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Shaping the sound of healthcare spaces

Acoustics is the science of sound. How it’s produced, how it moves, and even 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 that be speech privacy, noise isolation or high-fidelity sound.

With over 2,500 Healthcare projects completed, DIRTT has seen it all. 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, Dir. Nursing at Kansas City Orthopaedic Institute

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 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.

DIRTT patient room DIRTT patient room

DIRTT has developed solutions that can hit the noise isolation requirements of Healthcare environments. Depending on how the space is designed, DIRTT walls can hit a sound transmission class (STC) rating significantly higher than conventionally built spaces. But walls are only part of the equation. DIRTT’s Integrated Ceilings are specifically designed to integrate with our walls, effectively putting a ‘lid’ on the box. This ensures any patient room will be private and comfortable. This means patients can feel confident that their private conversations are just that ­– private. And that care teams are getting all of the information necessary to ensure their patients are being treated correctly.

Install of a DIRTT Integrated Ceiling Install of a DIRTT Integrated Ceiling

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 the commonly used solution ­(glass) 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 Evil Twin comes in. Evil Twin is our patented pre-manufactured double-pane glass solution. It’s perfect in instances where a blend of noise-isolation and visibility is required. As is the case with all of DIRTT’s solutions, install is simple, fast and clean. Better yet, Evil Twin isolates noise just as well as the best conventionally-built enclosed room! And because all of our solutions are product neutral, Evil Twin can integrate with industry standard equipment like hospital-grade doors.

The 'Evil Twin' The 'Evil Twin'

Echo chamber

Another challenge frequently encountered in healthcare environments is reverberation, also known as echo or bounced sound. As noise levels rise in a space, the amount of sound reverberating off of hard surfaces goes up. Echo can become a major annoyance in healthcare spaces, making communication between patient care teams difficult and tiresome. As you might expect, poor communication between care teams can have a serious impact on a patients’ recovery, even becoming dangerous if important details are missed or improperly communicated.

DIRTT acoustic tiles DIRTT acoustic tiles

DIRTT can help manage and reduce reverberated sound. Our holistic approach to the space means that every element is considered. DIRTT Walls can be specified with soft fabric surfaces or microperforated acoustic tiles to help absorb noise and cut the echo. DIRTT bespoke ceilings can also be backed with sound-deadening material. Sound masking technology can even be incorporated where needed to keep conversations private in open areas.

Regardless of it's intended use, DIRTT has the ability to keep the acoustics of any room in perfect harmony.


DIRTT Environmental Solutions uses its 3D software to create prefabricated interiors. Each space is tailored to our clients' needs. Manufacturing facilities are located in Phoenix, Savannah and Calgary. DIRTT works with nearly 100 construction partners globally. DIRTT trades on Nasdaq under the symbol “DRTT” and on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “DRT”.