Education, healthcare, and maybe your workplace? Can you hear the difference?

Acoustic improvement = life improvement.

In Part 1 of Better living through engineered room acoustics, we introduced Ecophon Saint-Gobain veteran Mai-Britt Beldam. The Market Development Manager speaks with conviction of the company’s mission to leave a “sound effect” on the people it serves and of her own multi-faceted role in bringing that mission to life: indeed, to lives.

Danish student Signe Nyrup Mogensen at age 14. (Centre)

Signe’s story

Isn’t it fun the way our minds, consciously or not, choose what’s interesting for us as individuals? Learning about the life-changing impact improved classroom acoustics made on a hearing-impaired Danish schoolgirl stayed with me more than just about any acoustic feat I’d read about to date.

My fascination with this story took hold when I heard Mai-Britt speak about it in her presentation Acoustics for Effective Learning Spaces; it subsequently grew with every follow-up story I could get my digital hands on.

Despite wearing hearing aids in both ears, young Signe found that classroom noise made it difficult for her to hear teachers and classmates. As she struggled to follow lessons and socialize with peers, Signe became increasingly despondent about going to school.

The 1960s-built classroom at Signe’s Kjellerup, Denmark school featured ceiling design we now know renders even sounds we’d expect to be unobtrusive inordinately loud and high-pitched.

”The old ceiling design made sounds high-pitched and harsh. A dropped pen was enough to create a noise”, says headteacher Lone Stig Andersen in the article Improved acoustics transformed Signe’s life. “I have experience working with hearing-impaired students and was aware of the poor acoustics. When I realized how it affected Signe, I really wanted to come up with a solution.”

Spoiler alert: happy ending

Ecophon Saint-Gobain partnered with Comfort Audio to give Signe’s classroom an acoustic makeover and hearing-enhancing products. Soon after project completion, Signe blossomed both academically and socially. Notably, all her classmates and teachers also found it much easier to thrive in the new acoustic environment.

But anyway...

In the interest of transparency, I do admit to knowing the story prior to e-conversing with Mai-Britt. But this knowledge compelled me all the more to get that inimitable personal take. Clearly, I had to bring up the Signe project in our interview:

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your favourite room acoustic projects? I love the story of Signe and her classroom, especially the follow-up. What a difference those acoustic modifications made, not only for the young hearing-impaired student, but also for her classmates, teacher, and family! (Yeah, I actually got a little teary-eyed.)

“There is no doubt that the project involving Signe and her friends is one of my favorites,” Mai-Britt confirms. With blessings from municipal property management and educational authorities, the school had contacted Ecophon to discuss the problematic classroom acoustics.

A learning experience for everyone

Mai-Britt and her colleagues welcomed “the opportunity to develop testing material, as well as perform a really unique pilot based on our ideas and experience.”

“Because we calculate these sorts of parameters from the outset, we knew how our modifications would affect classroom acoustics,” Mai-Britt explains. “But we hadn’t anticipated how much we’d learn from working with the kids!”

“It was a very time-consuming project since we did almost everything ourselves,” Mai-Britt recalls. “For example, I recorded all the sound files for our tests, performed the testing, and analyzed the data. Then I tried to link my data to the room acoustic results,” she laughs, “while simultaneously tending to my daily work.”

“It was worth every second!”

Time-consuming—and often challenging—as Mai-Britt’s role in the classroom acoustics project was, the sound-savvy karate black belt reflects on it fondly. “Luckily, my manager was very supportive and agreed that this was a great opportunity to live up to our company goals, which are all about doing something good for people.”

“When I look back at the project, the most important results we achieved were the ones that couldn’t be measured. I will forever feel proud of investing our time in ways that improve lives. I have colleagues all over the world who work towards making people’s lives better; Signe’s story is one of many.”

And these days?

In the few years since the classroom acoustics improvements took place, Mai-Britt’s role has evolved, both to reflect her own professional growth and address the critical need for acoustic improvement in healthcare facilities.

“Recently, I’ve been working with numerous dementia clinics. This new ‘story’ is almost a rewrite of Signe’s—but this time, it’s about people suffering from dementia who can’t interact in their noisy care homes—until suddenly, something (i.e. room acoustics) changes, after which they feel better, safer, and willing to participate.”

“This story is also about doctors testing for cognitive deficits. The process is challenging when it’s unclear if the patients can’t hear what is being said, as opposed to not understanding or remembering it. Doctors literally run the risk of misdiagnosing.”

“It gives me the chills to talk about our healthcare-based projects. Not only have we seen first-hand how bad room acoustics make it impossible for patients to heal and recover; sometimes even operating rooms are acoustically troublesome to an extent that may result in surgical mistakes…a grim possibility indeed.”

Mai-Britt speaks highly of the end-user performance and well-being that’s formed the “backbone of [her] company since 1999 as well of “the great colleagues who have paved the way” for her. “I could never do this alone,”  she says. “When I switched to healthcare, I studied what my predecessors had done and built on that. Today we have many important healthcare stories to share—stories about neonatal care, sleep disruption, and more.”

It's all about Concept Development

Unique to their company structure, Ecophon Saint Gobain employs Global Concept Developers precisely to explore various industries, including education and healthcare, with a view to learning in-depth about those industries’ acoustic-related problems and needs. I’d hazard to guess one doesn’t simply walk into a leadership role within this sector:

A valued employee since 2007 when she started out in sales, Mai-Britt Beldam certainly didn’t!

“In June 2021, I passed on the healthcare ‘cape’ to another brilliant colleague who will take us to the next level and continue our journey,” she says.

Having proven her concept development mettle over the years in both educational and healthcare environments, Mai-Britt now oversees a team of concept developers in her role as Market Development Manager. We wish her continued success in all her endeavours. Hopefully, she’s taking some time for herself to play outside and chop things in half with her bare hands…just because she can and it looks really fun!

Many thanks for sharing your story, Mai-Britt.

Kickin' it, Beldam style!

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Denny Ng, M.A.Sc. P.Eng.

Senior Acoustic Consultant

Denny is a locally trained and licensed Professional Engineer specializing in environmental noise modelling, architectural acoustics and mechanical noise control. His career as a consultant began with an internship at BAP Acoustics in 2016 while completing his graduate studies in acoustics at the University of British Columbia. Working closely with Eric and Mark, Denny has had the privilege of working on numerous post-secondary education and infrastructure projects including Emily Carr University of Art and Design, UBC Gateway and Brock Commons Phase 2, Stuart Lake Hospital Replacement Project and Nanaimo Correctional Center. His approach to consulting is communicating acoustical concerns as they arise in order to reach cost effective solutions. 

 

Qualifications

B.A.Sc. Mechanical Engineering – Thermofluids Option (with distinction), University of British Columbia, 2014

M.A.Sc. Mechanical Engineering – Acoustics Group, University of British Columbia, 2019

P.Eng. BC

Leanne Farmer, B.Eng.

Acoustic Consultant

Leanne Farmer began her career in Adelaide, where she gained four years of experience providing acoustic design advice across Australia. She possesses extensive technical knowledge in both building acoustics and complex environmental noise assessments. Demonstrating her capabilities in multi-disciplinary coordination and project management, Leanne effectively managed large-scale measurement campaigns and contributed to major infrastructure projects. After re-locating back to Victoria, BC in 2023, Leanne joined BAP Acoustics. She is excited to be working on local projects, applying the experiences and insights gained from her diverse international work.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria, 2018

EIT, BC

Alex Mendes, B.Eng. EIT

Acoustic Engineer

A graduate of the University of Victoria, Alex has contributed to an array of computerized acoustic modelling projects during his tenure with BAP Acoustics. His passion for music lends itself to a particular focus in room acoustics modelling, where he has applied creative approaches to navigate the unique challenges posed by varied architectural designs. His expertise extends to outdoor sound modelling, where he has lent his skillset to initiatives ranging from shooting noise control studies to public alert system performance evaluations. Alex’s ardent curiosity and his analytical, pragmatic approach to consultation have served him well in providing sensible, practical solutions to a host of acoustic challenges.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, University of Victoria, 2018

EIT, BC

Kathryn Gulewich, B.Eng. EIT

Acoustic Engineer

Kathryn is a Mechanical Engineer who graduated from the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) with a Bachelor of Engineering degree. She pivoted to the field of acoustical consulting upon joining BAP Acoustics in 2022, embracing a transition marked by rapid expertise accrual—particularly in outdoor noise monitoring and HVAC noise control. Kathryn’s solid engineering background supports her technical approach to acoustic challenges, blending mechanical engineering principles with the specialized demands of acoustic consultancy.

 

Qualifications

B.Eng. Mechanical Engineering, BCIT, 2011

Nicole Yeung, M.Eng. EIT.

Acoustic Engineer

An Honours graduate, Nicole earned her M.Eng. degree in Acoustical Engineering at the globally renowned Institute of Sound and Vibration Research founded 60 years ago by the UK-based University of Southampton. Nicole’s project experience encompasses acoustic design, implementation and testing at all stages of work. Her project contributions include examining and optimizing: sound insulation between spaces; room reverberation time; and mechanical noise emissions. She is also experienced in outdoor noise propagation simulation and environmental noise study for: new residential developments; fitness facilities; office buildings; and industrial developments. Nicole has a strong foundation in outdoor noise propagation software Cadna/A. In addition, she is experienced in using programs such as Insul for sound insulation prediction and ODEON for room acoustics. 

 

Qualifications

M.Eng. Acoustical Engineering (Honours), Institute of Sound & Vibration Research, University of Southampton, UK.

EIT, BC