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Somerville College upgrades its acoustics

One of Oxford University’s colleges has seen its acoustic performance significantly upgraded thanks to the use of the StoSilent Direct acoustic ceiling system.

It has been installed at Somerville College as part of a major project to upgrade both the acoustics and the lighting of the Grade II listed dining hall. “This was a complex project where the aim was to create a much-improved acoustic environment in the hall,” explains Sto’s acoustics project manager, James Gosling. “The hall is used both for dining and for formal events, so outstanding acoustic performance was a key requirement. The aim was to increase the amount of acoustic attenuation material within the moulded panels of the existing vaulted ceiling, but the chosen acoustic system also had to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the new lighting system which was being installed. The project demanded close liaison between ourselves, the architect and the applicator in order to design and install the most effective and appropriate solution possible.” Thomas Cotton of Associated Architects explains: “We knew that Sto had worked on similar, historically-sensitive projects in the past, and that experience was a key requirement for us. Refurbishing buildings of this age comes with particular challenges, so it was important that we worked with a proven acoustic ceiling supplier and installer, who understood our requirement for high performance absorption with minimal visual impact.” The chosen system also had to offer a high degree of flexibility in terms of design and installation. Associated Architects were looking for a system that could be applied directly onto the existing structure, but which would have minimal physical and visual impact. This project involved a very significant heritage building and the acoustic boards had to integrate as closely as possible with the existing ceiling beams and surfaces. “The Sto system is extremely adaptable and so it was able to satisfy all these requirements,” comments Harry Austin of Alpine Finishing who installed the acoustic products. “Working together with Sto and Associated Architects was also very beneficial, as we were able to pool our expertise and create a really successful solution.” The StoSilent Direct system offers a particularly economical method of minimising reverberation times and reducing noise levels, as it can be applied directly to walls and ceilings without the need for a sub-construction – a feature which also makes it quick and easy to install. The acoustically porous nature of the materials and finish textures mean that the system is highly sound absorbent and in addition, has a reaction to fire classification of A2-s1, d0 in accordance with EN 13501-1. The Sto system was completed with a StoSilent Top Finish to blend with the existing refurbished ceiling features. This organic, porous finishing coat is trowel- applied, and has an ultra-fine grain size which allows the creation of smooth surfaces across ceiling areas. It is environmentally friendly and is available in a large range of colours, making it compatible with a wide range of architectural and design styles. The wood-panelled Somerville College hall features raised stage areas at either end, and these required a slightly different treatment. Bespoke acoustic modules constructed from Sto’s StoSilent Distance system were created and then installed above the raised platform areas to add extra acoustic attenuation.

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