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‘Quietest room in Midtown’ measures noise simulations for construction projects

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Photo: Ashok Sinha

In a place as noisy as New York City, can a room that drowns out the hustle and bustle of Midtown truly exist?

Turns out, it does. AKRF, an engineering and environmental firm that specializes in measuring acoustics, has created a room where you cannot hear the outside world. Called The Pindrop, as the name suggests, it is so quiet in this room, that you can quite literally hear a pin drop.

“Architects, part of what they do is create these visual renderings which are powerful tools to evaluate your decisions so that your project is going to result in the way you want it to. For acoustical consultants, we work on every type of project imaginable, from schools to performing arts venues, film and TV production studios, sound stages, hospitals, hotels, residences,” said Benjamin Sachwald, Senior Vice President of Acoustics, Noise & Vibrations at AKRF. “We’re part of the design team where we’re advising on the type of wall design or ceiling design to block sound or contain sound, different treatments inside the space so you have good speech intelligibility, occupant comfort, mechanical systems so that you can hear each other.”

The PinDrop was designed by AKRF with the purpose of creating the best space to simulate what kind of noise would be let into certain projects. At the start of any project, the team at AKRF will go to the location, whether it is new construction, an existing building or a singular apartment, and get a baseline recording of the sounds in the area. The sounds that AKRF measure covers a variety of noises, including construction in progress, outdoor dining, pile drivers and a passing subway train.

Once all of the data has been collected, the team uses the PinDrop to test cutting-edge noise prevention technology against the real-life sounds that they capture that will make life bearable for residents and surrounding communities. You can’t hear what’s going on outside the room, while everything inside the room is fully contained and doesn’t bleed into the rest of the office space.

“We can create authentic sounds and you stand outside the room and you don’ hear a thing, it doesn’t bother anyone,” said Sachwald. “That was important to us.”

“It’s all pretty even so you get a very true, flat response in the room. Our goal is always accuracy as scientists, it’s not necessarily just the most pleasant sounding room, which I think the room does sound pleasant — it’s not designed just for pleasantness, it’s designed for a true, flat response so that when we play back the recording of the train, the room is not coloring that sound at all, it’s playing it back accurately,” said Nathaniel Fletcher, Senior Acoustical Consultant at AKRF.

The technology in the PinDrop can also replicate noises that one might not realize is there. For example, AKRF can simulate the sound of living on top of an underground subway track as well as replicate a hybrid in-person/Zoom meeting in a conference room while taking into account what sort of systems are in place that will interfere with the noise levels in said room.

“When we’re out at a sight, we take measurements and recordings and then we can simulate with and without at different points in the building,” said Daniel Abatemarco, Vice President of Acoustics, Noise & Vibrations at AKRF. “Hearing it really helps. The other thing to note is that in the PinDrop, our background decibel is so low that almost any sound you hear is kind of magnified. So as part of our project-specific audio simulation, we’ll also know what their mechanical system is, what background sound level can you expect in an apartment, we know what their windows are and took measurements and recordings of the traffic as well.”

AKRF says that the PinDrop has only been officially open for use for the past couple of months, but they’ve already done a massive amount of work analyzing sounds for clients. The sky is the limit on what you can replicate, and AKRF recommends reaching out to them if using the PinDrop when planning your next big construction project.

“Acoustics is at the top of the list of what people want, people will be happier at home if they feel peaceful and comfortable,” said Sachwald. “People will have better listening comprehension schools if the classrooms are up to a certain level. People will be more productive at work if the acoustics support that. There are so many reasons why acoustics should be on everyone’s radar.”

The PinDrop is located at AKRF headquarters, 440 Park Avenue South. For more information, visit akrf.com.

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