A $2 million renovation underway at WBAA AM/FM, Purdue University's
NPR affiliate, will nearly double the size of the station's studios and
offices in the basement of the Elliott Hall of Music.
New studios are being built with state-of-the-art sound isolation,
noise and vibration control and acoustics. Acoustical design was done
by Russ Berger Design Group, Inc., of Addison, TX, while the major
architectural elements (electrical, HVAC, etc.) were done by Gibralter
Design of Indianapolis. The station's director of engineering, Michael
Gay, oversaw the project.
WBAA received its license in 1922, and is the longest continually
operating radio station in Indiana. When the current facilities were
built in the 1940s, they housed one AM station, WBAA AM 92. Companion
station WBAA-FM 101.3 was launched in 1993, operating in the same
space. An expansion was overdue.
The construction process has been thoroughly documented on a website
put together by station manager Dan Skinner. See the progress of the
project at members.home.net/wbaaconstruction.
Michael Gay took a few moments out of his busy schedule recently to
give BERadio.com an overview of the project and some of the more
interesting challenges that had to be met. As he notes, this is only
phase one of the project.
February: View of framing from Master Control Room through
studio to hall.
APRIL: New Engineering room floor.
APRIL: New Engineering Room front.
APRIL: HVAC installation.
APRIL: New studio ceiling grid.
May: Master Control Room studio framing.
June: RPG diffusers in new Master Control Room.
June: New Master control with temporary floor.
BERadio.com: What materials were used
for acoustics and isolation in the Master Control Room and the
Engineering Room, such as bass traps and diffusers? What kind were
they, and how were they used? Were floating floors installed
: Wood diffusers were the Omniffusor from RPG Diffuser Systems. The
double magnetic sealing sound isolation doors were from Industrial
Acoustics Company. The wall treatment was built in place. Bass traps
were designed into the ceiling and consist of a 10" gap between the
suspended ceiling and the side walls of the studios.
The studio is located in the basement of Purdue’s Elliott Hall of
Music (www.purdue.edu/hlmc/venues/Elliott), one of the
largest proscenium theaters in the world. A 6,025 seat auditorium in
the venue is directly above the studio space for WBAA. It is not
uncommon for a live concert (anything from Rap to Country to Opera) to
be in progress while WBAA is broadcasting standard programming live on
the air. All the studios were designed freestanding with no rigid
connections between adjacent walls.
The floor, however, is not floating. It was determined that the
existing 4" slab was dense enough to make the desired sound rating.
Granted, if someone outside is hammer drilling (something which will be
finished soon, hopefully) you will hear and feel it, but WBAA shares
the basement of Elliott Hall with the Purdue Bands. The band Practice
Room is within 100 feet of the new studios. With the studios nearing
completion, I heard the band practicing the other day until I walked in
a studio and shut the door. Silence truly is golden.
BERadio.com: What challenges were faced
in installing the HVAC? How was the system vented and installed for
Michael Gay: A new low-velocity air
handler was installed for the sole purpose of handling the new studio
space. The existing air handling for the building would not have been
sufficient. Each room has its own thermostat control and all control
dampers are located at least 10 feet from the entry point into the
studio to prevent any whistling or other sounds from the air rushing
over the dampers. Most of the ductwork is round metal with an interior
fiberglass lining, but the connection to the studios is a section of
flexible duct to avoid mechanical transfer of noise.
BERadio.com: Was the original budget
accurate? Were there big additions to the plans along the
Michael Gay: The budget was blown, as
always happens in these projects. The reasoning is that a lot of dirt
had to be hauled out by hand since this is an active building. This
added to the labor costs. There were other overruns, too, but Purdue
supported this project fully and found a way to get us additional money
to make sure the project was finished properly.
BERadio.com: Is the studio wired for
digital throughout? How were the cable runs handled in the floor, walls
Michael Gay: We had approximately an
18’ by 20’ section of the 4" slab cut and removed for the
new engineering center. After this, 18" of dirt was removed by hand,
slots to the studios were also cut and excavated. After all that, three
4" conduits were laid to several 2’ X 2’ floor pockets
located in each studio. The main engineering center, where all the
automation, studio UPSs and two Logitek Audio Engines are housed, sits
on a 12" raised access floor.
Since we dug out 18" and poured a 4" foundation, the floor is level
with the rest of the facility. Removable panels measuring 2’ by
2’ are used to gain access to the underfloor routing of cabling.
The conduits to the studios dump out under this floor, making for a
clean looking facility.
The rear wall of the room was used for 65 Siemon B-800 wiring punch
blocks with black Panduit slotted surface wiring duct used to route the
wall cabling. Wiring will be all-digital with an all-digital airchain
for the FM and mostly digital for the AM. The FM airchain will consist
of a New Audiovault II automation system with all uncompressed music on
hard drives, two each of the Logitek Numix 24 and Roc-5 control
surfaces and Audio Engine, SAS 16000D AES3 router, Omnia Veris digital
audio processor, Mosely Starlink uncompressed STL system and finally a
new Harris Digit-CD digital exciter for our existing transmitter.
The AM airchain will consist of mostly the same except for a digital
Omnia 3-AM processor feeding an analog Marti STL-10 system to the
transmitter site. Mic processing for all studios will consist of 14
Omnia Toolvox digital mic processors. The phone system will be the new
Telos 2X12 system with AES/EBU ins and outs. We went with 30" deep
racks so we could still shut the door even after everything was wired.
Equipment such as STLs and audio processors always seem to be the
deepest items in a rack.
The engineering room will be a real showpiece. It will be the only
engineering room I know of with track lighting to highlight the
equipment in the racks. There is some overhead conduit which will be
used for the new edit suites due to be completed during the next phase
of the project, slated to get underway in July.
BERadio.com: What grounding system was
Michael Gay: The University has a master
grounding system for the campus, to which all 13 Middle Atlantic
Equipment Racks will be bonded using Middle Atlantic Bus Bars. Then, 2"
copper strap will be run to each studio for the playback
BERadio.com: What was it like working
with Russ Berger? What kind of interesting suggestions did they have
for the project? Where did Russ Berger leave off and Gibralter Design
Michael Gay: Russ Berger Design acted as
the main acoustic space designers, while Gibralter handled the
mechanical details, such as electrical, air handling and plumbing. We
worked with Richard Schrag of Russ Berger Design Group, and he was a
pleasure to work with. Russ Berger Design was able to come up with a
plan to fit a very generic space in one of the worst locations for a
radio studio on campus, below a 6,025 seat auditorium and adjacent to
the Purdue Band’s practice room.
One of the ideas they had that we really liked was the fact that the
glass between the voice studio and the control room goes all the way to
the ground, giving the illusion of a large open space. Russ Berger
Design also chose all the finishes for the facility, selecting an
antique green scheme which will reflect the history of the oldest radio
station in Indiana.
BERadio.com: Who was instrumental in
the project, and what did they do? What was your role, and Dan
Michael Gay: I would have to say that
Purdue’s upper administration was very instrumental and
supportive of the project and helped provide the funding. There has
been a change in the administration since the retirement of
Purdue’s President, but the feeling toward the radio station has
not changed; if anything, it has gotten better.
My role as manager of engineering was to come up with the equipment
system design for the facility based on the needs of Dan Skinner and
his staff. Early in the construction, my role was to work with the
contractor to make sure that the intent of the plans was met and that
crucial floor cuts were in the proper place to match up with our
drawings from Mager Systems for the studio furniture. Several meetings
were held to determine the needs and equipment was evaluated for its
suitability. I put together all the drawings and wiring schemes.
Currently, my role is to implement that system. I am a working manager,
so I just spent the last three weeks installing racks and punching down
wires. I have a staff of 11 qualified people whose normal duties are to
support campus video networks and classroom technology. They have all
been participating in this installation to make sure it happens
according to a rather aggressive schedule.
Dan has been instrumental in working with the contractor and reporting
the progress back to Russ Berger. This was the original need for the
website and it expanded to serve interested parties and friends of the
BERadio.com: What is the project
Michael Gay: The project was divided into
two phases to allow the station to continue operating. Phase one
consists of what is currently on the website. This is building four
studios and an engineering room in previously unoccupied space. On-air
operations will transition during the first week of July and the old
space will be cleaned out and ready for demolition by mid July. At this
time, the new office complex for the station will be constructed as
well as a new music library, engineering workshop and two new digital