The great partitioning divide

Julian Sargent, group MD for partitioning expert Style, explains what you need to find out about a venue’s moveable wall to ensure it will work for your event.

As any organiser will know, a poor quality partitioning wall can significantly temper the success of an event. But flexibility of space is also critical. So what can you do to ensure a partitioning wall system will perform as you require?

Ultimately it is a matter of acoustics. During installation, a professional contractor will have examined all aspect of the location, inspecting the ceiling cavity and adjoining walls to see what can be done to cut down sound flanking, which is when noise travels over and around the moveable wall.

The venue is unlikely to have installation information but you should insist on seeing the partitioning system moved into place.  This allows you to monitor how quick and easy it is to reconfigure the room and, once it is in place, don’t be afraid to carry out a thorough visual inspection, looking for poor seals and wear and tear which could affect acoustic performance.

A simple test as to the effectiveness of the partitioning wall as an acoustic barrier is to switch on the lights on one side of partition and examine how much seeps through to the other side.

Any venue should be able to supply you with the acoustic certification for the system installed but they are not easy for the layman to interpret.

To get a meaningful value you are looking for the ‘Rw dB’ figure which is the acoustic performance of that system under perfect laboratory conditions. However, remember that the on-site performance will be between 7-15 dB lower and differences as high as 20 dB or more are not uncommon.

A system that boasts 60Rw dB is the gold standard that will deliver impeccable acoustic performance, giving privacy to both sides of the moveable wall.

Anything above 50Rw dB should be a good quality solution that will make a firm dividing wall between groups and allow the space to be used flexibly.

Glass partitioning walls are popular and, with integral blinds, can deliver a good compromise between light and the need for privacy.

Acoustics performance should still be in the region of 40-50Rw dB, which is perfectly adequate for small groups.

Finally, consider the mechanism for moving the wall into place and ask who is responsible for reconfiguring the room during your event.

Are you going to be expected to manually move panels into place or do you have to rely on the venue’s staff to be on hand when you need them?

Fully automatic partitioning walls are becoming increasingly common, allowing a room to be quickly divided and opened out within a matter of minutes.

Automatic sliding partitioning walls run along tracks in the ceiling/floor or, as in the case of the unique, 60Rw dB Skyfold, descend from the ceiling cavity at the press of a button.

A semi-automatic system, such as DORMA’s Moveo sliding wall, means you or the venue staff slide the panels manually into place along tracks whereupon, heavy-duty seals between them automatically expand to the right level. Apart from speeding up the process, it is a lot less effort than an entirely manual system and a perfect acoustic seal is achieved every time.

Clearly, a well installed, high quality moveable partitioning wall gives great flexibility to a venue, allowing privacy between areas when required and opening up the space to include all groups.

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

Martin Fullard

Author

Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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