ICF Construction: Theater Owners Like What They Hear AND What They Don't
Of the many reasons to choose Insulating Concrete Form (ICF) for a major construction project, noise reduction is one of the least-discussed, as the inherent insulation the material provides is usually the major contributing factor to the decision. However, ICF provides a large enough benefit for sound that projects where noise is a concern should prioritize ICF for their material choice.
ICF Wall Systems are the superior choice for building commercial theaters, due to how they contain internal sound as well as mitigate external sound.
When choosing materials for theaters, where sound is a key concern, the Sound Transmission Class (STC) takes on major importance. STC measures the transmission loss values of a waveform: in this case, the decrease in intensity of sound as it resonates through a given building material.
Traditional building materials often don't score well in this area. Insulated wood walls generally maintain an STC of around 38, meaning loud speaking voices are audible on the other side. ICF, on the other hand, scores around 50-55, meaning shouting can only be heard faintly, or not at all.
For theater applications, 55 STC ICF is the most efficient, potent sound-dampening material for large construction. Loud noise is almost completely contained, and importantly for such a bass-heavy setting, ICF reduces vibration heavily, preventing transference between viewing rooms.
The higher STC ceiling made possible by ICF gives theater owners opportunities to expand their audio palette. Overall louder sounds, of course, but also more bass, which helps theaters provide an audiovisual experience that few can match with even high-end home theater equipment.
This visceral element is more important than ever for mainstream theaters, which increasingly rely on bombastic event films to attract audiences.
Dampening external sounds is also an important factor when building a theater. ICF helps to expand the number of locations available to theater owners, including areas close to airports and highways that produce near-constant ambient noise.
While supplemental materials can reduce sound further, or provide specific sound stages for certain tones, an ICF structure alone dramatically reduces noise between rooms. A 50-55 STC baseline is already far beyond the starting point of 38 for a fully insulated wood construction, so for new theater projects, ICF is the sensible choice of building material.
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