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Knauf AMF enhance the acoustics in the new building at the Bielefeld University of Applied Science

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29 Jun 2016

Simultaneous learning. Total concentration and without being disturbed. And that is in spite of the open landscape for learning. It is the 36,000 square metres of wood wool acoustic panels provided by Knauf AMF, the ceiling specialists, that make it possible to have the quiet learning environment required for the EUR 180 million new building at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences. This is because they reduce the reverberation, feature a natural look and are highly economical at the same time.

Bielefeld University has almost 9,700 students and is the largest publicly-funded university in the East Westphalia-Lippe. Until then its faculties had been distributed over several locations. This all changed with the opening of the new building in Campus North during the winter semester of 2015/16.

31,500 square metres of floor space house 16 lecture theatres, 220 seminar rooms, a library, laboratories, computer centre, two café bars and a cafeteria with outdoor seating. “The Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences has been given its own specific address and a new look on the Bielefeld campus,” said Beate Rennen-Allhoff, President of the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences. “For the first time, the different university disciplines can engage in teaching, learning and research under one roof - with an outstanding infrastructure and the latest equipment.” The students belong to the Engineering Science, Mathematics, Social Studies and Business Studies faculties.

Knauf AMF enhance the acoustics in the new building at the Bielefeld University of Applied Science

Large open landscape for learning presented an acoustical challenge

The creative forces of Auer Weber, the Munich architectural firm, are behind the construction of the new building. They have designed the building so that it features a feeling of openness to encourage communication and interdisciplinary collaboration. There are large spaces where people can come together to share ideas, courtyards flooded with light and wide corridors that are attractive and inspirational to walk along.

However, this openness presented the architects with the acoustic challenge of reducing reverberation. “At an early stage, we decided to install a suspended ceiling throughout the building to offer students a quiet and pleasant acoustical environment,” reflected Thomas Schonder, architect at Auer Weber. This is how the search for a suitable ceiling solution began.

36,000 square metres of wood wool acoustic panels improve the acoustics

The Auer Weber planning team found what they were looking for at Knauf AMF. The ceiling specialist from Grafenau produces Heradesign superfine - 35 millimetre thick wood wool acoustic panels made of magnesite bonded wood and water. The architects used a metal CD supporting structure to suspend 36,000 square metres of these panels weighing 15 kg per square metre (special format: 550x2200 millimetres) from the ceiling. Optimal sound absorption each type of room was achieved by varying the suspension height and using different thicknesses of mineral wool insulation as a lining between the ceiling itself and the acoustic panels.

This acoustic lining has been fitted throughout the building and uses friction to convert up to 90 per cent of the sound energy generated over the whole frequency spectrum into heat, whilst reflecting the remainder. It absorbs sound in the speech-related frequency range of between 250 and 4000 Hz particularly effectively. The result: It is noticeably quieter in the lecture theatres, the corridors, seminar rooms and open-plan learning and meeting spaces and students can relax and talk to each other at a low volume. Mr Schonder said, “This pleasant indoor acoustic environment means we can avoid unnecessary symptoms of fatigue and we also meet the German DIN 18041 standard ‘acoustical quality in small to medium-sized rooms’.“

Economical alternative to traditional perforated panels

The wood wool acoustic panels offer an economical alternative to the traditional perforated panels. “Perforated panels absorb the sound energy over a narrow frequency range and therefore architects need to incorporate additional, expensive absorbers for low-frequencies and bands to create effective acoustics,” said Thomas Wölfer, South Property Manager at Knauf AMF. “However, the Heradesign wood wool acoustic panels combine these functions and therefore provide a more economical solution which will also last for several decades.“

Wood wool acoustic panels characterised by their visual appearance

The architects were particularly impressed by both the high level of sound absorption of the ceiling panels and the characteristic visual appearance of the wood wool structure containing fibre which is millimetres thick. “We have intentionally used the Heradesign product which specifically caters for textured surfaces. The individualised colour scheme made it perfectly possible to coordinate with other materials,” said Mr Schonder. In this way, for example, the wide corridors with their grey ceiling panels harmonise with the grey linoleum flooring. “This design aspect was a key criteria for the choice of ceiling system.“

It was also easy for the drywall builder to trim parts of the ceiling panels when integrating elements of the building services before installation. “The suspended ceiling system was supposed to be able to incorporate technical installations such as lighting, ventilation, sprinklers, fire alarms and loudspeakers,” stated Schonder. In this way some spaces could have lighting channels with surface-mounted lighting, compared with the recessed lighting and running bond in large open areas. “Another product advantage transpired in that it was relatively easy to temporarily open up individual ceiling areas to perform subsequent installation work during the building phase.” The company technicians are able to work more quickly due to this ability to gain access.

Acoustic panels are sustainable and cause no damage to health

The new building at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences is a prime example of sustainable building. For example, the planners have constructed one of Germany’s largest geothermal energy systems that uses heat stored in the earth and has an output of 700 kilowatts - this is equal to heating 115 family homes. The acoustic panels conform to this concept of sustainability. For example, the seal provided by the charitable, non-profit NGO Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) confirms that the raw materials used have nothing to do with illegal logging and destructive forestry. The acoustic panels also bear the Blue Angel seal of approval - the world's oldest (1978) environmental seal.

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