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Glass-walled studio - opinions!

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Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby drummersteve » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:50 am

Hi all,

I recently posted regarding my next most appropriate studio upgrade. From that thread, the main comment that people had was acoustic treatment. Right now it’s not possible in. Y living situation (rented), but very soon will be, which leads me to my idea...

From the UK now living in Ecuador with my wife, we are about to purchase an apartment which overlooks spectacular views of mountains etc. We have a large terrace, and plan to extend the apartment onto the terrace for use as a studio. My crazy idea is to have all of the walls as glass, or at least, as much as possible; one of the main reasons we are moving here specifically is for the view, and what better inspiration for work to be admiring the panoramic view.

Of course I’m aware glass is probably the WORST material acoustically speaking. So, I’ve had the idea of creating fashionable acoustic treatment panels, that can be suspended from the ceiling (which will be a more traditional solid material, with a skylight to let light in from above). I’ve read around that you don’t want a completely dead room, so some liveliness is ok. By suspending the panels from the ceiling, set a little away from the glass, they’ll act like hanging pictures on the wall, strategically placed in the problem areas. And then of course in the corners etc for further absorption, allowing as much space for the view/light as possible. Will probably install some kind of fabric blind right against the window for when it’s too sunny too..

My question is, is this a crazy idea? Or could it work with the correct placement? I’m a composer so a lot of my work is done on headphones, and I do mix, but it’s less frequent. I just want the space to be good enough as and when I do mix. We will also be constructing a small booth for singing in.

Any thoughts and opinions would be massively appreciated. Thank you!
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Re: Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby Jumpeyspyder » Fri Feb 01, 2019 2:58 am

Hi Steve,

It sounds wonderful :)

But....

Most immeadiate problem is 'apartment' you will therefore have neighbours so you will need some level of soundproofing!

Acoustics (assuming the space is large enough) isn't too hard to fix, but isolation is hard and usually expensive :(
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Re: Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby blinddrew » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:13 am

I suspect this is going to be a simple matter of budget and compromise.
Crowded house recorded their third album in a studio in the hills in NZ with one glass wall - amazing views as you'd expect, and doubtless an inspiring place to work.
I recall from an SOS article that The National's studio has a massive picture window as well.
So it possibly can be done, but it's probably going to be hugely expensive.
Fundamentally, to stop the transmission of sound (proofing not treatment) you need mass. Lots of it. Using really thick layers of float glass might get you some way there but you'd absolutely have to speak to an acoustician before going any further.
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Re: Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby Wonks » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:37 am

Glass walls = greenhouse. The room will need to be soundproof, so no natural ventilation.

I know the sun will be normally quite high in the sky in Equador, so direct sunlight into the space will be minimal apart from the first part of the morning and late evening, but even so, with some direct and a lot of reflected light (and infra-red), not forgetting high ambient temperatures, there will be some serious cooling issues to deal with.

So you also need to speak to a mechanical building services engineer.
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Re: Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby James Perrett » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:44 pm

There's a very obvious precedent here...

http://realworldstudios.com/studios/big-room/

I'm fairly sure that Studio Sound did an in depth article on it when it was opened so it would be worth takiing a look at the mid 80's editions at

https://www.americanradiohistory.com/Studio-Sound.htm
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Re: Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby Music Wolf » Fri Feb 01, 2019 1:29 pm

drummersteve wrote:Of course I’m aware glass is probably the WORST material acoustically speaking.

It depends whether you are thinking about sound attenuation or concerned about the acoustics of the space.

Glass is fairly dense (2,500 kgm-3), it's just that we use thin sheets (typically 1 or 2 plies at 6mm each) so it's often the weak link when it comes to sound attenuation. When it comes to reflection the main issue is that people don't want to but an absorber in front (as it defeats the point of having glass in the first place). If you can use movable absorbers when required then it shouldn't be a problem.

As for heat absorption. You'll need product with a metallic sputter coated IR reflective layer which will be more expensive (if available in your region).
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Re: Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby drummersteve » Sat Feb 02, 2019 5:07 am

Wow, thanks for all the responses so far. Extremely helpful.

A general point that has been mentioned a lot is proofing. I did think this, but then I also thought that my main occupation is a composer, mostly sequencing. I do record stuff, but it’s really just acoustic guitar, violin, ie relatively quiet acoustic instruments, and even that is reasonably infrequent. I also record a lot of vocals, but I intend on creating some kind of sound-proofed booth inside the apartment adjacent to the greenhouse (ie not a greenhouse booth), so that somewhat eliminates those issues, as the voice would probably be by far the loudest instrument. And given the location of the terrace, it is away from external ambient noise leaking in (such as passing cars etc) so I don’t envisage external noise being a factor when I do record guitar etc.

Essentially, it’s less of a recording space, and more of a project studio/writing space for me, with the occasional necessity to record. I *guess* that makes isolation less of a deal.

And then also as mentioned, most of the time I monitor on my headphones (due to current living circumstances and neighbors), so it wouldn’t be all the time that I’m using monitors. And even when I do, I wouldn’t have it cranked to 11.

I suppose my main concern is this: as and when I record an acoustic instrument, I didn’t want the sound to be terrible. So some thoughtfully placed panels to account for this (and for the times I do use the monitors), is what I had in mind.

And yes I had also thought of the issue of heat...! The sun is directly above our heads most of the time here, and when standing in the sun it’s pretty intense. We haven’t moved in yet, and as I said this is still only an idea, albeit a slightly mad one. I’ll have to monitor how the sun moves in relation to the terrace throughout the day, to see how much sun wouldnpass through the windows. I would also be installing retractable blinds on all the windows, would these help with the heat? Or would the glass still have its magnifying effect in terms of the room temperature?

Thanks again, I’ll be sure to check out these links too..!
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Re: Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby Wonks » Sat Feb 02, 2019 9:33 am

Internal blinds do reflect glare and a small amount of heat, but the reality is that most of the the infra-red passes through the glass to the inside, heats up whatever it strikes and warms that up. This is at a much lower temperature than the sun's surface, so any IR radiation is at a much lower frequency than it came in at, which is reflected back by the glass and traps the heat inside (which is why greenhouses work).

To keep most of the solar gain outside, you either need fully external blinds or shutters, or else have interstitial blinds i.e. sandwiched between two glass surfaces. The inner one may well be double glazed (for noise reduction and to help keep your conditioned cold air inside) but the outer glass panels aren't sealed at the top and bottom, so that hot air can escape and be replaced by cooler air. The exterior glazing needs to be mounted on hinges so that it can be opened for cleaning.

Interior blinds are only about 10% as effective as exterior blinds at keeping heat out, IIRC.

The blinds can be motorised and either manually controlled via switches, or automatically controlled (obviously more expensive) to operate only when required, e.g. lux detector to keep them open on cloudy days but otherwise only closing them on a facade by facade basis if the sun is shining on to that facade.

Another option is to have overhangs on the building, so that the glass is generally shaded from direct sunlight. This shading can be designed in as a roof overhang, or else provided by horizontally mounted slatted fixed shutters above window level. This provides shading for a large part of the day, but obviously not when the sun is low is the sky. Depending on the surroundings, the low sun angle may be taken care of by other buildings or tall trees etc. Otherwise interior blinds or curtains could take care of solar glare with low sun angles, as heat gain is substantially reduced at low sun angles due to the increased amount of atmosphere the rays have to travel through.
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Re: Glass-walled studio - opinions!

Postby drummersteve » Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:10 pm

Thanks for your reply, Wonks.

I think that despite my ambitious idea, the reality is that I’m not intending to use this as a studio for hire. I’m a composer, and as much as I would love to have the top-spec of everything, the reality is that I can’t afford motorized blinds wedged between double glazed glass.. we can dream! As long as it can remain at a reasonable time temperatue, and I have the means to record acoustic instruments when needed to a good degree, that’s my main aim...

I think I need to find simple ways of shielding myself from the sun, without obstructing the view (as that’s the point of all of this after all) If you don’t mind, I’ve done two very crude sketches of before and after of the space.

Before: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xelhrml8riaol ... e.jpg?dl=0

After: https://www.dropbox.com/s/4cppbi9zeetyr ... r.jpg?dl=0

The green scribble is the land below, yellow lines are current windows. Brown scribble to RHS is a little garden bed.

After picture, the purple is proposed glass walls for studio, and red lines are proposed pergola spots.

The terrace faces south, with the sun rising from the left, setting in the right. Given the surroundings, there will be ample sun in the morning, and after lunch it will disappear behind the apartment building, and more hills/mountains. Therefore I think the main issue will be morning/lunchtime.

As I planned on having a solid ceiling, the mid-day sun shouldn’t affect too much. In the morning, the sun rises from the left. Our plan was to occupy the middle space of the terrace with the studio, leaving a private area to the right off the master bedroom, and a public outdoor area to the left, coming off the main living room. Currently the entire space is open to the sun, so we also planned on building a pergola extending from the living room window. This would be covered by some kind of semi-translucent roofing material (ie letting light through, but cutting out the intensity). Like this:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/yui9icxinvsju ... a.jpg?dl=0

As this would be sheltered from above, it would cut out a lot of direct sunlight that would otherwise be coming in through the studios east-facing windows in the morning, apart from when the sun was at a 90deg. angle to it (ie not much).

What do you think? I’ve also attached a picture of the terrace itself so you can try and appreciate my thoughts. The space is bigger than it appears on the photo, but there you go.
https://www.dropbox.com/s/opnpf4obp55br ... e.jpg?dl=0

Thanks again!
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