Following Unity Theatre’s receipt of a Catalyst Evolve grant from the Arts Council, dBx Acoustics was delighted to be working alongside K2 Architects, Through and Around, and Mercury Consulting Engineers, to deliver an exciting refurbishment of this historic building.

Acoustic Challenges

Sited within a former Synagogue on Hope Street, Unity has two auditoria which are vertically stacked. The acoustic challenges that this presents means that simultaneous use of the two spaces is impossible. Before the refurbishment, both performance noise and music were easily heard between the auditoria, and any movement in the upper auditorium is heard as thumps and thuds in the main space downstairs.

Design Solutions

dBx Acoustics worked alongside the rest of the design team to develop solutions which to significantly improve the level of sound insulation between the auditoria, whilst respecting the building’s architectural heritage and structure, and the constraints posed by the need to retain lighting grids and ceiling mounted services.

Changes to the ceiling within Unity One gave a great opportunity to take a space with what is considered a reasonable acoustic for its use, and optimise the placement of acoustic finishes throughout to turn reasonable into great. We used an acoustic modelling package to ensure that we developed the best possible solution for room acoustics within the theatre, matching the pre-development reverberation time but relocating acoustic panels to cut down on unwanted reflections..

An overall 19 dB improvement in impact sound transmission was achieved, as well as an 11 dB improvement in airborne sound insulation (effectively subjectively halving the level of sound transfer). This was a great achievement by the design and construction team given that budget constraints meant the acoustic design could not be fully realised.

The Future

It’s always important to look to the future, and we hope that if more funding can be secured, more improvements to acoustics can be achieved. To this end the solutions installed are all designed so that they can be added to and improved upon – for example, in order to allow for a future junction between the new acoustic ceiling and recommended wall linings, a small perimeter has already been installed at ceiling level.

Whilst the works to the auditoria were perhaps the most exciting from an acoustic point of view, there were also changes to the front of house areas, including new bar and circulation areas as well as office accommodation for the Theatre team. dBx Acoustics advised on on room acoustic design, building services noise control, and acoustic specification of new partitions for these areas.