Cafeteria Sound Control - is it Possible?

By: Mark Rustad

Cafeterias in schools, workplaces and hospitals can serve hundreds, even thousands of diners on a daily basis. Besides providing a convenient dining location, a cafeteria also takes on a social outlet as diners enjoy a brief break from work or school. Cafeterias share a noise control challenge common to many dining establishments-the presence of numerous reflective surfaces which amplify sound reverberations produced by voices throughout the cafeteria.

The abundant hard, reflective surfaces present in cafeterias facilitate ease of cleaning but are also a source of diminished acoustical quality. As multiple people begin to converse within a cafeteria, a portion of the sound produced by their voices will reverberate from the reflective surfaces throughout the room. These sound reverberations reflect back into the room, resulting in background noise that can interfere with sound quality within the cafeteria. As more diners converse within the cafeteria, background noise is heightened and people begin to speak more loudly in order to counteract higher noise levels. Understanding reverberation makes it easy to see how noise levels within a cafeteria are exacerbated as the number of people present increases.

What can be done to alleviate the issue of cafeteria noise? The goal in improving acoustics within a cafeteria is capturing excess reverberations such that background noise is cleared out, in turn allowing conversation among diners to return to normal levels. Treatments which serve to absorb excess sound reverberations are surprisingly easy to implement within a large dining area such as a cafeteria.

Sound absorption panels are the key to clearing out background noise in a cafeteria such that diners can enjoy comfortable, audible conversation. Treatments can be in the form of wall panels or coverings situated throughout the cafeteria, or the more common arrangement of absorptive ceiling panels suspended from above. Several products are available today to serve just this purpose, and treatments can be easily self installed. There is even some flexibility with regard to the positioning of each panel. In applying sound absorption treatments within a cafeteria, the quantity of panels present is more important than their positioning. This flexibility makes it simple to adapt a treatment to accommodate individual characteristics of a cafeteria, such as doors and windows.

With information about the size and unique characteristics of a cafeteria, a soundproofing consultant can provide invaluable guidance as to the quantity and type of sound control products necessary to achieve the desired results. Due to the individual nature of each sound control project, it is advised to consult with an expert prior to attempting to install a soundproofing treatment.

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