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Cape Town International Airport Upgrade


Blueprint Architects

Project Manager

Target Projects

Project Value

R 1.5 Billion

Project Expertise

Concept development with Architect

Large Volume Room Acoustics

Acoustic space modelling

The Project and Acoustic Finishes

In 2007 we were approached by Blueprint Architects to help design the acoustics and noise control features for the Cape Town International Airport Upgrade. The acoustics design for the airport consisted of a noise control design (to keep the aircraft noise out) and interior acoustics design.

The main challenges for the noise control were the flush glazing / curtain wall facade on the air-side (runway) of the building and the soundproofing for the roof.

The interior acoustics design for the main departure hall posed many challenges acoustically. The space had an air volume of approximately 150 000 m³ (great for high frequency sound absorption, but not ideal for mid/low frequencies).

The ceiling had to be treated acoustically. Through the conceptual design we and the architects came up with a ceiling made up of 9000 aluminium pipes. The trick here was that each pipe would act as a Helmholtz resonator (different pipes tuned to different absorbing frequencies) absorbing low frequency noise.  Many hours of design calculations were completed, testing in acoustic test chambers and example build-up preparations before the final design was approved by the design team.

As far as we are aware this is the largest assembly of Helmholtz resonators ever used in an architectural design (18 000 in total, 2 per pipe) anywhere in the world. Due to this being a first, with no idea whether it would work (besides the calculations and tests) the installation was a nerve-wracking period for the design team.

In the end the departure hall is a pleasant peaceful space (even when it is full) with a reverberation time well below that which would be expected for such a large enclosed space. The airport has been an award-winning one, winning on several occasions ‘Best Airport in Africa’.