How Acoustics Are Utilized in Modern Courtroom Design

Considering acoustics in the design of a courtroom can maximize speech intelligibility.

Acoustical design in courtrooms focuses primarily on two things: maximizing speech intelligibility within the room and minimizing disruptive noise from interfering with the court proceedings.  In some situations, such as with individuals with compromised hearing or in rooms with poor acoustical performance, although we may hear a person speaking it is difficult to decipher what they are saying. Speech intelligibility refers to the ability to clearly understand each word being spoken. Individuals who suffer from common noise-induced hearing loss may have decreased sensitivity in the 4,000Hz area. this can play a significant role in the ability to understand speech in, as the consonants crucial to understanding spoken word reside in the 2,000 to 6,000Hz range. Fortunately, appropriate acoustical design will support and enhance speech intelligibility within courtrooms and supply the required clarity for such a space.

Front Area Wall Treatments

Diffusive: RPG’s Omniffusor is a wood diffuser that would fit in perfectly with a courtroom’s design. Similar to the classic Omniffusor, the Omniffusor 113 has a shallower construction.

Many courtrooms utilize wood as their preferred material. Reflective wood paneling is typically ideal for the front area walls of courtrooms. The justification behind the reflective front wall is that vertical and horizontal divergence of consonants is around 120 degrees, meaning that even if a speaker were to turn away from the audience, those consonants would still be reflected back towards them.

Front Area Ceiling Treatments

As with the front wall areas, the front ceiling areas being reflective is also beneficial to supporting speech intelligibility.  Rather than utilizing an absorptive ceiling, the opposite is preferred in this area – a reflective ceiling area that naturally supports reflections to deliver to the gallery as much of the speech energy as possible. The acoustical upgrade to a plain reflective surface here would be to utilize sound diffusive surfaces, to more uniformly redistribute early reflections and further increase speech intelligibility.

Rear Area Ceiling and Wall Treatments

Absorptive: The Dado panels have a beautiful, natural look. Perfecto panels offer similar performance but are microperforated wood panels that truly open up the possibilities.

Keeping with the wood theme, the ceiling above the audience or gallery, as well as the rear wall, are best outfitted with absorptive surfaces.  This approach aims to reduce the noise coming from spectators viewing the trial. The speech coming from the front of the room is clear and strong, while noise from non-participating individuals is minimized.  

Sounding Great With RPG Acoustical Systems, LLC.

For whatever your acoustical design needs, RPG Acoustical Systems, LLC. is here to provide you with products that are customized to your needs, high-quality designs that are backed by science and extensive research, and excellent customer service to help ensure you get what you need. If you have questions, take a moment to check out our contact page or reach out to us via phone at (973) 916-1166.

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