The business world isn’t the same as it was a decade ago—so why would its schools remain the same? Bryant University took this question to heart when designing its signature building, the Academic Innovation Center. Just as corporate attitudes, priorities, and structures have changed, teaching methods for preparing students for a life in the commercial world also pivoted—fewer lectures of re-hashed chapters from textbooks and more engaging, interactive collaboration between professors and pupils. To develop a new space celebrating this new age of learning, Bryant University looked to EYP to create a place for students to come, gather, and experience the new face of higher education. Acentech was selected by the architect to provide acoustics and audiovisual consulting for this 50,000 SF facility. Acentech also provided a 3DListening®model for the project.
Acentech’s acoustics work within the Academic Innovation Center primarily focused on the multi-story, floor-to-ceiling glass Innovation Forum. This centralized space offers a two direct views—externally, the Bryant campus is on full display; internally, the many active learning classrooms and breakout spaces are visible. The need for proper sound isolation, mechanical system noise control, and the mitigation of sound build-up certainly came at a premium for the main feature of this facility. Flat, highly reflective surfaces, like glass, might be attractive to the eye, but they have the exact opposite effect on one’s ears when inside this expansive atrium. Without robust sound absorption in critical areas, a nearby conversation could go from being background noise to a full-on distraction for a person looking to study quietly. Acentech’s guidance for how to properly design this space without sacrificing aesthetics was key to the success of this project. To ensure that all acoustical decisions for the Academic Innovation Center’s atrium were effective, Acentech prepared a 3DListening model for this project. This predictive listening model allowed facility managers and architects to hear what the atrium would potentially sound like before actually building the structure itself.
Additionally, Acentech provided audiovisual system designs for spaces throughout the entirety of this project. The curriculum developed at Bryant University for its business school heavily relies on engaging, collaborative teaching methods. Spaces like active learning classrooms, breakout rooms, and open-plan study areas require a thoughtful attention to detail when it comes to the technology each of these spaces require. The Forum space can also become impromptu presentation space with nearly 300-person seating capacity, for more formal events and visiting guest speakers. Integrated into the cylindrical Forum walls are video projectors, curved projection screens, and digitally steerable loudspeakers. When used with the wireless control touchpanel, these features allow users to easily present in what would normally be a very challenging space to do so. The breakout rooms each include a large flat panel display and writable walls, to allow brainstorming between students. Each of these rooms is also outfit with a wireless collaboration device, supporting BYOD, and a room reservation system. The reservation system works in conjunction with occupancy sensors to allow students to know when a room is available for use, and automatically frees a room that is found to be empty after a period of inactivity. Within each of these spaces, creating user-friendly systems was key to the project’s success. Whether one is a digital novice or a more seasoned business professional, the audiovisual design of this building can be easily understood and used.
Although the world of business has changed considerably, the need for quality education has not. Within the Academic Innovation Center, Bryant University is looking to bridge the gap between the old and new worlds of education and real-world experience.