Village halls are the hub of rural community life, in daily use meeting the social, cultural and sporting needs of the local area. Most village halls have a large main room, with adjoining smaller rooms, together with a kitchen area. Some also have a raised stage area for music and drama performances. It is the sheer variety of uses which create issues for users, especially when the main hall is housing a noisy children’s party at the same time as another room is being used for a meeting of the Womens’ Institute! This can create problems with echo and reverberation from high intensity activity drowning out quieter, more sedate pursuits, to the detriment of all concerned.
Many village halls, by their very nature, consist of high, open, roofing spaces, often with iron framework, or with plastered ceilings. Walls are usually of brick or breeze-block, and floors, which are designed for heavy traffic, consist of varnished wood, tiles or vinyl-covered concrete. It is these hard, acoustically reflective surfaces which exacerbate the problem of controlling noise levels in a multi-functional building, affecting speech clarity and spatial decay significantly. Loud and high-pitched noise may have a reverberation time of up to 4.0 seconds, at which speech becomes unintelligible in crowded rooms. The desired reverberation times in village halls may need to be a compromise target to accommodate all uses, but should be considered to avoid conflict between different user groups. The overall reverberation times should be in the region of 0.5-1.5 seconds to satisfy all users of the facility.
The solution is to improve acoustic separation for all rooms through the use of materials to absorb sound, insulate, and sufficiently reduce noise to levels acceptable to all. The materials used need to complement the existing decor, be aesthetically pleasing, and cost effective, especially if community funding or grants are being used. Acoustic ceiling and wall panels will greatly reduce noise levels.
Acoustic panels may be attached to the entire ceiling, or suspended as circular acoustic rafts, creating a very pleasing effect as well as acting as sound absorption baffles. Highly decorative wall panels are visually appealing, and improve speech intelligibility and social interaction in public spaces. Custom-printed, bespoke acoustic artwork may be attached to walls, along with site-built, fabric-wrapped acoustic panels. For ball-game and indoor sports training use, special impact-resistant acoustic panels should be considered.
As you can see, there are a number of solutions that could be deployed depending on the general use of the village hall, so it is always advisable to speak to an expert to find the most appropriate solution for your specific needs.