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)
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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.

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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.