Local businesses improve acoustics at Summit County Animal Shelter | SummitDaily.com

Local businesses improve acoustics at Summit County Animal Shelter

Aida Guerra, 8, a third-grader at Upper Blue Elementary, walks through the Summit County Animal Shelter kennels with her hands to her ears. Her mother, Suzanne Allen, owner of Allen-Guerra Architecture, spearheaded a project to donate sound absorbing panels to the shelter, which were installed Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014.
Alli Langley / alangley@summitdaily.com |

When you walk into the kennels of the Summit County Animal Shelter, you’re greeted by about 15 dogs. They’re excited to see you, and they tell you with loud barks that echoed off the shelter’s white, concrete walls for years.

The sound has been called brutal, piercing, painful. It’s been compared to a car horn blasting a few feet from your ears.

Imagine how the dogs felt.

“Their hearing is more sensitive than ours,” said Mike Orlowski, owner of Alpine Vista Home Cinema and Automation. “Course you can’t ask them that — if it hurts or bothers them.”

Orlowski teamed up with Suzanne Allen, owner of Allen-Guerra Architecture, and Ty Cortright, framing contractor and project manager with Cortright Enterprises, to install acoustic panels in the kennels on Tuesday, Sept. 23.

Allen spearheaded the whole idea after she adopted a dog with her 8-year-old daughter, Aida Guerra, in the spring.

“I couldn’t even stand it in there,” she said, and she thought the noise must be stressful on the animals, the shelter’s employees and the people coming to adopt.

She figured installing sound absorption panels would be easy.

Allen paid for the materials, which added up to about $3,000, Orlowski designed the system and ordered the parts, and Cortright and three members of his crew completed the installation.

“We didn’t do anything on this except say yes,” said Leslie Hall, the shelter’s director, who could hear the dogs barking in her office two walls and a hallway away.

This has been a summer of volunteer projects, she added, mentioning an outdoor doggy playground built by a loyal volunteer in partnership with Lowe’s and an Eagle Scout project in the works.

After getting the go-ahead from the shelter — which has 10 employees, about 200 active volunteers, and roughly 10 dogs in the kennels and 20 cats in surrounding rooms — Allen received permission from the county and the fire department.

Then in about three hours, Cortright’s group placed the 34 panels: 28 3-by-4-foot wall panels and six 4-by-6-foot panels on the ceiling.

They look and feel like gymnastics mats.

Orlowski said the panels are wrapped in forest-green plastic covered in tiny holes, which absorb and capture the energy of the sound waves. Before, the echo in the room, also called reverb or hang time, lasted about 1.5 seconds, he said. Now it’s down to about 0.3 seconds.

Shelter employees are thrilled not only because of the reduced noise, but also because the green panels lessen the harsh glare reflected by the white walls.

“It’s a huge difference,” said Meg Leroux, the shelter’s operations manager. “Oh my god I walked in, and I just almost started crying.”

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