The New Kauffman Center for Performing Arts is Redefining a Whisper

As seen in The Kansas City Star, December 10, 2010

Just one of the ambitious undertakings of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is redefining a whisper. For the purposes of most auditoriums, a whisper needs to be around 20 decibels to be heard. The Kauffman Center wants to take that down to around 12 decibels, which means the audience will actually be able to hear a pin drop onstage.

Kansas City-based U.S. Engineering didn't design the acoustics but, as the mechanical contractor, it is charged with installing the H/VAC and plumbing systems. The company will play a critical role in keeping noise levels down.

Justin Apprill, chief project development officer for U.S. Engineering, says his team focused on two main ideas: Vibration isolation. Piping ductwork is hung by spring isolators to eliminate vibration from fans and motions. Air flow. For the HVAC to be as silent as possible, ducts need to be much larger than normal. This will slow the air flow. Figuring out how to fit massive heating and cooling ducts into the building required leading-edge technology: Three-dimensional coordination software allowed engineers to build systems onscreen before beginning work on the site.