June 2015: Livin’ It Up

The 22nd Annual Philadelphia Preservation Achievement Awards took place this month in the immaculate Lincoln Hall in the Union League of Philadelphia, which by the way won a Preservation Achievement Award last year (and guess who did the acoustic and AV design for that project?!).  Acoustics and AV may not be the first thing you think of for historic preservation projects, but these old buildings must adapt to modern uses like living, education and entertainment as they get a second life.  Living, Learning, Leisure – below are three award winning projects that we worked on to demonstrate how acoustics plays a part in historic preservation.

Living – Oxford Mills
The former Quaker City Dye Works in the Kensington section of Philadelphia is now Oxford Mills, a 200,000 SF building dedicated to low-cost housing for teachers and educational organizations.  Many older buildings have wonderful design features including wood floors and heavy timber trusses that are desirable to keep exposed.  Through careful coordination with the architect, we designed the floor/ceiling system so the trusses can still be exposed and meet the International Building Code (IBC) requirements for impact and airborne sound transmission. Like many buildings in this section of the city, Oxford Mills is very close to the Market-Frankford elevated train line and sound transmission was a big concern.  Metropolitan Acoustics measured sound levels from the elevated line and provided window configurations that would minimize sound transmission into the building.

Learning – ARCH at University of Pennsylvania
Now part of Penn, the ARCH (Arts, Research, Culture House) was originally constructed as a private Protestant student center in 1928.  In 2013, the building received HVAC and IT upgrades, new interior furnishings and fixtures, and improved circulation for its multicultural organization occupants.  Central to making all these functions work together is acoustical separation of spaces.  Additionally, fitting HVAC equipment into a historic building is tricky and noise and vibration control is paramount to ensure the spaces are quiet enough to be used.  We accomplished these items in collaboration with the design team.  The building also houses a large flexible auditorium space, and here we designed the interior room acoustics including adjustable stage acoustics to host a variety of performances.

Photo credit: University of Pennsylvania

Leisure – FringeArts
In the shadow of the Ben Franklin Bridge, the new FringeArts building was constructed in 1902 as a pump house for the Philadelphia Water Department. The building now houses La Peg, an acclaimed restaurant and beer garden, and a 225-seat theater as well as rehearsal spaces and offices.  The acoustic detailing on this project was extremely important, not just for the interior room acoustics of the theater, but also for the isolation between the restaurant and theater, which are separated by a 25-ft. high double operable partition. The spaces can be opened up to each other for large events, but for typical use, are separated by the partition. Noise and vibration control of the HVAC systems were provided as well as isolation of sound from the bridge traffic to the building interior.

Living, learning and leisure might not have the rhythm like the pop song Livin’ La Vida Loca but it is a mantra to be sung when renovating historic facilities for today’s use. If it’s meant for living, learning and leisure – then it’s meant to have acoustical properties evaluated, too.

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