Eco-friendly design now includes a people-friendly hearing loop at WBUUC

White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church expansion, designed by Locus Architecture

White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church expansion, designed by Locus Architecture

White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church incorporates many innovative features.  

White Bear Unitarian is a beautiful building, winning an award from the American Institute of Architects for its eco-friendly design. When the facility was expanded in 2006, some of the architecture design considerations included a re-purposed original structure, natural lighting, solar panels, preservation of natural habitat, sustainable landscaping, and low maintenance construction materials. Even the parking lot was paved with permeable material, allowing rainwater to drain through natural filters before it flows into groundwater. 


The latest innovative feature: an inductive loop system.

In 2016 we enjoyed the opportunity to work at this lovely location, but, of course, a building with such a unique design had its own unique loop needs.

At every location we install a loop designed specifically for that location’s needs. Because of the special architectural designs at White Bear Unitarian, we wanted to be extra careful to be as unobtrusive as possible. We laid a flat copper wire around the nave so that it would better hide under the carpeting and behind different architectural aspects. However, for the front of the nave close to the altar, we were able to incorporate some of the architectural touches to help us hide the loop. 

By switching from the flat copper wire to round wire, we were able to perfectly slip the wire into the concrete gap along the front of the nave, to the extent that it is next to impossible to see the wire in the front. The decision to make the switch from one kind of wire to another did mean that we had to do some on-site welding, but that was nothing Rick Korinek couldn’t handle.

Anna Gehres, representative for WBUUC, with members of our project team - Rick Korinek and Tom R.

Anna Gehres, representative for WBUUC, with members of our project team - Rick Korinek and Tom R.

In the end, this on-site decision was able to make sure that all the seats in the nave were looped, whereas before a few seats had to be left out to preserve the location’s architectural design. Another job well done, team! Now we’re on to the next loop! 

That's Not A Selfie... That's My Hearing Loop Test!

Recently, we were performing a site inspection, conducting the test at a community theater while actors were rehearsing onstage.  After observing this for about half an hour, one of the young actors finally called out from the stage:  "Why are you walking around taking selfies out there?"  After the laughter died down, I explained that we were doing some testing because the management was considering installing a hearing loop for patrons to use. After a few more questions about what hearing loops are, both groups went back to our respective work. 

One of the things about hearing loops is that every potential installation is different.  The amount of metal in the structure where the hearing loop will be installed has a large impact on the type and complexity of hearing loop.  One can’t tell just by looking if the space can be looped with a simple perimeter loop or, more commonly, a phased array.  Then, if a phased array is required, what is the optimal conductor spacing and so on…

it looks like a selfie.  testing all our hearing loop designs assures optimal performance.

it looks like a selfie.  testing all our hearing loop designs assures optimal performance.

There are important parameters that determine hearing loop performance - that is, how well it works for its users in the audience: signal level, uniformity and frequency response, to name a few.  If a loop is not designed properly, one or more can be deficient.  If so, people relying on the loop, those with hearing impairment, may still struggle to hear what is being communicated.  In some respects, a hearing loop is a little like eye glasses.  Would you want to invest in a pair of new glasses or contacts that only bring your vision back to 20/40 when you could have eyewear that provides you with 20/20 vision?

through rigorous on-site testing, midwest hearing loops verifies every one of its designs will work well. 

through rigorous on-site testing, midwest hearing loops verifies every one of its designs will work well. 

Just like a vision test, where your vision is tested through the recommended prescription, our testing allows us to determine the optimum design for the hearing loop and verify that our hearing loop will indeed perform as needed.  There really isn’t any other way or short cut.  Furthermore, our testing allows us to provide accurate pricing because we know precisely what the system will require.

So, back to the theater.  A good part of the testing involves taking measurements while walking and sitting in the space.  The meter used to measure signal strength and frequency response is just slightly thicker than most smart phones.  To the casual observer, we are walking around, staring into a hand-held device seemingly oblivious to what is going on around us.  I guess it’s not so hard to see why it looks like excessive selfie behavior.  In spite of this we won’t stop testing because we know how important it is to delivering a hearing loop that will work for the people who will rely on it.

New Loopmobile Hits the Road!

At the end of 2015, we took possession of our new white van.  We quickly put it to use.  While it was new, its white color made it, frankly, boring.  Well, it is boring no longer.  Recently, we took it to Signs Now, a sign & graphics company in Blaine, MN to have it outfitted with our new graphics.  Here is a picture of Rick and Steve picking up the new van. 

when you see this van, you know there's a new loop being installed somewhere nearby.

when you see this van, you know there's a new loop being installed somewhere nearby.

Since you have been to our new website or Facebook page, you’ve already seen our new graphics and logo.  It is the result of a collaboration with Rick’s brother Steve Korinek, a talented graphic designer in Grafton, WI.  It was fun to work with him and we are proud to be using our new logo as we move forward, designing and installing hearing loops in the region.

So, drive safe and keep an eye out for our new van.  It may be coming to a neighborhood near you.