World War III could break out at 21st and Horton streets in La Crosse, but you wouldn’t feel or hear it if you were hunkered down in a room in the Acoustics Lab on the Trane campus there.
Oh, all right — perhaps that’s an exaggeration. However, the 22-by-27-foot-30 room within the building was designed in such a way that it shuts out virtually all outside noise and traffic tremors on neighboring streets — even the construction cacophony and vibrations of the parish hall and religious education center being built at Mary, Mother of the Church across the street.
The walls, ceiling and floor of the hemi-anechoic chamber are 10 inches thick, said Sean Staed, lead engineer in the lab for testing the commercial air-conditioning units that Trane manufactures for worldwide sales. The room also is lined with 3-foot thick fiberglass wedges — monster versions of noise-deadening insulation you might see in a recording studio.
“You could go crazy in this room, with no sounds,” Staed said.
Indeed — a roaring motorcycle would have to be moved 2½ football fields away to erase the noise as efficiently as the hemi-anechoic chamber does, Staed said.
The chamber’s serenity also comes from the fact that the 750,000-pound room — that’s 360 tons, if you’re counting — is nearly completely separated from the Acoustics Lab building. It rests on gigantic springs, each of which can hold 23,000 pounds, to nullify vibrations.
The door to the room is 8 inches thick, and the portal has a gap between the building and the room that looks like that between an elevator and its shaft.
The air-conditioning and air-handling units for the lab are in a nearby building so their vibrations will not affect testing.
“The No. 1 goal for Trane is to create as quiet a product as possible for the customer when developing new products or rating for vibrations,” said John Krause, Trane’s North American lab leader, with responsibilities for labs in Clarksville, Tenn., Lynn Haven, Fla., and Waco. Texas.
The hemi-anechoic chamber includes an array of microphones to pinpoint the source of a particular vibration and eliminate it, Staed said.
Testing a major air-conditioning unit can take from a week to three weeks, depending on what the product is and what its capabilities are.
As is the case with most do-it-yourself projects around the house, the setup often is more time-consuming than the actual project or test. Positioning everything may take two to three days for a test that takes only 45 seconds to mine the data, he said.
Next to the chamber is the reverberant room, designed to test the opposite conditions, with walls designed to reflect noise instead of deadening it, Staed said.
“It’s used to rate the noise,” Staed said, to maintain Trane’s perpetual reputation as best in class among commercial air conditioners.
The two rooms in the Acoustics Lab, which was built in 1965, are part of Trane’s industry-leading testing facility in La Crosse, which can evaluate any water-cooled chiller from any manufacturer. The National Institutes of Standards and Technology calibrates and validates the testing equipment annually.
The Trane Co., which James Trane and son Reuben founded in La Crosse in 1913, has manufactured centrifugal chillers for large commercial buildings since 1938. The chillers are used in thousands of buildings throughout the world.
Now a division of Ingersoll Rand, Trane employs about 1,800 workers in La Crosse.