Tackling Unexpected Issues in a New Office

Idaho Rural Water Association
Boise, Idaho

IRWA 2

Highlights

Ida­ho Rur­al Water Asso­ci­a­tion moved into a new build­ing in 2020. Like many com­mer­cial build­ings, the con­struc­tion mate­ri­als in their new facil­i­ty fea­tured sig­nif­i­cant amounts of steel and met­al. This cre­at­ed three issues for IRWA:

  1. Cell phone recep­tion was almost non-existent.
  2. The over­all noise lev­el with­in the build­ing was high due to rever­ber­a­tions from the hard surfaces.
  3. Voice car­ried through­out the building.

To com­bat these issues, we installed cell phone ampli­fi­ca­tion, acoustic pan­els and sound mask­ing through­out the space. (IRWA also updat­ed their train­ing and meet­ing spaces, which you can read about here).

About

Ida­ho Rur­al Water Asso­ci­a­tion (IRWA) is a 501©3 non-prof­it which pro­vides tech­ni­cal assis­tance, train­ing and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive voice for the ben­e­fit of Idaho’s drink­ing and waste­water util­i­ty sys­tems. Their mem­ber­ship con­sists of over 350 direct mem­ber systems.

In 2020, IRWA moved from their exist­ing facil­i­ty to a new location.

Neurilink Provided IRWA AV Solutions for:

  • Full office – cell phone amplification
  • Full office – acoustics & sound
  • Train­ing & meet­ing rooms (click here to find out more)
    • Con­fer­ence room
    • Train­ing Room
    • Ware­house (train­ing room exten­sion and demon­stra­tion area)
IRWA-1

Challenge 1: Cell Phone Coverage

When IRWA moved into their new facil­i­ty they imme­di­ate­ly faced issues with cell phone recep­tion. Their team was drop­ping calls and could not dial out. If a phone rang, the per­son had to run out­side to answer it. This pre­sent­ed an issue, espe­cial­ly for the field staff who worked exclu­sive­ly from their cell phones and didn’t have a desk phone in the building.

Solution

Wil­son Elec­tron­ics cell phone ampli­fi­ca­tion sys­tem was installed. This con­sists of a spe­cial­ized cell phone anten­na mount­ed on top of the build­ing with addi­tion­al anten­nas with­in the build­ing for pick­up rein­force­ment. An ampli­fi­er “tuned” to the cell fre­quen­cies avail­able help cre­ate an increased cov­er­age map.

Meeting Space

Challenge 2: High Overall Noise Level

Like most com­mer­cial con­struc­tion, IRWA’s new build­ing is most­ly met­al and steel. This cre­at­ed a rever­ber­ant envi­ron­ment which sounds like an echo and led to a high­er noise lev­el in the office.

Solution

Neurilink pro­vid­ed a two-part solu­tion. The first reduced the lev­el of rever­ber­a­tion, the sec­ond added a lay­er of noise. While it sounds coun­ter­in­tu­itive, this two-prong approach sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved the expe­ri­ence with­in the building.

The rever­ber­a­tion was reduced by adding in MDC acoustic pan­els. Instead of sound hit­ting a hard sur­face and reflect­ing, it is now absorbed by the sound pan­els. We low­ered the rever­ber­a­tion time (the time it takes for a sound source to decay by 60 deci­bels) from a pre-test­ing time of approx­i­mate­ly 3 sec­onds to 1.2 seconds.

Since this was a new build­ing, IRWA want­ed a solu­tion that was not only tech­ni­cal­ly effec­tive but aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing too. Ulti­mate­ly, they chose to move for­ward with ceil­ing baf­fles in alter­nat­ing col­ors for the con­fer­ence room along with five ver­ti­cal pan­els seamed togeth­er into one which cov­ered a large wall.

In the recep­tion area and work­space, four small­er half-round sus­pend­ed cir­cles and one larg­er half-round sus­pend­ed cir­cle pro­vide acoustic absorption.

Challenge 3: Voices Carry Throughout the Space

The build­ing mate­ri­als also cre­at­ed a lack of speech pri­va­cy.  Con­ver­sa­tions in one area of the build­ing could be heard in the others.

Solution

To reduce speech intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty and dis­trac­tions, a lay­er of white noise was added though sound mask­ing. Sound mask­ing cre­ates a ‘shh­h­h­h­hh’ sound through­out the build­ing, like that of an HVAC sys­tem. Its sound is specif­i­cal­ly tuned to tar­get the same fre­quen­cy as human speech, reduc­ing the intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty of conversations.

We installed emit­ters in the ceil­ing of the com­mon hall­ways around the entry way and recep­tion area, office spaces, main area, and ware­house. While occu­pants with­in the spaces hard­ly even know the noise is there, it reduces the dia­logue intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty with­in those spaces so con­ver­sa­tions can be more private.

Digital Signage in lobby

Set Yourself up for Success

Tak­ing the leap to a tech­nol­o­gy-enabled train­ing pro­gram was no small feat. CEO Shel­ley Roberts met with sev­er­al dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tions before mov­ing for­ward with their invest­ment. Her rec­om­men­da­tion for those explor­ing train­ing solu­tions is to learn what tech­nol­o­gy options work best for your orga­ni­za­tions. “The vir­tu­al tech­nolo­gies cat­a­pult­ed us into a new area. They’re work­ing bet­ter than antic­i­pat­ed, so don’t be afraid of it,” said Roberts.

Neurilink also assist­ed IRWA with a vari­ety of meet­ing and train­ing rooms. To read the full case study click here.