Apex were pleased to be Highly Commended in the Education Acoustics category at the Association of Noise Consultants Awards 2018 for their work at The National Centre for The Written Word “The Word”, in South Shields.
The Word is a library for the 21st century, celebrating the dynamic relationship between people, books, traditional media and interactive technologies: a new paradigm for a community library. The acoustic challenge was to enable the many distinct, varying activities to co-exist and even support each other within an open plan environment. There was no precedent for this type of space. The success of the entire project would rely on a suitable acoustic environment. This bold new architecture required an equally inspiring new approach to acoustic design.
Instead of designing to empty-building reference criteria, our design process was focussed from the beginning on the acoustic conditions experienced by the user with the building in use. We developed in-use criteria for the variety of users in terms of LAeq ambient noise levels, and speech intelligibility and distraction in terms of SNR and STI. Design strategies included a model of the Lombard effect for people talking against background sound, adapted empirical models for the spatial decay of sound in open plan offices and detailed modelling to provide greater detail and confirm the acoustic strategy.
The result is a functional building where seemingly opposed activities can co-exist, providing support for people on their journey of learning. The design supports a vibrant atmosphere in the central area juxtaposed with calmer, quieter spaces towards the perimeter, all within in an open plan layout set around a triple height atrium. Experiencing such a variation of acoustic conditions in the space of a few steps is a delight. Try it out for yourself by watching our video tour.