Our History

Over the past 50 years, BKL has solved a lot of acoustical problems—from noisy pizza ovens to cutting-edge healthcare facilities. Have a look at our company timeline and discover the people, projects and resources that have made BKL the leading acoustical consultancy in Western Canada.

1965

Dino’s Pizza

While working for a telecommunications consulting firm, Ken Barron investigates complaints about the noisy gas-fired ovens at Dino’s Pizza on Broadway in Vancouver. Drawing insights from reading Leo Beranek, Barron designs a 10 foot by 4 foot cylindrical muffler, which helps mitigate oven noise and appease Dino’s neighbours.

1966

Barron Strachan

Barron Strachan is founded: the first acoustical engineering consultancy in Western Canada. Ken Barron and Bob Strachan set up their first workspace in a spare room at their accountant’s office. In 1967 the firm moves to Heather Street, where it remains until 1988.

Octave Band Analyzers

Among Barron Strachan’s early equipment are General Radio manual octave band analyzers.

 

As the company grows, it acquires a plethora of Brüel & Kjær meters, microphones and accessories. But if the necessary equipment doesn’t exist, the firm develops it in-house.

 

“We made our own community noise analyzers,” explains Ken Barron, “by placing a sound meter in a metal box and strapping it to a telephone pole, so the kids couldn’t reach it. We’d check back every couple of days to change batteries and tape.” These early community noise monitors are connected to a standard tape recorder and controlled with a timer developed in-house, programmed to sample every 30 secs.

The Blue-Eyed Lady

Hired to investigate noise complaints at the Whistler Inn, Ken Barron traces the problem to the bathroom. When he unfastens the cover to the bathtub’s overflow drain, he hears a splash and a clunk.

 

“I look into the overflow drain,” recalls Barron, “and see a lady’s blue eye staring back at me from the other side. Then I hear a scream.”

 

Barron finds that all the overflow drains are connected with straight pipe, so each tub overflows into the tub in the adjacent suite. His recommendations to reduce noise transmission between suites includes significant plumbing upgrades.

1969

The Qube

Barron Strachan provides acoustical consulting on the award-winning Qube (then known as the Westcoast Transmission Building) in Vancouver.

1970

Greater Vancouver Noise Survey

Barron Strachan conducts a noise survey of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD). The survey is led by acoustician John Price and staff from 14 municipalities help take sound measurements at more than 10,000 points, covering an area larger than any other previous noise survey in North America. The survey costs the GVRD $23,000 and the results inform the development of appropriate noise bylaw limits.

1971

Dawn of the Residential Noise Study

Barron & Strachan is retained to assess the potential for noise and vibration impacts at a proposed 120-unit co-operative residential housing development on the 15 acre Glen Robin site in Burnaby. The site is adjacent to a CN Rail mainline and the newly realigned Highway 1 and is exposed to very high noise levels. This landmark environmental noise assessment and building noise control project forms the basis for how Lower Mainland municipalities address the potential effects of noise on proposed residential developments.

pdp8

Barron Strachan purchases a pdp8 and develops it for acoustical analysis and accounting. After acquiring a Hewlett-Packard 1/3-octave analog filter set, Bob Strachan and Marcel Rivard construct a sampling system to display third octave band output on an oscilloscope. In 1975, the firm builds an analog-to-digital converter, which allows the pdp8 to interpret the analog output. This converter, christened Third Octave Band Analog to Digital System—or TOBADS for short, functions as a real-time analyzer that calculates reverberation time, equivalent sound levels, 1/3 octaves, exceedance levels and sweeps up to 300 per second for 40 bands.

Acoustical Engineering Ltd.

Tom Siddon, UBC professor and designer of the campus’s anechoic chamber, forms Aeroacoustic Systems Ltd. with former students Ken Harford and Doug Kennedy. They provide acoustical consulting under the name Acoustical Engineering Ltd.

 

Clair Wakefield joins the company in 1973, and the following year Harford Kennedy Wakefield (HKW) is formed.

 

In 1978, Siddon embarks on a successful political career, first as a Richmond city councillor and then at the House of Commons where his positions include Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Minister of Defence.

 

In 1980, Wakefield leaves to join the Ministry of Transportation and Dan Lyzun becomes a partner. The firm rebrands as HKL.

1973

Vancouver Airport Expansion

Seemingly every acoustician in Vancouver is working on the environmental noise assessment for the runway expansion at YVR. While HKW technicians set up several mobile labs with FM tape recorders and perform community noise monitoring, Barron & Associates responds to runway-related noise complaints.

 

Ken Barron recalls visiting an elementary school near the runway and feeling the building shake whenever a plane takes off. “That school’s roof was designed to keep out rain,” he says, “not jet aircraft noise.” Barron recommends numerous acoustical upgrades such as installing additional insulation and a second roof.

1975

Concorde SST

On assignment for Transport Canada, Doug Kennedy travels to Gander, Newfoundland, to assess take-off and landing noise from Concorde SST.

DUCTS Mechanical System Noise Prediction Software

While working on the Polaris Tower (now Harbour Centre), Doug Whicker grows tired of manual calculations and develops DUCTS, a mechanical and system noise prediction software that draws from data gathered during extensive field measurements. DUCTS provides more accurate results and eliminates the process of double checking every calculation.

Barron & Associates

Bob Strachan leaves the company to pursue a master’s degree. The firm becomes Barron & Associates, with Ken Barron as the sole principal.

Industrial Audiometric Services and Mechtronics Research Corp.

Ken Harford and Doug Kennedy form two offshoot companies in 1975.

 

They launch Industrial Audiometric Services, which becomes the first company to provide mobile hearing testing services across BC.

 

And with Steve Hui, they found Mechtronics Research Corporation. Mechtronics manufactures specialized acoustical instrumentation, including one the earliest available equivalent sound level meters and automobile noise testing equipment that is installed in motor vehicle inspection stations operated by the BC Motor Vehicle Branch.

NS-100 Transmission Loss Tester

To test transmission loss, Marcel Rivard and Gordon Hall design the NS1, a portable speaker/pink noise generator capable of testing STC 60 with reliable results. Later the NS1 becomes the NS-100, a Tracoustics product that is licensed by Barron & Associates and used for decades. The plaid slacks are an optional accessory.

1976

Canadian Acoustical Association Conference

Doug Whicker convenes the 15th meeting of the Canadian Acoustical Association in Vancouver. During the meetings, the CAA incorporates and Whicker becomes one of eight original directors. Whicker convenes CAA conferences again in 1983 and 1992.

Sound Beam Acoustic Flashlight

During renovations to convert Vancouver’s historic Orpheum Theatre into a symphony space, Barron & Associates is hired to assess building acoustics and collaborates with theatre acoustician Theodore Schultz. Doug Whicker recalls Shultz carrying “about ten different pieces of equipment, all strung together with cables and everything and all kinds of messy stuff. He came in with an array of electrostatic speakers and he was using this to focus his ceiling clouds. And Marcel Rivard had a look at it and says, ‘I can do a better job than that.’”

 

The result is the Sound Beam acoustic flashlight—four electrostatic speakers and a filtered high-frequency noise source connected to an automotive headlight. The headlight illuminates where the sound from the speakers is aimed. BKL uses the acoustic flashlight for then next three decades to align reflecting panels in theatres.

1978

Edmonton Satellite Office

Barron & Associates expands to Edmonton, establishing a satellite office with Doug Whicker, who then hires Michel Morin, Cliff Faszer, and Shelley Lorimer. The office, home to the firm’s Prairie Division, designs the company’s largest HVAC system to date for the University of Alberta’s Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre. Back in Vancouver, Mike Noble manages acoustical consulting services and Tom Mavrow oversees A/V services.

HFP Acoustical Consultants

HKW opens a Calgary office, manned by Doug Kennedy. Doug hires Les Frank to run the office and then returns to Vancouver after nine months in Alberta. HFP Acoustical Consultants is formed and later splits to become a separate entity.

1980

Transport Canada Vehicle Noise Testing

Doug Kennedy, commissioned by Transport Canada, determines the accuracy of simplified CSA standard testing and site-to-site repeatability for heavy truck vehicle certification. His findings are published by the Society of Automotive Engineers. He then develops noise compliance test programs for new motorcycles, heavy trucks and buses to confirm that noise emissions comply with federal government regulations. His involvement in these programs extends for the next 15 years.

1981

Godot Room Acoustics Simulation Software

Barron & Associates acoustician John Walsh, along with Norman Dadoun, a member of UBC’s computer sciences department, develops software that simulates room acoustics. Walsh describes the acoustics modelling system, dubbed Godot after the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot, in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, and again in a technical session with Marcel Rivard at the Audio Engineering Society Conference in Anaheim in 1982. Godot becomes a precursor to modern ray-tracing room acoustics software.

1984

Expo Line SkyTrain

Acoustical consulting on the SkyTrain Expo Line leads to three decades of work on the Millennium Line, Canada Line and Evergreen Line.

1985

Laptop Interface for Dosimeters

Company acoustician Claudio Bulfone designs an interface to communicate between a Larson Davis 700 dosimeter and a Radio Shack TRS-80. The setup allows the team to analyze noise measurements on site.

SOUNDMDL

Doug Whicker develops SOUNDMDL, software that is used for the next 20 years to predict and illustrate the propagation of environmental noise outdoors, taking into account source directivity, geometrical spreading, atmospheric absorption, wind and thermal gradients, ground effect, and reflection and diffraction effects of barriers in 3-D space. After SOUNDMDL’s prediction results are confirmed by field measurements on a number of occasions, the software is recognized by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, Alberta Energy Regulator and BC Utilities Commission.

1986

ICA Theatre Acoustics Symposium

Doug Whicker helps organize the 12th meeting of the International Congress of Acoustics, the Vancouver Symposium on Acoustics and Theatre Planning for the Performing Arts. The symposium’s technical convener is John Walsh. Delegates include top experts in theatre acoustics from across the globe (Schultz, Meyer, Schroeder, Ando and Peutz, to name a few) and the event spotlights the capabilities of Vancouver-area theatre acousticians.

Shipboard Noise Control

Doug Kennedy tours ports around the world, visiting leading ship research centres in Europe and providing guideline specifications for controlling shipboard noise to Transport Canada.

1988

Barron Kennedy Lyzun and Associates Ltd.

Barron & Associates and HKL merge to form Barron Kennedy Lyzun and Associates Ltd.

1991

Timms Centre for the Arts

BKL provides comprehensive design and recommendations for room acoustics, noise isolation, HVAC systems noise and vibration control for the 250-seat theatre, studio theatre, rehearsal hall and backstage workshops. In the decades that follow, BKL designs the acoustics for more than 25 theatres.

1993

Sharpe Sound Studios

Sharpe Sound Studios in North Vancouver adds a new Foley studio. Since a Foley studio records subtle sound effects like twigs snapping and leaves falling, this new studio must be “intensely quiet.” Sharpe asks BKL to achieve an isolation level of NC 0—yet the lowest official NC rating available is NC 10. So BKL develops theoretical curves to properly assess the design to mitigate the studio’s noisy rooftop ventilation unit, nearby toilet and other noise sources.

 

After the work is complete, the team sits in the studio and turns on the mechanical system. The isolation is so effective that the studio mics can’t pick up the noise.

1994

Brüel & Kjær 2143 Real-Time Analyzer

BKL invests $25,000 in a Brüel & Kjær 2143 real-time analyzer. With its growing inventory of commercial instruments, BKL no longer develops electronics in house.

Shear Bracing Alert!

Doug Whicker identifies acoustical issues with the National and BC Building Codes’ method for installing shear bracing on the inside of party walls. He sends a memo titled “Shear Bracing Alert” to every architect and building inspector in Western Canada. His memo is backed by the acousticians at the National Research Council. While the National Building Code is updated with a footnote, the issue persists for years.

Rogers Arena

BKL designs the arena bowl acoustics and mechanical system noise controls for Rogers Arena (then known as GM Place), a venue noted by critics and performers for its excellent acoustics. The Who performs Quadrophenia at GM Place in 1996, and Roger Daltrey, the band’s singer, leaves the stage with these words: “Thank you, Vancouver, for letting us play someplace where you could actually hear us!”

1995

Canadian Diamond Mines

BKL conducts an environmental noise assessment for Canada’s first diamond mine, Ekati, which lies over 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. In 1998, the firm provides an environmental assessment for Diavik.

1996

BKL Consultants Ltd.

Ken Barron retires. The company changes its name to BKL Consultants Ltd., and Mike Noble and Doug Whicker join Doug Kennedy as principals.

1998

Millennium Line SkyTrain

During construction of the $1.2-billion Millennium Line, BKL predicts operational noise levels. Follow-up measurements later confirm the impressive accuracy of these predictions.

 

BKL also assesses construction-related vibration, which becomes a dicey process at times. For one measurement, the team places its equipment in a tunnel, leaves the tunnel and waits while drivers pound 10-foot diameter piles into the ground, shaking nearby buildings and communication cable runs. Fortunately vibration levels aren’t high enough to cause damage, and the team retrieves its equipment without having to employ shovels.

1999

Christ Church Cathedral

A $20-million restoration commences at the century-old Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver. BKL consults on acoustical design, which includes better isolation to mitigate noise from the ventilation system and road traffic. One unique acoustical issue is a lack of presence in the sanctuary—partly due to lightweight building materials used during construction. Mike Noble develops appropriate recommendations to increase reverberation times in the space. Work continues in phases over the next two decades and concludes in the fall of 2016 with the completion of a brand-new zinc roof, the final upgrade to help lengthen the reverb times. With the acoustical upgrades, the cathedral becomes an ideal setting for worship services, concerts and recording sessions.

2000

Expert Witness Testimony

BKL takes the stand in a murder trial, State of Nebraska versus Castor. Doug Whicker flies to Buffalo County, Nebraska, to investigate the claims of witnesses who said they heard gunshot noise outdoors. Whicker’s investigation refutes their claims, finding that any shots fired from the location where the body was found could not have been heard at the witnesses’ home.

2002

Aloha, Mr. Kennedy

BKL continues its leadership in shipboard noise control. Doug Kennedy flies to Maui, Hawaii, to assess noise controls on the Atlantis tourist submarine, while Dan Lyzun travels to Churchill, Manitoba, to attend sea trials of a new tug boat.

2003

River Rock Casino

Located under a flight path near YVR, the River Rock Casino is frequently exposed to aircraft noise. BKL is hired to isolate the theatre from the noise and recommended several special acoustical measures to isolate the atrium, buffet, hotel and theatre. BKL is also asked to isolate the casino, yet noise levels inside the casino made isolation unnecessary.

2004

Calgary Courts Centre

BKL consults on the Calgary Courts Centre, a one million square foot, 24 storey complex featuring two towers joined by a 129 metre high atrium. The complex includes a 300-seat ceremonial court, 56 courtrooms, support and administrative facilities, and secure prisoner holding areas.

2005

Brüel & Kjær 2250 Sound Analyzers

BKL begins to invest in Brüel & Kjær Type 2250 sound analyzers. The new analyzers provide a slew of advantages, including the ability to quickly compare sound pressure levels with audio files at any point during a measurement’s time history. Confirming the source of a noise event in absentia has never been easier!

Green Design, LEED and Acoustics

Mike Noble publishes an article in the Acoustical Society of America’s newsletter Echoes that highlights the impacts of green building design trends on building acoustics. The article describes how increased use of natural ventilation, eco-friendly materials and radiant cooling creates significant acoustical challenges—and explains what acousticians can consider to address these risks.

Commercial Modelling Software

Commercial software packages from Cadna/A, Odeon, etc., start replacing in-house developed software.

2006

CBC Vancouver Studios

CBC expands its building in downtown Vancouver. BKL provides solutions to manage construction noise, while also consulting on the studio design, making recommendations to control noise from the HVAC system and acoustically treat the TV and radio studios.

2008

Port Mann / Highway 1 Improvements Project

The $3.3-billion Port Mann / Highway 1 Design-Build Project becomes the largest highway infrastructure project in Canada. BKL carries out noise impact and mitigation assessments, predicting and assessing construction noise and vibration, analyzing the design of noise walls, and quantifying how noise from both future and current traffic volumes affect residences.

2010

Soundbook Analyzer

BKL invests $40,000 in a Soundbook eight-channel sound and vibration analyzer.

2012

Wildlife Noise Assessments

Accounting for the impacts that environmental noise can have on birds, marine mammals and fish, wildlife noise assessments become commonplace in the environmental assessment process.

2013

01dB DUO Smart Noise Monitors and Syscom MR3000C Vibration Meters

BKL continues to expand its instruments, investing $100,000 in built-in network-capable 01dB DUO sound monitors and Syscom MR3000C vibration meters to meet the growing demand for continuous remote monitoring in sensitive locations during the construction of major healthcare projects.

2014

Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children’s and BC Women’s Hospitals

BKL provides acoustical consulting on the new Teck Acute Care Centre at BC Children’s and BC Women’s hospitals, designing the acoustics for all interior spaces and, during construction, monitoring noise and vibration in occupied spaces (with automatic alerts). This project sees BKL return to the Oak Street site where, in the early 1980s, Barron & Associates consulted on the design of Grace Hospital when it relocated from Heather Street.

Port of Vancouver Noise Monitoring Terminals

BKL begins a three-year contract analyzing and reporting on the Port of Vancouver’s 11 permanent noise monitoring terminals.

2015

On the Small Screen

CBC’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki interviews BKL acousticians Ping Chen and Gary Mak for its special feature on sound, “Sonic Magic: The Wonder and Science of Sound.”

2016

Golden Anniversary

 

 

BKL celebrates 50 years in business.