Freight Train vs. Train of Thought: Cost-Effective and Creative Solutions

  |  March 2, 2022

Upon approval of a master plan for the Texas A&M University flagship campus in College Station to construct a new $85M innovative academic learning facility, Jaffe Holden was brought in with the specific goal of achieving sound isolation within the developing space to meet the teaching and learning demands of a growing campus community. Our team, led by Associate Principal Carlos Rivera, offered acoustic design expertise from the early stages of this project which proved beneficial in the long run when unforeseen challenges arose.

Apart from ensuring sound isolation between spaces within the building, we conducted an environmental noise study early in the Schematic Design phase to quantify the impact from vehicular traffic and the commercial rail line to the west of the site. The master plan did not consider the overall impact of the noise from this commercial rail line, only the impact on traffic – a logical consideration when looking at a site plan or an aerial map. Although we were not involved in the formulation of the master plan, our early involvement in SD allowed us to make this critical discovery.

Once our involvement began on this project, our unique perspective as acousticians allowed us to utilize prior experience and calibrated sound measurements to determine that this rail line would have a major effect on student learning. The proximity of this commercial rail line proved to be a worst-case scenario, with an unpredictable schedule and two crossings adjacent to the building. Not only would we have to accommodate the steady rumble of the train, but also two loud blasts on the horn with each passing train. To meet the University’s standards, cost-conscious sound isolation would be crucial in creating the Innovative Learning Classrooms designed for learning, study, and focus.



Because of this early discovery, our acoustic considerations were factored into the budget and we were able to work closely with the architect on the building façade and interior layout to minimize outside noise and reduce costs of the critical isolation. The Jaffe Holden team worked closely with the project team to reconfigure the floor plan, prioritizing specific classrooms for sound isolation. For those classrooms with North- and West-facing windows that were impacted most by the rail line noise, we developed high-performance and cost-effective options for exterior glazing and included a standard one-inch glazing unit and interior sash of 9/16th laminated glass.

At closeout, we returned to the project site to conduct sound testing and confirmed the design achieved target NC and DB levels for both the rail line noise and the train horn. Had Jaffe Holden not been consulted in the early stages of this project, the project might have been too far along to achieve the desired sound isolation without incurring significant costs.

Ultimately, our work contributed to the overall success of the building and therefore the success of the people who use the space on a daily basis. The cost-conscious sound isolation minimizes distractions in the learning environment, providing students, educators, and facility staff the ability to focus without a freight train disrupting their train of thought.

Learn more about the Texas A&M Innovative Learning Classroom Building project here:



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