Acoustical Design for Houses of Worship

Christ Church Cathedral - Acoustical Design for Houses of Worship

Acoustical Design for Houses of Worship

Few buildings have more demanding acoustical requirements than houses of worship. Because the delivery of spoken word and the offering of devotional music are the primary reasons these buildings exist, their acoustical environments must support both of these elements.

Acoustics and the Spoken Word

Hearing the spoken word is critically important for the comfort and participation of worshippers. Acousticians call this speech intelligibility. Acoustical design for speech intelligibility involves engineering the room shape, finishes, and mechanical services to create a space where speech is clearly audible throughout. For many rooms—including houses of worship—speech intelligibility is as important to the room’s success as heating and lighting. A room with good speech intelligibility should meet the needs of everyone in the congregation, including people with impaired hearing. If you’re interested in reading more about speech intelligibility, check out these blog posts.

Devotional Music

Devotional music takes several forms, from traditional acoustic instruments and singing, to fully amplified electronic music ensembles. A house of worship’s acoustical design should support the congregation’s music and worship style. The acoustical criteria for a space with a pipe organ and large choir are substantially different than they are for a space with an amplified sound system, electric guitars, and drums. At BKL, we can provide acoustical design services to support musicians and singers of any style of devotional music, and set the stage for a musical experience that engages worshippers.

Congregation Participation

Congregational singing creates a powerful bond and sense of unity among worshippers, and acoustical design can help make that connection throughout the space, even under balconies. Careful design of wall shapes and tailoring of the reverberation time can facilitate that connection without compromising speech intelligibility.

Noise Control

Background noise from air conditioning, traffic, or other sources can distract the occupants and degrade speech intelligibility within a worship space. Acoustical consultants can assess the potential for distracting or annoying noise and provide recommendations to control it.

We have the knowledge and experience to provide acoustical design for heating and ventilation systems, as well as details for wall and roof design to reduce noise from other sources.

The Acoustical Consultant’s Role

At BKL, we begin the acoustical design process by meeting with the building committee and the architect to establish the acoustical requirements based on your worship style. To ensure a harmonious design, our acousticians work alongside the architect to integrate the acoustical design details with the architectural design elements.

New Construction or Renovations

We provide acoustical design services for both new construction and renovations. For new construction projects, we evaluate room designs during the concept design stage and identify potential acoustical problems. This way we can propose solutions well before construction. Acoustical problems can plague a building through its life, as some problems cannot be economically remedied after construction. Our involvement at an early stage of design can prevent costly flaws in room shape and finish.

For building renovations, we take accurate acoustical measurements on site and use state-of-the art sound analysis and modelling to identify acoustical and sound system problems. Our team analyzes the data and provides detailed recommendations for remedial acoustical treatment refits.

For more than 50 years, BKL has successfully provided complete acoustical design services for houses of worship of all denominations. Our team handles all aspects of room acoustics, noise isolation, and mechanical noise control to provide the best possible acoustical design for new constructions or renovations. Check out a few of our notable projects here, or contact us to learn more.

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