At Acoustics By Design, we regularly consult on the design of College and University buildings including classroom buildings, dormitories, athletic facilities, performing arts buildings, libraries, research buildings, and student centers. These numerous building types result in our needing to address a myriad of acoustic and vibration issues. Many student centers and student unions face a similar problem: loud noise from the commercial kitchens inhibit the relaxed social environment for the students. Universities want their student unions to be a center for campus life and activity, and if the student center is too loud to provide the desired environment, students will inevitably congregate elsewhere.
During the schematic design phase of such a building, acoustics should be of high importance. Avoid placing any noise sensitive spaces next to or below the dish wash room or commercial kitchen. In this case, “noise sensitive” would include offices, student counseling rooms, conference rooms, ballrooms, cinema, and similar spaces that are often found in student centers. If these types of spaces must be located next to the dish wash room, then careful consideration will need to be given to the design of the walls and floor-ceiling assemblies. Sufficient noise and vibration isolation can be achieved with proper engineering.
Dining areas are normally connected to the dish wash room by a large window where students drop-off the dirty dishes. A partial wall is often constructed to provide a visual barrier between the dining area and this window. This wall can reduce the level of dish wash room sound that finds its way to the dining room. To be most effective, the wall should completely block the line of sight from the window to dining room seating and the side of the wall facing the window should be finished with a cleanable, sound absorbing wall panel.
Even more important than creating a good environment for students is providing a safe environment for workers inside the kitchen. In commercial kitchens, dishwasher machines are usually the loudest noise sources. Dish handling, rinsing, garbage disposals, and dirty dish conveyor systems also contribute to the cacophony.
OSHA requires hearing conservation programs to be implemented when employees are exposed to time weighted average sound levels of 85 dBA or higher during an 8-hour work day. Noise levels at the dish loading and unloading positions at either end of the dishwashers are often around 85 dBA. Placing these dishwashers in small, reverberant rooms can push the noise levels well over the OSHA limits. Constructing dish wash room ceilings from moisture resistant acoustical ceiling tile rather than gypsum board will help alleviate the noise in the room.
By adding some basic construction features and using the right materials, you can provide a relaxed environment for the students and a safe environment for the workers.