Sensory Room Sound Isolation Construction
Sensory rooms are gaining in popularity in airports, schools, healthcare systems and homes. These dedicated rooms have been shown to be beneficial not only to autistic children, but to individuals with ADHD, dyspraxia, adults and children with sensory processing disorders, learning disabilities, and those with dementia.
Because noise sensitivity is also common with those suffering with these health challenges proper sound isolation is essential. Acoustiblok donated its award-winning Blok16® sound isolation system and consulting services (Shawn Saathoff, Executive Vice President of Acoustiblok was Chief Consultant on the project) to a family with an autistic child to help provide the high level of sound isolation necessary in the home’s construction
Acoustiblok, a NASA “Spinoff” listed Company, donated its award-winning Acoustiblok (Blok16) sound isolation system to a family with an autistic child to help provide the extreme level of noise reduction needed in the construction of a “Sensory Room”.Since the Sensory Room’s completion, Craig Holbrook, the father said, “Our daughter not only loves the activities in her room, but her meltdowns have decreased in frequency, length, and severity. She can focus more when we engage with her, and the entire household has benefited from her having a professionally engineered soundproof Sensory Room.”
The Holbrooks had been thinking about building a custom-made Sensory Room in their home since they toured one at the school their daughter was attending. The moment they knew they had to move on it was when they saw how much fun Cailyn, their autistic daughter, had and how much more active she was when they took her to a Sensory Room at a special needs school in town. She loved the colored lights, swing, and bubble machine. These were things they wanted to incorporate in to their own Sensory Room. The sound reduction component was also something they wanted to incorporate due to observations they made about their daughter; her desire to wear headphones and cover her ears, her meltdowns triggered even by children playing and her desire to run away from sounds.
A truly soundproof Sensory Room turned out to be the perfect solution for the family. Common loud noises in the neighborhood such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, traffic, car horns, neighbor’s parties, kids playing, TVs and stereos could set Cailyn off and even her younger brother would rarely have friends over because of the concern of too much noise.
Sensory Rooms have been shown to be particularly beneficial to autistic children. A current study concluded that children in the sensory integration group scored significantly higher on attaining their goals. In addition, standardized tests showed that the children receiving sensory integration therapy required less assistance from their parents in self-care and social situations. It is speculated that by changing how sensations are processed by the brain; that autistic children are better able to make sense of the information they receive and improve its usage when participating in everyday tasks. This both stimulating and calming environment has a relaxing effect on children who cannot be still while helping direct attention of children less energetic or unfocused.
After finding the right neighborhood, they began construction of their new home. Keeping sounds from entering the Sensory Room as well as stopping the noise from traveling outside the room was the goal. For the exterior part of the house, QuietFiber® (QF-4) ,with several advantages over fiberglass, was installed in the exterior framing members. A 2” air gap was left to allow for an unsupported layer of Acoustiblok (Blok 16) to hang in this air gap. Then the interior wall of the Sensory Room was erected, QuietFiber (QF-4) was again installed into the walls stud bays. Acoustiblok (Blok 16) was then installed on the face of the interior wall framing. To finish off the wall, two layers of 5/8” gypsum were installed. The ceiling construction required QuietFiber (QF-6) to be pressure fit in between the roof trusses, two layers of Acoustiblok (Blok 16) and two layers of Gypsum. (Acoustiblok does not contain any lead and is barium-free, and therefore considered medically safe. This can be important as many autistic children have PICA and eat paint chips.)
The floor of the room as well as the basement required QuietFiber and Acoustiblok applications and included, high cut pile carpet with heavy padding. The family ultimately made some budgetary concessions on the construction (hat channel and resilient isolation clips were eliminated), and a more economical door and window were installed. These increased the sound transmission to a degree, but it turned out to be minimal.
Craig said this about the construction, “We battled with the balance of wanting a soundproof room and it being for a child. We ultimately made some concessions on a door and including a window and reducing STC rating for size, but the Acoustiblok isolation system performance is amazing. At one point, my brother and I were installing the swing mount and I was in the attic, making sure we were hitting the studs just right. We were yelling at each other on each side of the wall and having trouble hearing each other. Ultimately, I called him on the phone.”
Shawn Saathoff, Executive Vice President of Acoustiblok and the Chief Consultant on the project advises anyone interested in building a sensory room to create a pre-construction design/plan with experienced experts in the acoustical field, and work with a builder who is willing to manage the details needed to gain the best performance out of the design. Sensory rooms are different in that you are trying to keep the sounds from outside the home from entering the room. This can pose big challenges with the ceiling and exterior walls.
Once the construction of the house was complete the Holbrook family had no regrets. Craig said, “Cailyn loves the room. She can control the light colors. She is often in the swing or playing with her sand. On bad days when she is stressed she prefers a small “isolation corner” in the closet (see photo) where she can remove herself from any stimulation and calm down. The window is one of her favorite places to sit. My family can be extremely loud and our living room is on the other side of Cailyn’s wall, but it doesn’t bother her at all now. My son is so happy! He can now have sleepovers. In our first month in the house, he had two friends spend the night.”
“I can honestly say, Acoustiblok was the easiest partner in the entire build process. They helped us keep our balance and worked with us on things that I know made their life harder (the window for example), but they did everything in Cailyn’s best interest and made major revisions when asked. I would highly recommend their products and services to anyone considering building a Sensory Room,” Craig concluded.
Lahnie Johnson, president and founder of Acoustiblok said, “Acoustiblok was happy to donate its noise control products and design plans to the Holbrook Family, and we are very pleased the whole family has benefited from their installation. We know our innovative sound isolation systems have helped many people who suffer from sound sensitivities. Almost everywhere you go today noise can be a problem; Acoustiblok and our isolation systems are a solution.”