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STEM Research Proposal: Darien High School Cafeteria

A floorplan of the cafeteria, with the area needing treatment outlined in red
A floorplan of the cafeteria, with the area needing treatment outlined in red
To Whom It May Concern: My name is Alex Rayhill and I am a researcher with Darien High School’s newly founded Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Research program. For my second semester research project, I have been investigating the issue of sound in our school’s cafeteria. I have heard the voices of many of my fellow students who agree that the cafeteria is too loud to be conducive to conversation and is potentially even dangerous. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that prolonged exposure to any noise above 85 decibels may cause hearing loss. In my extensive study of the cafeteria’s acoustics, I found peak noise levels in the cafeteria greater than 87 decibels on a normal day, deeming our school’s cafeteria, our sanctuary and safe place, one that is potentially hazardous to the lives of Darien High School students. Average noise levels lingered in the area between 80 and 85 decibels. Although not technically dangerous, these figures are far too close for comfort to the levels that cause hearing loss. My research revolved around finding a solution to this ever more present problem that will only prove to multiply as the population of Darien High School does the same. I explored several different options in my research, the first of which was a drop ceiling over the hallway leading to the cafeteria and the dining area itself. There were several issues with this solution that caused me to abandon the idea for another resolution. The ceiling would have to be pretty low to begin with because of the utilities that run through the cafeteria. Per my measurements, a drop ceiling could be installed at a height of 108” above the floor in the cafeteria, but there were utilities that ran lower and that would have to be dealt with, most notably a hot water return pipe at 95.5” above ground level and a rather large air return vent above the faculty cafeteria. In addition, a 108” ceiling would be 108” above the lowest level of the cafeteria, causing the ceiling to appear very low to those in the higher levels of the cafeteria. The second and more practical solution that I explored was a spray on applicant that could be applied directly to the existing ceiling and utilities. Per a previous study that was done when the band room acoustics were altered, the applicant would need a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) of at least .70 to be effective in the cafeteria. After exploring several options in this field, I would like to recommend a product called Acoustment by Pyrok Inc. This spray-on applicant is food safe and safe for application in cafeterias, and it is able to be vacuum brushed or steam cleaned. The specific product is called the Acoustment 40, which is designed for industrial applications like gymnasiums. It can be applied to both bare and galvanized steel and also to unpainted concrete, which would pose no problems in our cafeteria. It can meet code regulations because it also acts as a fireproofing material. I would recommend that this product be sprayed on the entire surface of the ceiling in the cafeteria and the hallway ceiling stretching from F-wing to D-wing. A spray on application with a thickness of 1.5 inches would meet the recommendation of the previous study, but I would recommend a thickness of 1.625 inches to not only bring the cafeteria noise levels down below a dangerous level, but to make the cafeteria a space more conducive to conversation. Finally, the investment in this sound-deadening material is fiscally responsible for the district, for Pyrok includes a ten year warranty against cracking, flaking, excessive dust, and peeling. This warranty ensures that if the material is not acting to its fullest extent, it will be repaired. This application in our cafeteria will be a long-lasting solution that will make our school an even greater place. Thank you for your consideration.
Peter B June 15, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Good research -have you priced it out to see what funding would be needed?

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