Re: dining hall layout (was Childrens behavior at community dinner)
From: James Kacki (
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2006 19:26:52 -0800 (PST)
Curtains, half walls, partial walls can not solve an acoustic problem. Even floor to ceiling folding walls can not solve the problem unless they are the very expensive acoustic walls. Design and planning can help, I believe, but solutions with large (even small) open spaces between separations allow noise to pass easily. Soft materials deaden sound somewhat, physical separation works well. Does anyone have a plan layout that works well for kid noise problems.

Andrew Netherton wrote:
I'll admit, as a parent I have simply developed a tolerance for the
din.  That's not to say that I like it!

Of the few common house pictures and plans that I've seen (never
having seen a live common house at all yet), all the dining areas seem
to be one big room with tables and chairs in it.  Forgive me for yet
again taking a design-oriented approach to this issue ("If all you
have is a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail."  I'm an
engineer - mea culpa.), but does this accurately reflect how community
dinners happen on a social level?

On first blush, I'd be tempted to take a dining hall, and instead of
making it a cafeteria-style open-concept eating room, turn it into
more of a restaurant layout, where there are many tables of various
sizes, each visually accessible to the others yet physically removed
somewhat, either with curtains, half-walls, or something like that.
These partitions could serve as sound barriers.  They don't have to be
permanent; a folding wall or a partition on wheels would work too, and
preserve the all-purpose ability of the space in question.

Is that going too far?  Can surface treatments be enough to promote
lower noise levels?  When it comes to kids I realize parenting needs
to be part of the solution, but judicious use of materials and layout
could certainly help, no?

Andrew Netherton
Laurel Creek Commons (forming)
Waterloo, ON, Canada

On 11/13/06, Rob Sandelin <floriferous [at]> wrote:

 Deborah Mensch posted about children at dinner under a different subject
heading so I changed the subject heading. Please, the only way to find stuff
in the archive is by subject, and so if your post does not match the title
in the subject, please consider changing the subject so that it matches.

I have had dinner at several cohousing groups and one of the common
denominators is the dinner behavior Debra described, where kids are up and
active and parents sit and have adult conversations amid the din.  It is
this very environment that I find that I can't deal with and so I have not
attended community meals for some time. Many parents have a high noise and
activity filter and so the din is just normal background for them. For those
who are not parents, or who have a different meal time expectation, the din
can be overwhelming. At Sharingwood we have tried many ways of managing this
and none of them stuck, for the very reason that the parents did not notice
a problem or think it was a big deal. One by one people have dropped out of
dinner and so all that are left are the most noise tolerant diners. This is
a natural selection of sorts but to my surprise, the suggestion of a private
quiet dinner club in peoples homes was met with some hostility and thus has
not yet happened.

So I am curious about this. Do people who want quiet, peaceful dining
habitats have their needs met in your community around group meals?

Rob Sandelin
Sharingwood Cohousing, Snohomish County
Naturalist, Writer
The Environmental Science School


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