Feature Article - November 2006
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Magnificently Multipurpose

Managing all-around facilities

By Kelli Anderson

Breaking the sound barrier

For others, acoustic control is a big deal.

"Acoustics, especially in rooms where dividers partition it, are a very important factor," Keane said. "Make sure the partition has wall-to-floor seals for better STC (sound transmission coefficient) ratings. You still never get up to the sound quality of a regular wall. You need to know you can't have booming aerobics next to a yoga class."

So, what can you do to control acoustics in a space that would normally echo like the Grand Canyon—fine during a raucous game, but not-so-fine during a graduation ceremony? The answer is, "lots."

Whenever a multipurpose space will have to serve as a venue for music (think yoga, aerobics or a battle of the bands) or speakers for meetings, seminars and ceremonies, architects usually look to the walls and ceilings for solutions.

Walls that have to withstand the pounding of balls and projectiles are probably not going to be well-suited for soft-textured, sound-absorbing wall materials. But acoustic cinder blocks, filled with sound-absorbing fiber and designed with slitted openings to reduce reverberation, are one tough-as-nails option.

Deflecting sound with angled walls and ceilings can also reduce noise. Then there are acoustic panels. These not only work great, they can look great too, breaking up walls using large planes of color and texture. However, they do need to be strategically placed to avoid damage by athletic equipment.


Measure twice, cut once. We've all heard that one. But what are some of the other common mistakes recreation facilities make when creating a multipurpose space?

According to Rob Grundstrom, senior associate of KKE Architects of Minneapolis, there are quite a few.

  • Building unnecessary specialty rooms
  • Not enough storage
  • Not programming your building's space needs properly
  • Not specifying high-abuse materials
  • Poor mechanical systems
  • Not asking who it is for—teens, seniors, homemakers, general wellness, etc.
  • Not considering safety or suitability of all activities for flooring choices
    (e.g., rubberized great for cleated shoes but unsafe for other sports like basketball)