Project: Haaga-Helia Campus
Country/city: Finland / Porvoo
Architect: Siren Arkkitehdit Oy / lead designer Jukka Siren, project architect in charge Marja-Riitta Elomaa
Acoustic design: Akustiikkasuunnittelu Alpo Halme Oy, Eija Halme-Salo
Project size: 9400 m²
Photographer: Kari Palsila
Modern learning environment
Porvoo Campus situated on the west bank of Porvoonjoki is a modern learning environment that encourages encounters. The premises were finished in 2011 and they were designed to service the new curriculum. In open spaces the importance of acoustic solutions is emphasised.
Porvoo Campus was built to enhance learning. The facilities are open to everyone, which supports co-learning and integrates the campus into the surrounding community.
Porvoo Campus combines the Haaga-Helia unit and the Porvoo unit of Laurea University of Applied Sciences that were previously operating in two separate buildings. The campus offers studies in the fields of business, tourism and healthcare, and also international study programmes are available. Haaga-Helia has a little over 1,100 students and Laurea about 350 students studying at the Porvoo Campus.
When planning the new facilities, instead of building a traditional school, the objective was to create a dynamic learning environment that would integrate into the community and be open to everyone.
We wanted to bring openness and transparency
into the facilities.
“We wanted to bring openness and transparency into the facilities. The idea is that the facilities can encourage encounters and enhance interaction,” says Lis-Marie Enroth-Niemi, Director of Porvoo Campus.
When moving to the new building, the unit wanted to leave behind the old operations models and dated ideas. The teachers were asked to figure out how learning will change over time and what part the surrounding facilities play. Teachers were sent all over the world to see different learning environments and learn about them, and that research gave rise to a mutual aim of creating a modern learning environment. Porvoo Campus needed facilities that would encourage cooperation, open atmosphere and self-directed studying.
“The new curriculum emphasises initiative. The students are encouraged to take more responsibility for their learning, and in the course of their studies, they learn to not only absorb information but to apply it and use it for further development,” Enroth-Niemi says.
The students also work closely together with local businesses in real projects. The teacher’s role is mainly that of an instructor.
“A pleasant and comfortable environment enhances learning, and the varied surroundings help keep the mind refreshed. We have plenty of rooms for group work, all of them different in terms of size and interior,” says Enroth-Niemi.
Making studying visible
One objective was to make studying and working more visible at the Porvoo Campus. This was accomplished by putting up as few walls as possible and by using glass as wall material.
‘We even thought about applying a completely open concept to some of the teaching facilities, but as the design work progressed, we realised that some sort of separating walls were necessary. In order to maintain the idea of transparency and openness, we used glass as the wall material in corridors whenever possible, and even some of the separating walls are made of glass, says Architect Marja-Riitta Elomaa of Siren Arkkitehdit Oy.
The open concept set higher requirements for acoustics.
“Our major concern was how to keep the spaces as open as possible and still create a well-functioning and safe acoustic environment,” Elomaa continues.
Our major concern was how to keep the spaces as open as possible and still create a well-functioning and safe acoustic environment.
The key to success in acoustic design was the close cooperation between the architect and the acoustic designer. Alpo Halme Oy brought their expertise into the acoustic design process.
“Open spaces and ample use of glass surfaces require a lot of absorbing material. Thus, all suspended ceilings are sound-absorbing, and we also installed sound-absorbing wall panels where necessary,” says Eija Halme-Salo from Alpo Halme Oy, who was responsible for the acoustic design.
The flexible facilities adapt to the users’ needs. The new building meant a significant change for the teachers. Traditional desks were replaced by open-plan staff facilities that also provided a quiet room for working. The changes resulted in better communication and increased cooperation.
Acoustics support learning
In learning environments, acoustic solutions have two important roles – to reflect and absorb sound. In classrooms and other learning environments it is important that the teacher’s voice easily reaches the back of the room to minimise vocal strain. Also, the students’ answers need to be clearly audible to the teacher and other students. Any disturbing noises, such as clatter of chairs or background noise of equipment, need to be damped. The basic acoustic solution is to install reflecting panels in the front of the room to reflect the teacher’s voice to the listeners and absorbing panels in the back of the room to damp sound.
“A high-quality sound environment is particularly important in classrooms, as students and teachers spend the entire day in the rooms,” Halme-Salo explains.
At Porvoo Campus, the open-space concept and the large number of glass walls and sliding glass doors meant a higher need for sound-absorbing materials in classrooms. Framed walls have higher sound-absorbing capacity than glass walls and sliding walls. A good sound reduction system can make up for poorer sound-absorbing capacity.
At Porvoo Campus, all learning environments have acoustic suspended ceilings. In the front of the room, the ceiling is fitted with speech-reflecting gamma panels, and in the rest of the room, the ceiling is covered with Ecophon Master Ds alpha panels. In addition, at least two walls are fitted with acoustic panels, and in most of the rooms the back walls are fully covered with sound-absorbent material. The coloured wall panels create a basis for a colour scheme, and the colours of the furniture were chosen to match that scheme.
Absorbing solutions for the open concept lobby
The high lobby in the centre of the Porvoo Campus building functions as a combining element for all the facilities. On three sides, students’ group work rooms and conference rooms open up to the lobby. The open stairway leading to the upper floors is a connecting element between the spaces and, like the balconies circling the lobby, functions as stand or terrace during different events.
When we have guests, they are surprised by
the good acoustics.
The high lobby with its glass ceiling required special attention when creating a pleasant sound environment. To reduce the reverberation time, the balconies and corridors surrounding the lobby as well as the spaces opening up to the lobby all have sound-absorbing ceilings. Also the side surfaces of the suspended ceilings and the ceiling in the lobby are acoustic. That way it was possible to maintain the spacious and open feel and still create a calm atmosphere.
“We are very happy with the sound environment of the facilities. There are no echoes, we can arrange events in the lobby without using a microphone, and the staff facilities are pleasant and comfortable. You can really notice a difference compared to many other school premises. When we have guests, they are surprised by the good acoustics,” Lis-Marie Enroth-Niemi rejoices.
Why are good acoustics important in classrooms?
- A comfortable environment has a calming effect, reduces disruptive behaviour and decreases the sound level
- High-quality sound environment enhances learning: students can better hear the teacher and each other
- Clearly distinguished speech sounds are particularly important in language learning
- Teachers’ and students’ well-being and safety