Vegas. Every night that ship comes around the corner, engages in battle, and slowly starts to sink. But just when it looks like the ship is about to go under, it stops, and shortly after the show ends, it reverses motion, rising up out of the water and moving back to reset itself for the next battle. This last recession worked a lot like the pirate ship. The ship has stopped sinking, and (hopefully) we have begun moving back up.

Once the ship starts to rise, it will be interesting to see who has still been able to cling on in the icy waters of our economy. More importantly, how can you make sure you are one of the lucky ones to emerge perhaps a little dampened by the recession, but no worse for the wear?

The first key is to be a company that can follow directions and give the client what they require of you, within a timely manner and at a good value. Clients are still very price sensitive, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. While the recession might have washed away some of the weaker competitors, there are still plenty of people out there bidding the same projects you want, and value will often be a deciding factor.

Secondly, more than ever the quality of your people and their ability to provide customer service will dictate your future success. Perhaps my expectations have risen, or maybe I have become more acutely aware of the intrinsic value of a dollar, and since I know what it takes to earn it, I place a higher premium on what it should get me in return. Or, what is more likely is that organizations struggling to stay alive have slashed training budgets and staffing levels requiring more work from fewer people with less guidance from management. This will only work for so long. As the ship starts to right itself, the smartest businesses will take the time to seek out the best people to work for them.

With a nearly 10 percent unemployment rate, there is a huge sea of people available to tap for work, but you will have to weed through a bunch to get to the good ones. Taking the time and resources upfront to find the best people will help you down the road (though, to be fair, retaining top talent is a whole other issue).

Finally, I think it is increasingly important for everyone to take ownership in projects they are working on. It might mean taking a little extra time to train the on-site technicians how to operate a system or troubleshoot problems. Earning that reputation for customer care will lead to the next project, and success for the company.

Unfortunately, like the pirate ship at Treasure Island, our economy is likely to go through this dip again in the future. Maybe by that time the rules will have changed, but by following these key steps you’ll at least be closer to the top of the mast for the next “show.”

Research Shows Industry Optimism

NSCA and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently released the latest Market Intelligence Briefing (MIB) report, Commercial-Residential Crossover in the Electronic Systems Industry, which examines opportunities, challenges, and perspectives of commercial and residential integrators.

Despite economic challenges during the past two years, 54 percent of integrators overall have a more optimistic view of 2010 than 2009, the report found. Integrators involved in both the commercial and residential markets were slightly more optimistic, with 60 percent expecting a more positive 2010.

While the complexity and specialization of systems and services can differentiate commercial from residential projects, these industry segments often intersect at the technological, design, and information technology levels. Slightly more than half of those surveyed in this new MIB report are involved in both residential and commercial projects.

Randy Vaughan, founder of Ambassador Enterprises, and new chairman of CEDIA’s board, feels that it has been a great asset to have both commercial and residential projects on the AE roster over past few years, but warns against companies who think they can simply add the other market to their business. “You’ve got to be able to talk the talk, and understand what the real needs are,” he said. “The products are very similar, but that’s the least of the whole thing. If they do the research, and understand the market, it could be excellent.”

According to the report, the top three revenue venues for commercial integrators are: corporate facilities; restaurants, retail facilities, and shopping malls; and K-12 schools. Among these categories, this year’s survey respondents gave the highest ranking to retail venues. This increase highlights areas of crossover between commercial and residential integrators, because the technologies and services used for retail projects correlate with tools used by integrators working on residential projects.

We’ll see what 2011 brings, but Vaughan feels positive about the upcoming year. “I expect it to be slightly better in residential, and in commercial we’re dealing with a backlog now.”

 

This article was originally published at System Contractor News.

By: Steve Thorburn As I walked into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) 2010 trade floor, it was clear that there was an energy level on the floor that I had not felt in 10 years. This industry took a big hit after 9/11. IAAPA was a ghost town in 2001, and… Read more »

Focus on Acoustics: LEED for Healthcare – Acknowledging Acoustics in Healing

Anyone who has been to a hospital recovery room, whether as a patient or as a visitor, knows firsthand that the environment can be anything but calm and soothing. Echoes of staff and guests moving around and talking reverberate through the hallways while high-tech gadgets beep and whirr, all under the buzz of a stark fluorescent lamp. How can anyone get a restful night of sleep and recover in a place like that?

As new hospitals are being built, or existing ones are being renovated, efforts are being made to make the time that patients spend in them less stressful and more conducive to healing. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has acknowledged these, and other, unique challenges facing healthcare facilities in its newest rating system – LEED for Healthcare, approved in final voting in mid-November.

LEED for Healthcare is designed to be used for new construction projects and major renovations of all types of buildings where patients are being treated. Developed in collaboration with the Green Guide for Healthcare (GGHC), an extensive pilot program was conducted prior to the approval of the final LEED rating system.

Because of the unique needs of these types of buildings, LEED for Healthcare is the only rating system to date (besides LEED for Schools) that provides credits relating to acoustics. The primary credit relating to acoustics, IEQ Credit 2 Acoustic Environment, can be worth up to two points. The intent of the credit is to “Provide building occupants with an indoor healing environment free of intrusive or disruptive levels of sound.” The points for the credit can be obtained by meeting a variety of criteria including appropriate sound isolation between rooms, background noise levels, reverberation time, and minimizing the impact of exterior site noise. And while patients rejoice at the thought of a decent night of sleep, there is another important result related to achieving this credit: increased patient privacy, a must for healthcare facilities of all types.

The other credit related to acoustics is SS Credit 9.1: Connection to the Natural World: Places of Respite. The design considerations component of this credit dovetails nicely with the portion of IEQ Credit 2 that relates to minimizing the impact of exterior site noise.

USGBC’s recently approved LEED for Healthcare rating system aims to guide healthcare facilities of all types to become high-performance buildings that are both healthy for their occupants and have a limited impact on the environment. In doing so, the rating system has raised awareness of the role that acoustics plays in caring for patients: from helping to ensure that conversations with doctors remain private to reducing noise levels so that patients just might be able to get a healthful night of sleep on their road to recovery.

Anyone who has been to a hospital recovery room, whether as a patient or as a visitor, knows firsthand that the environment can be anything but calm and soothing. Echoes of staff and guests moving around and talking reverberate through the hallways while high-tech gadgets beep and whirr, all under the buzz of a stark… Read more »

Product Review: Printable Acoustic Cloth

Sometimes it seems like acoustics and aesthetics are at odds with one another. But some companies, such as Whisper Walls® are trying to bridge the gap. The company’s WhisperArt product offers varying sizes of sound-dampening panels with the ability to print virtually any design on one side.

The panels are available in a range of standard sizes, and Whisper Walls® works with you to find the right size and format for your image. The panels are made of 100% polyester over a semi-rigid fiberglass core. A spray adhesive can be used to mount the panels to the wall.

The combination of style and function satisfies the interior designer without offending the acoustic technician. For more information, visit http://www.whisperwalls.com/products/productsDetail.php?WhisperArt-4.

 

Sometimes it seems like acoustics and aesthetics are at odds with one another. But some companies, such as Whisper Walls® are trying to bridge the gap. The company’s WhisperArt product offers varying sizes of sound-dampening panels with the ability to print virtually any design on one side. The panels are available in a range of… Read more »

Project Profile: Forsyth Detention Center Surveillance System

Since 1996 the Forsyth County Detention Center in North Carolina relied on eight cameras to help monitor the 800 detainees contained within eleven housing units. The system, while functional, only covered the most critical of areas.

For example, the intake processing system. When the center opened, staff relied on written documentation to track what possessions an individual had when entering the facility. Days, weeks or months later when that individual was released, it was sometimes a case of “he said, she said” with regards to that individual’s possessions. A Timex watch upon entry might have been claimed by an individual as a Rolex upon departure. It was clear the Center needed updating.

In 2007, Thorburn Associates was brought in to evaluate the security camera system, in addition to the door locking control systems and guard tour systems. The evaluation and subsequent report revealed significant opportunities for safer and more reliable operation of the facility. In addition, the Center could take advantage of advances in technology.

Specifically, the project originally called for coaxial video cameras, but when it came time to move forward on the install, Video over IP had become cost-effective, and provided for less intrusive installation and significant storage advantages. Video over IP creates video files that can easily be stored and played back from any standard network computer. The files are stored on a hard drive array that is easy and relatively cheap to expand (no more DVDs or VHS tapes!).

The Center now has over a few hundred cameras monitoring detainee movement, visitor movement, day rooms and exercise yards. Videos are time stamped and encoded to allow for use in trials. The data from the cameras flows over Category 6 cable and fiber optic backbones.

The switch to Video over IP allowed for cheaper labor installation and a lowered electricity cost. The cost savings were so significant, the project, which had been slated for four phases, was rolled into one singular project.

The system has been online for a few months, helping save the staff time and resolving inmate disputes. Thorburn Associates is proud to have been a part of the technology upgrade and systems solution.

Since 1996 the Forsyth County Detention Center in North Carolina relied on eight cameras to help monitor the 800 detainees contained within eleven housing units. The system, while functional, only covered the most critical of areas. For example, the intake processing system. When the center opened, staff relied on written documentation to track what possessions… Read more »

Focus on Technology: Video over IP

Remember when phone calls used to travel over phone lines? The advent of wireless systems, along with Voice over IP (VoIP) technology, is cutting into the traditional telephone market. In 2010, US cable companies are providing VoIP phone service to over 20 million customers. When that technology first became commercially viable around the middle of this decade, sound quality was an issue, calls were dropped and we advised clients to wait for improvements.

Now, the same technology is being applied to video systems, but is the warning to be cautious about jumping in now valid for Video over IP?

It is important to understand the basics of how the technology works in order to understand its limitations. Video and Voice over IP work essentially in the same manner: Data, either from a camera or a microphone is digitized, compressed and broken down into packets. The packets are then sent over network cables to a receiver which puts the packets back together to build the image or sound.

Both technologies are plagued by the same problem: traffic! Just as a clogged freeway will slow down cars entering and exiting, and delay overall travel time, a busy network prevents those little data packets from flowing steadily and quickly, resulting in poor quality for the video or voice. Since video requires much more data than audio, Video over IP is even more sensitive to network traffic, and requires more engineering upfront.

Because of these potential delays and problems, Video over IP is not easy to manage for live time-sensitive transmission.

There are other applications that can benefit from Video over IP, such as surveillance systems (see Forsyth Center article in this issue). With a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) System, the network backbone can be engineered to handle the high speeds required to transmit the data packets.

One key advantage of IP-based CCTV is the ability to use network infrastructure already in place, rather than apply coaxial cabling. However, running bandwidth-intensive surveillance video over corporate data networks is a point of organizational contention, depending on the potential impact on network performance.

Ultimately, each specific application will dictate whether the advantages of VoIP (video or voice) will work with today’s technology’s limitations. As more manufactures start producing equipment that meets VoIP standards and the technological hurdles are overcome, it will become more feasible for a wider range of markets.

Remember when phone calls used to travel over phone lines? The advent of wireless systems, along with Voice over IP (VoIP) technology, is cutting into the traditional telephone market. In 2010, US cable companies are providing VoIP phone service to over 20 million customers. When that technology first became commercially viable around the middle of… Read more »

At Your Service

By: Steve Thorburn

It has been one of those months—the kind where there seems to be a permanent target on your back. It began with my partner trying to rent a car. We both travel a lot, and are members of this company’s highest-level frequent renter program. We are loyal to this firm for one reason: we want quick, consistent, efficient service when we get to the rental car lot at 10 p.m. after a long trip. While our profile is well notated with our preference for a Ford Fusion, it seems it is never read. As had happened many times before, we had to go through a long explanation and several requests before the customer service reps got us the right car—even though they had the tools to do their job right from the very beginning.

You would think that they would focus on these customer details. After all, the level of service is really the only differentiating factor in their business. Isn’t that true for most businesses? Very few companies operate as monopolies. Whatever product or service you provide someone else is also doing the same thing. Customer service is the one area that can earn repeat business and a premium rate. And technology can help build or break down that customer experience very quickly.

Now contrast this experience at the rental car station on a Sunday with our client meeting that Monday and Tuesday. It was at a small university, and during the second day we were scheduled to have drop-in hours for staff and faculty to visit with us in one of their distance-learning classrooms. While we were waiting, we wanted to review the system. The typical MS Windows user logon information was needed, so we called the help desk and asked for the user name and password. We figured we would be given the info over the phone, but the response from Mike was, “I will be right over!” In the two minutes and 30 seconds from the time we hung up, Mike took one more call, came across the quad and up to the second story of the building, down the hall to help us. The university staff made a point of stating how well the facility was supported, and when an issue came up a technician went right out to help solve the issue. Mike’s level of service certainly exceeded our expectations, and is the type of experience that helps to build loyalty and trust. His personalized service was a good complement to the technology with which we were interacting.

Now let’s look at my DMV experience five days earlier. It was time to renew my driver’s license, so I went online and completed the required paperwork almost two months before my expiration date. My license never arrived, and I was four days out from a three-week trip, with my expiration date popping up in the middle of it all. I checked the website again and it indicated that my license should have been delivered about three weeks ago but provided no other information of what to do. So I hopped in the car, drove past two shuttered DMVs, and arrived at a functioning office. They still weren’t able to give me a new license, only a paper extension.

What irks me about the DMV is they could take my money online, but providing any useful information was a challenge. As the tenth largest economy in the world (home to Oracle, HP, eBay, Yahoo, Google, etc.), why can’t California provide the same quality experience as a commercial site? Moreover, why can’t the customer service reps or the technology give me the information that I need?

All three examples utilize technology in providing customer service. And in each case the client’s expectation is different. For the car rental, staff should use the technology to provide efficient customer service. At the university, technology was supplemented by a personalized help experience. In the case of the DMV, the live customer service experience functioned separately from the technology, which was not up to date.

So which is the best model? Any can be successful. You can use technology to enhance personal interaction, use personal interaction to supplement technology, or keep both sides of the equation separate. The key is in matching what you provide to what your customer expects. And that is true no matter what you produce. The customer service experience is critical in any line of business, and how you integrate technology with it can make or break your customer’s perception of you and your company.

This article was originally published at System Contractor News.

By: Steve Thorburn It has been one of those months—the kind where there seems to be a permanent target on your back. It began with my partner trying to rent a car. We both travel a lot, and are members of this company’s highest-level frequent renter program. We are loyal to this firm for one… Read more »

Product Review: Christie MicroTiles™

Christie’s new MicroTiles may become the new standard in video walls. Unveiled over the last year at various trade shows and events, MicroTiles are small display units measuring roughly 12 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches. Each weighs about 20 pounds and utilize DLP technology to create some of the most sharp and vividly colored images available on the market. Think LEGO meets digital signage. There is no practical limit to how many MicroTiles can be connected, allowing for the ultimate in creative flexibility.

Infrared sensors detect other MicroTiles in the array and automatically position each unit – allowing for quick setup and easy operation. The units continuously auto-calibrate across the array to prevent brightness discrepancies and auto-color-correct as well.

Although the displays are rated for a 7 year lifespan at 24/7 operation, any serviceable parts can be accessed from the front of the display.

Christie MicroTiles™ won the Best New Product of the year at InfoComm 2010.
For more information: www.microtiles.com.

Christie’s new MicroTiles may become the new standard in video walls. Unveiled over the last year at various trade shows and events, MicroTiles are small display units measuring roughly 12 inches x 16 inches x 10 inches. Each weighs about 20 pounds and utilize DLP technology to create some of the most sharp and vividly… Read more »

Project Profile: Campbell University’s John W. Pope, Jr. Convocation Center

Students at Campbell University, located in Buies Creek, NC, were used to playing basketball in the cramped Carter Gym on campus, which held just shy of 1,000 spectators. In 2008, however, the school announced plans to build a new athletic facility large enough to handle the growing number of athletes and their cheering fans. Plans for the John W. Pope, Jr. Convocation Center called for a 106,000 square foot multi-use building housing a host of sports-related facilities and the 15,360 square foot Gilbert Craig Gore arena.

The arena is the heart of the facility and supports a variety of events, including basketball and volleyball games, gymnastics competitions, conferences and trade shows, as well as concerts, dinners and graduation ceremonies. The arena seats over 3,000 for sporting events, and over 5,000 for staged events. This wide array of uses required an audio system, designed by Thorburn Associates, that would be flexibility and easy to operate.

The main loudspeaker system consists of an exploded central cluster design with overhead court loudspeakers and stage end loudspeakers. The overhead court loudspeakers can be easily muted for court sports (such as basketball or volleyball) or activated for events where individuals on the court need to hear the audio (such as gymnastics or concerts).

At the stage end of the arena, full range loudspeaker arrays are located to the left and right of the stage. Audio from stage events is supported by the overhead system, aligned to maximize speech and music intelligibility.

A distributed loudspeaker system provides coverage throughout the concourse, restrooms and Viewing Suites (which have individual volume controls).

Audio signals are routed through a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) that delays and adjusts the electronic signal to different loudspeaker clusters based on the orientation of the room.

With the multitude of different events the facility hosts, a variety of different audio input sources were required. For court sports microphone and CD/MP3 inputs are available at the announcer’s table. A coaches’ practice table also contains microphone and CD/MP3 inputs. A lockable wall box contains a handheld microphone and input for music. For stage events, eight microphone inputs with remote volume controls are available. In order to minimize need for a sound system technician, a 16-channel automatic mixer is utilized when the sound booth manual controls are not staffed.

The completed facility now hosts hundreds of events annually both for the university and the surrounding community.

Students at Campbell University, located in Buies Creek, NC, were used to playing basketball in the cramped Carter Gym on campus, which held just shy of 1,000 spectators. In 2008, however, the school announced plans to build a new athletic facility large enough to handle the growing number of athletes and their cheering fans. Plans… Read more »