Next-Generation MLV: Mass Loaded Vinyl’s Potential Applications

Soundproof Media Room

While Mass Loaded Vinyl has been a dependable and competitive product to improve STC in industrial settings for decades, there has been little improvement in the product itself in recent years. As we’ve discussed before, Mass Loaded Vinyl is a PVC-based product that adds a cheap filler, usually Calcium Carbonate or Barium Sulfate, to provide superior sound ratings. The initial versions of MLV included Lead as well but was replaced over the years due to health concerns.

The focus on product development has been on how to make the product cheaper, and thus more applicable to residential and commercial settings. This has led to a number of improvements in manufacturing and a search for cheaper filler alternatives.

However, the PVC-base of the product has not changed – until recently. After several years of product development, followed by 18 months of fire and acoustical testing, Commercial Acoustics has developed an EVA-based Mass Loaded Vinyl soundproofing membrane that has improved the performance without sacrificing cost competitiveness.

One major difference is that PVC is a naturally rigid material (think exterior panels for housing or fences). In order to make it flexible, you need to add a softening agent, known as a “plasticizer”. The downside of this is 1) added cost, and 2) the plasticizer migrates out of the product over time, causing the PVC to become brittle. This is why older plastic toys break easily if left outside for a few weeks.

While Wall Blokker is equally heavy as other types of Mass Loaded Vinyl, the improved flexibility also improves the sound-blocking capacity, on both Wood and Metal stud walls.

Regardless of your needs, Commercial Acoustics has years of experience installing Mass Loaded Vinyl and Wall Blokker products, to offer our a clients a full range of solutions for their unique problems.

Isolating Vibrating Machinery

Commercial Acoustics Isolating Vibrating Machinery

From factories to schools to offices, nearly all buildings contain some type of mechanical equipment. While necessary to keep operations running smoothly, mechanical equipment tends to generate a lot of excess noise. These types of machines vibrate as they operate, creating a type of noise that can be both heard and felt by building occupants. This is because vibrations move from the machines to various building elements, traveling throughout the building’s structure and spreading noise as they go.

Constant vibrations rumbling in the background make for a distracting environment in which employees and students have difficulty focusing and are therefore less productive than they could be. This common noise problem can be resolved with soundproofing techniques like sound isolation. In this case, sound isolation means separating the offending equipment from the building’s structure in order to prevent vibrations from being transmitted from the machine to structural elements. Resilient mounts can be used for this purpose by isolating vibrating machinery from the building’s structure. This solution works best when equipment is located close to columns or load-bearing walls, as these structures offer better support for the resilient mounts.

Typically, mechanical equipment is bolted directly to the floor, allowing vibrations to easily jump from the machine and attach to structural elements, sending additional vibrations throughout the entire building. By relocating this type of equipment so that it can be mounted to a column or load-bearing wall with a resilient mount, structure-borne noise can be diminished. While machinery treated in this manner will still project some amount of airborne noise, the removal of the structure-borne noise is typically enough to render the remaining airborne noise unnoticeable.

Noise from mechanical equipment may seem impossible to resolve, but with the proper soundproofing techniques, the noise problem can be eliminated without much interruption to the building’s daily use. If you’re concerned about mechanical noise becoming an issue in one of your projects, reach out to Commercial Acoustics to learn more about resolving this type of noise problem.

Understanding Speech Privacy

soundproofing and sound masking for open offices

What is Speech Privacy?

Speech Privacy can be defined as the inability of an outside listener to understand a conversation between two or more separate individuals. Effective speech privacy is an essential aspect of any office as it allows employees to:

  • Conduct confidential conversations without being overheard
  • Ignore distracting conversations
  • Understand in-person and phone conversations more clearly

Measuring Speech Privacy

Speech privacy operates on a scale of 0% – 100%, where 0% means perfect privacy (no communication) and 100% means perfect communication (no privacy). Most offices aim to achieve a speech privacy level of 5%. At this level, most speech will be unintelligible to an outside listener, though some words may be understood.

Achieving Speech Privacy

In order to achieve the desired level of speech privacy, there must be a careful balance between the noise created by the speaker and the ambient noise in the room.

When the speaker’s voice is louder than the ambient noise in the room, the speech becomes non-private, rendering it intelligible to all those within earshot.

When the speaker’s voice is much lower than the ambient noise, the intended listener will be unable to understand the speaker.

When the speaker’s voice and the ambient noise are equal, speech privacy will be at its most ideal level.

Direct Speech Paths vs. Reflective Speech Paths

Open office plans allow for direct speech intrusion paths, meaning speech will travel directly from the speaker to the listener. These paths may be blocked with the introduction of screens. Screens can be anything that blocks the sound’s path including acoustical products, furniture and cubicle walls.

Enclosed plans allow for speech intrusion through shared walls and doors, flanking, and sound leaks (cracks) in the building’s structure. These paths may be closed by sealing sound leaks, installing carpeting and softer furnishings, and installing acoustic panels to walls and ceilings.

If you have concerns about speech privacy in a current building project, contact Commercial Acoustics or leave a comment below!

MLV Barrier: When to Use Mass Loaded Vinyl

Mass Loaded Vinyl MLV Sound Barrier Soundproofing

What makes Mass Loaded Vinyl (also known as MLV) effective and what are its limitations? While it’s been around for several decades there is still a lot of misinformation about MLV within the construction industry. First and foremost, it should not be considered a “panacea”. While effective in many assemblies, it may not be as effective in some.

Standard Mass Loaded Vinyl is known by many trade names, though it is largely the exact same product extruded from the same few manufacturers in the US. Some of the trade names include MLV BlokkerTuffMass, AcoustiBlok, and Vinaflex, but many others are similar or equivalent. The polymer is an extruded Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) which is “mass-loaded” with a cheap filler, typically Calcium Carbonate or Barium Sulfate. When considering an MLV supplier, it is critical to ask for performance data (lab and field) and compare pricing. While these products typically cost around $0.30/sf to manufacture, the retail prices vary widely from $1.00-$8.00/sf.

The product is most useful on steel-stud walls that can benefit from some additional weight while not needing significant decoupling (i.e. double-studs or resilient channel), but can also be effective in industrial settings.

 

Pros & Cons of Mass Loaded Vinyl

Pros:

  • Pricing: Numerous suppliers of near-identical polymers makes it easy to shop around for best price
  • Field Performance: While many products test well in the lab, but underperform in the field due to grounding issues (i.e. Resilient Channel), mass loaded vinyl tends to perform near its lab value even when installation conditions are not ideal

Cons:

  • Installation Difficulties: Can be challenging to install due to high weight, flexible material. Installers should ask for detailed installation instructions and/or a complimentary site visit
  • Tear Strength: Low tensile strength makes tears common without proper support. Long sheets may require washers
  • Off-gassing: The plasticizers in mass-loaded vinyl can off-gas at room temperature over time, diminishing its acoustic performance

 

Tips when selecting Mass Loaded Vinyl:

NOTE/DISCLAIMER: Commercial Acoustics offers both PVC-based Mass Loaded Vinyl as well as Ethel Vinyl Acetate (EVA) soundproofing membranes, and numerous other types of soundproofing products (including acoustic gypsum, resilient vibrational products, and mineral wool, among others). By offering several approaches to achieve STC targets, and always supplying lab-tested supporting data, we believe that customers can compare apples-to-apples performance data with price comparisons in order to determine the best material for their projects.

For projects that have significant cost restraints, MLV might be the only option to increase the STC without breaking the bank. However, for long-term projects that can afford a 20% cost premium then Wall Blokker provides superior performance and results.

 

Consensus on MLV and Soundproofing Membranes:

Ultimately, Mass-Loaded Vinyl and other soundproofing membranes can be most effective when used in tested assemblies where STC performance is critical. Using MLV is often much more effective than double-stacking layers of drywall, but contractors and installers should be sure to ask for performance data (not just marketing material) and ensure that pricing is competitive.

Acoustics for Schools

commercial acoustics school soundproofing acoustics

Imagine trying to learn integral calculus with the drumming of a mechanical room next to you. Or trying to memorize Shakespeare lines or capials in the Far East capitals the band plays a marching tune above. This is a situation that many students in our nation’s schools encounter every day.

Designing and building schools for the proper acoustics is a challenging task, but one that is critical to allow the students to focus on curriculum rather than be distracted by poor reverberation or cross-talk from neighboring classrooms and areas.

Unfortunately, there is very little regulation in this arena, leading designers and builders to wonder where to turn when questions arise. Luckily, with careful research and review, there are a few leading sources to determine best practices and guidelines, and they’re available to the public.

One of these is ANSI S12 American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools, Part 1: Permanent Schools. This standard provides numerous guidelines for designers, especially STC’s and IIC’s for how much sound walls should block between various room adjacencies. For instance, well classroom to classroom partitions need only to block 45 dBs, classroom to hallways require 50 and above and classroom to mechanical room require STC’s 65 and higher.

Furthermore, this ANSI standard provides reverberation criteria in both classrooms and auditorium or assembly settings. By providing an allowable reverberation range, often 0.4 – 0.6 seconds, the standard addresses the difficulties students face when trying to focus with poor room acoustics. Best of all, the standard is free and available for public download. Please find it here.

DoDEA Department of Defense Education Activity, similar to the ANSI standard but less specific, the DoDEA standard provides similar target ratings for walls and floors. It is a good reference for military and large government education facilities.

Once these target STC’s are determined by the designer the next step will be to decide exactly how to hit each rating. This is often best done with the help of a consultant or acoustical expert – and many suppliers (including Commercial Acoustics) offers design-assist support free of charge.

By referring to these public resources designers may benefit from past lessons learned and best practices encountered by those most experienced in the issues when acoustics fall short in our schools.

Sound Masking Demo in Tampa

Commercial Acoustics Sound Masking Tampa

Commercial Acoustics has installed a sound-masking demonstration at its headquarters on Cypress St near downtown Tampa. A newer technology, aimed at providing speech privacy in open offices, Sound Masking is a tool that is typically most helpful in open office spaces or areas requiring long duration focus (libraries, classrooms etc.). Commercial Acoustics has installed sound masking systems in various local businesses, but now having a system installed at their own facility interested customers can visit the space to see the power.

Sound masking is a technology that deploys pink noise speakers typically above the ceiling grid to raise the ambient background level in a space. By raising the background noise, loud distracting sounds become less apparent to the “receiver”. For a list of sound masking case studies check here:

As you can see, the need for sound masking varies widely but is a good resource when sound isolation alone does not solve the problem.

Guidelines for Worship Center Sound Treatment

acoustics for worship center

Sound treatment is critical in faith and worship centers, as these locations tend to rely heavily on both speech and music. The centers must be properly outfitted with acoustical equipment to increase speech intelligibility while simultaneously enhancing the quality of musical components.

The equal importance of music and speech quality creates a challenge for architects and consultants working to achieve proper hearing conditions in worship centers. Consider these guidelines when working on worship center acoustics to create the perfect balance.

Floor Plans

Develop a narrow floor plan with a high room volume to support lateral sound. In wider plans, sound tends to feel as though it is coming from far-away, which hurts acoustics.

Elevate Pulpits

Pulpits, podiums, lecterns or any other platform on which a speaker or performer stands, should be raised and near a wall.

Avoid Concave Ceilings

Ceilings should not contain any type of dome or other concave shapes. These types of shapes focus sound energy, weakening volume.

Seating

Seats should be arranged as close to the speaker’s platform as possible. Carpets and cushioning can be used in seating areas to improve absorption as well as reduce foot-traffic noise.

Sound Reflecting Materials

Any new building should be completed with sound reflecting materials such as concrete or thick plaster. Include multiple irregularities like bumps and indents to improve reverberance, diffusion and lateral reflections.

Music

The choir, organ, and organ console (if present) should be clustered together to create balance. Refrain from using carpeting, cushioning and other sound absorbing materials in the choir area.

Minimize Background Noise

Mechanical noise can be seriously problematic during meditation, prayer and other silent moments in the worship center. Mechanical systems and pipes should be outfitted with soundproofing material and quieter systems should be installed when possible.

Speaker Systems

A central electronic sound-reinforcing system should be installed to enhance speech intelligibility and ensure the sound comes from the speaker’s location to create a sense of unity.

Proper speech intelligibility combined with musical clarity helps to create the ideal worship center environment. Consider these guidelines the next time you provide acoustical consulting or treatment to a worship center.

Did one of these ideas help you with a project? Let us know in the comments below!

Auditorium Acoustics: 8 Factors to Consider

auditorium acoustics

Have you ever attended a lecture or a play in an auditorium and barely been able to make out what the speaker was saying? Chances are the problem was poor acoustics.

Next time you provide acoustical consulting for an auditorium, make sure to consider these 7 key factors:

1. Location

For new auditoriums, the building should be planned as far away as possible from any potential noise sources such as highways, train tracks or industrial areas.

2. Buffer Zones

Isolate the auditorium from the rest of the building and potential noise sources by creating buffer zones.

Hallways and lobbies should separate the main auditorium from restrooms, mechanical equipment, dressing rooms etc. Surrounding space should be used for storage or offices that will be empty while the auditorium is in use.

3. Doorways

All doors should be solid-core, with airtight seals to inhibit outside noise from slipping in.

4. Reverberation

To combat reverb in a large room:

  • Build with sound absorbing material and include sunken panels, undulations and other small irregularities in the walls
  • Sound reflecting materials should be used for the bulk of the building process (thick wood, thick gypsum, concrete)
  • Hang thick, fabric curtains along walls to minimize hard surfaces
  • All aisles should be carpeted to reduce foot-traffic noise
  • Always use fabric seating. Avoid metal and plastic.
  • Create a checkerboard pattern alternating between sound reflecting and sound absorbing materials along the ceiling.

5. Background Noise

Install sound absorbing duct liners and mufflers to reduce HVAC noise.

6. Balcony

Balconies should be included to reduce the distance between the farthest seats and the stage. The overhang should be of small depth and be fitted with sound absorbing material

7. Sound Systems

Speakers should be placed just above and in front of the proscenium opening or arch. The controls for these speakers should be positioned in a central location of the seating area rather than in a separate room in the back of the auditorium.

8. Orchestra Pits

If the auditorium has an orchestra pit, soundproof curtains should be installed that can be opened and closed as the conductor chooses to control the noise level.

General auditoriums play host to a wide range of performances and events which will have no chance of success if audiences aren’t able to hear them. Consider this list the next time you’re working on a general auditorium to create the ideal acoustics.

Have any other tips about auditorium acoustics? Leave them in the comments below!

 

Classroom Noise Distracts Students

classroom acoustics

Classrooms, especially grade school classrooms, are notoriously loud. We tend to credit the noise to students giggling with their friends and playing with their iPhones under their desks, but they may not be entirely to blame when it comes to tumultuous classrooms.

Think back to the last classroom you were in. What did it look like? Chances are there were tiled floors, cement walls, and endless rows of metal desks – the kinds of surfaces sound waves thrive on.

Sound waves deflect off of these hard surfaces, sending noise flying in every direction. This commotion makes it difficult for students to hear and encourages them to add to the chaos rather than strain their ears to listen. If you’re a teacher or educator looking to quiet your classrooms’ noise problem, you need to hear about these sound solutions.

Wreck the Reverb

Acoustic Absorption Panels are the simplest solution to any classroom noise problem. These durable panels can be installed in as little as fifteen minutes; perfect for teachers on a time crunch.

How It Works: Hang your panels around the room, placing a few on each wall. As sound waves are generated from students chatting, tapping their feet and clicking their pens, they will start to fly around the room and crash into any available surface. As the waves hit the panels, they will be absorbed by the acoustical fiberglass and fabric, silencing them and stopping them from further bouncing around the room.

Ease the Echo

Echo occurs as noise bounces off of a surface and returns to the listener as a secondary sound. Bare rooms with hard surfaces, like classrooms, are likely to experience a good amount of echo. For educators on a budget, absorption foam is an affordable solution with high-cost results.

How it Works: Absorption foam is a lightweight product made from open cell polyurethane, allowing for quick and easy installation. The foam can be hung along walls with any construction adhesive approved for foam and can be installed in less than fifteen minutes. The highly-engineered material traps sound waves as they hit, diminishing echo and improving the listening quality of the room.

Loud background noise distracts students and makes hearing difficult. Help your students succeed by treating the noise and providing a quiet learning environment you can all enjoy.

Have a question about the acoustics of your classroom? Let us know in the comments below, at Commercial Acoustics, we’re always here to help!

Save Time & Money – Choose Wall Blokker Over Layered Drywall

Soundproofing is an obstacle general contractors face during both new construction projects and renovations. The mistake of installing 2 or more layers of drywall is commonly made when combating this issue in the hopes that the extra layers will provide a sufficient sound barrier. Multiple layers of drywall may muffle some sound but will not make any drastic impact on noise control.

Drywall, while an extremely useful building resource, is designed for the construction of walls, not for blocking noise. Typical drywall contains a solid gypsum core that vibrates as it encounters sound waves, allowing noise to pass through easily. Not only does layered drywall do little to block out sound, procuring and installing the extra material is expensive and time-consuming.

Wasted time and money can be avoided by installing Wall Blokker underneath one single layer of drywall. Wall Blokker is specifically designed to block airborne noise as well as decouple drywall from underlying studs to decrease structure-borne noise in both walls and ceilings. It is easy to install and requires less time and effort than purchasing and layering extra sheets of drywall.

Most importantly, Wall Blokker will reduce 75% of airborne and impact noise, something no amount of drywall can do. In addition to its impressive noise blocking abilities, Wall Blokker offers barriers against moisture and air, making it a 3-in-1 solution.

Choosing Wall Blokker allows for the construction of a significantly quieter structure with less material and labor than layered drywall.

soundproofing walls sound barrier