Cathedral Court, Blackburn

dBx Acoustics worked with Purcell on the acoustic design of the new Cathedral Court development in Blackburn. Our involvement in the project began in 2013 during concept design and continued to the scheme’s completion in July 2016.

Situated adjacent to the Cathedral, the new mixed use building includes townhouses and apartments for the Clergy, rooms for choral scholars, a refectory, library, and Cathedral offices. The acoustic design was required to significantly exceed the basic standard required by Approved Document E, and also to use modern building techniques and materials such as glulam timber frames as well as incorporating natural and reclaimed materials.

As well as achieving a high standard of acoustic privacy between the residences, dBx Acoustics worked to control noise transfer between office and residential units and worked with the M&E consultants to specify noise control for building services both within and external to the building. We also worked with the Architect to develop facade and glazing configurations appropriate to control noise intrusion into the residences such that occupants would have appropriate acoustic conditions for both rest and sleep.

It is believed to be the first group of new domestic buildings at any English cathedral for over 500 years. The cathedral itself was built in 1826 and was granted cathedral status in 1926, but stands on a foundation that is believed to date back to 596.

Canon Andrew Hindley, Canon Sacrist, commented: “This building has been delivered by the determination of many, many people. It has had a number of false dawns and almost didn’t happen. It has already been and will continue to be life changing and life-giving in so many ways to the Cathedral Community, the people of Blackburn and the County and beyond.”

dBx Case Studies - Education

There is a proven link between acoustic conditions in schools and educational outcomes. Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) mandates minimum standards in primary and secondary schools for noise levels and room acoustics, as well as acoustic separation between teaching spaces.

The dBx Acoustics team can help you comply with BB93, but our expertise goes even further. We have extensive experience designing environments for pupils with additional needs, including autism and hearing loss, as well as higher education and noisier, practical workshop spaces.

New and refurbished school buildings must comply with Building Regulation E4 and the acoustic performance standards of Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) ‘Acoustic Design of Schools’. Whilst BB93 is not mandatory for higher education establishments, it typically forms the basis of the initial design for such establishments, with modifications as appropriate to allow for specific HE uses. Where projects are being designed with BREEAM in mind, credits HEA05 and POL05 are also relevant.

There are a number of different acoustic aspects which come together to ensure that acoustic conditions in schools are appropriate to support learning, and it’s so important to get it right – studies have shown that educational attainment can be directly correlated to acoustic conditions.

Our involvement often begins at the planning stage with an environmental noise survey, which allows us to advise on ventilation and glazing requirements to control noise ingress to the building. If mechanical ventilation is proposed, if there is an external MUGA, or if community use is proposed, the noise survey also allows noise emission limits to be set to ensure that existing neighbours are not adversely affected by noise.

Internal ambient noise levels in teaching spaces are also affected by mechanical ventilation, and we work with the M&E consultant to specify appropriate noise control measures, such as silencers.
When it comes to the design of the building itself, BB93 requires us to specify partitions and floors to control airborne and impact sound transmission between teaching spaces, based on their relative sensitivity and noise generation characteristics. The detailing of junctions and sealing of any services penetrations is critical in maintaining acoustic separation between adjacent rooms.

Having provided a suitably quiet teaching environment which won’t be adversely affected by activity in other classrooms, our focus moves to room acoustics and control of reverberation. Often this is as simple as specifying the acoustic performance of a suspended ceiling, but for large spaces such as Assembly Halls and Sports Halls, we undertake acoustic modelling to optimise the specification and placement of acoustic finishes. Where an exposed soffit is preferred, we calculate the specification and quantity of finishes, such as acoustic rafts and wall panels to control room acoustic conditions.

Finally, we carry out pre-completion acoustic testing on-site to ensure that all of the acoustic criteria for the project have been complied with on-site.

The dBx Acoustics team also have a particular interest in acoustic design for SEN schools, particularly schools catering to neurodiverse pupils. BB93 specifies design criteria for “children with special hearing and communication needs”, which is intended to include autism, ADHD and auditory processing difficulties, and assists in providing an environment in which speech transmission is clear and effective. The standard does not, however, consider the other acoustic aspects of school life which affect such pupils, including auditory sensitivities and the need to provide spaces to allow a retreat from the noise and bustle of daily school life. Our team’s direct and personal experiences of neurodiversity, both as parents and as individuals, helps us to understand the requirements of individual educational clients, and help guide the design of educational buildings to provide an acoustically diverse and appropriate environment.

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