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Acoustics in Healing Environments

Shaping the sound of healthcare spaces

Acoustics is the science of sound. How it’s produced, how it moves, and how it can be controlled. At DIRTT, we zero in on how sound affects the built environment by examining how our solutions can shape the acoustics of a space. Acoustics is particularly important in the healthcare industry, where noise has a direct effect on both the ability of patients to heal, and their medical privacy. DIRTT can help tailor the sound profile of a room to best serve its purpose, whether its speech privacy, noise isolation, or high-fidelity sound. 

DIRTT’s has extensive experience building healthcare environments. Here are the most common acoustic problems we’ve seen in medical environments, and some of the solutions we’ve developed to address them.

It's so quiet that there's days when [nurses] don’t like to keep the doors completely shut because they can't hear what's going on in their patient's rooms

Jane Leggio, Director of Nursing, Kansas City Orthopaedic Institute

Building dynamic healthcare environments

IMAGE CREDIT: Cory Parris Photography, Inc.

Noise isolation and speech privacy

When dealing with private exam rooms and patient healing spaces, it’s equally important that the noise doesn’t enter or leave the space. 

As the capacity of hospitals and medical facilities pushes towards their limits, average sound levels rise alongside. More and more people fill the space, and louder medical equipment is constantly being added. This means that decibel levels in these spaces are higher than ever. According to the Ceilings & Interior Systems Construction Association (CISCA), noise levels in hospitals can now exceed 85 decibels. To put that into perspective, that’s about the same level of noise as a freight train from just 45 feet away. This has a direct effect on a patient’s comfort and ability to get rest, both of which are important for healing. On the other side of that coin is speech privacy. Patients should feel comfortable disclosing all of their medical needs with their care providers. But if a patient doesn’t feel as though they’re in a safe, private environment, this often doesn’t happen. 

Patient room

IMAGE CREDIT: ©Francis Zera /

Building more acoustically sound patient spaces

IMAGE CREDIT: Michael Robinson

DIRTT has developed solutions that can manage the noise isolation requirements of healthcare environments. Depending on how the space is designed, DIRTT walls can achieve a sound transmission class (STC) rating significantly higher than conventionally built spaces. But walls are only part of the equation. DIRTT works to ensure that any of the spaces between the walls (known as flanking paths) are secure. This ensures any patient room will be private and comfortable. This means patients can feel confident their private conversations are just that – private. It also ensures care teams are getting all the information necessary to treat patients correctly. 

Private spaces ensure patient confidence

IMAGE CREDIT: ©Ines Leong / L-INES Photo

Visibility in healthcare spaces

In many cases, enclosed healthcare spaces require visibility. NICUs and observation rooms are just some examples. Like any other private space, these areas are expected to isolate sound and keep patients’ privacy. The issue is that glass is commonly used for its transparency, but it isn’t very good at blocking sound. That means patients in a conventionally built space have to endure a loud and uncomfortable visit. 

This is where DIRTT’s Double Pane Glass Wall comes in. Our patented pre-manufactured double-pane glass wall works in instances where a blend of noise-isolation and visibility is required. Like all DIRTT’s solutions, install is simple, fast, and clean. Better yet, Double-Pane Glass Walls isolate noise just as well as the best conventionally built enclosed room. And because all of our solutions are product neutral, Double-Pane Glass Walls can integrate with industry standard equipment like hospital-grade doors. 

Double-pane glass for improved acoustic performance

Noise reduction

The other acoustic advantage to the DIRTT Construction System comes when it’s installed. Because it’s assembled off-site, installing is quick, easy, and quiet. Instead of an extended barrage of noise that comes with conventional construction, a DIRTT install is less noise for a shorter amount of time. That means one part of the building can be worked on without disturbing staff and patients nearby. This applies to long-term maintenance too. That work can be done quickly and quietly. 

Want to learn more about how DIRTT approaches healthcare construction?

Quick and quiet installation

IMAGE CREDIT: Mike Roemer Photography

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