Thorburn Associates

Infobox Company
company_name = Thorburn Associates
company_type = Private
foundation = 1992
location = San Francisco, CA USA Offices in Los Angeles, CA & Raleigh-Durham, NC
key_people = Lisa Thorburn, President Steve Thorburn, Principal James Horn, Associate Principal Derek Meares, Associate Principal
industry = engineering consulting
products =
revenue =
operating_income =
net_income =
num_employees =
homepage = []


Thorburn Associates, Inc. (TA) is a design and engineering firm committed to the creation of high-performing human-made spaces for community and communication in business, entertainment, leisure, worship and the arts through the collaborative practice of Acoustically Integrated Architecture (AIR). The company, founded in 1992 by Lisa A. Thorburn, CTS, and Steven J. Thorburn, PE, CTS-D, CTS-I, maintains offices in California and North Carolina. TA provides full-service acoustical consulting and technology system engineering to architects, facility owners, and end-users around the world. Projects include new construction and renovation for the commercial, corporate, leisure, public, residential, house of worship and retail industries.

Philosophy and Practice

TA has exerted a steady influence on the building and construction industry through its advocacy of Acoustically Integrated Architecture and successful projects that embody its principles. AIR is a holistic best practice which, recognizing that the foremost purpose of buildings is to foster human community, seeks the optimal interface of disciplines for a result that supports the specific intended uses of the building. Recognizing their mutual goals for the building, the architect and building designer team up with the acoustician/systems designer at an early conceptual stage of the project to make the most of their complementary expertise.

In practical terms, AIR is applied by envisioning a structure and its systems as a whole in which architectural elements are aesthetically and functionally integrated with the technical systems that are essential components of today's buildings, but also represent significant sources of noise: HVAC, mechanical systems, reinforced audio, plumbing. AIR practices minimize the possibility of noise fatigue by isolating or zoning areas of noise-generating components and activities from quiet areas, controlling the travel of noise from one area to the next, controlling the acoustic or reverberant buildup of sound, and controlling noise at its source. The goal is a high-performing human-made environment that facilitates community, communication and interaction.

Another essential component of AIR is to take into account acoustics, sightlines and lighting needs to design optimal presentation spaces within a building, with a view to the audiovisual systems it will contain. Wrote TA's Steven Thorburn and Derek Meares in the December 2003 issue of Pro AV magazine [] , “The common denominator is that each of these factors is often considered part of the building and not part of the AV systems. Too often, end-users think they can simply add AV equipment to an existing space and get an effective presentation environment.”

TA manifests its commitment to AIR principles by actively reaching out to the building design and construction communities to share information and assertively educate the industry about the role of acoustics, by way of participation in trade associations, writing articles for online and print media, and conducting training and education sessions. Steven Thorburn sits on the Executive Committee of the Themed Entertainment Association and is a regular columnist for Systems Contractor News [] . Every year TA presents a full slate of sessions and demonstrations at the InfoComm show [] presented by ICIA, which named him Educator of the Year for 1996-97. Thorburn continues to lecture and conduct training sessions on videoconferencing, acoustical design and noise control and has done so for the American Institute of Architects (AIA), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and the Architectural Engineering Institute (AEI).

Breakthrough Projects

A recent, landmark project is the award winning GSA San Francisco Federal Building at Seventh and Mission Streets, a new office complex completed in 2006 and managed by the U.S. General Services Administration. The 18-story, convert|605000|sqft|m2|sing=on, LEED®-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) structure features conversational stairwells designed to foster and facilitate interaction between employees. The extra-deep stair landings with built-in window seats allow people who meet on the stairs to move out of the way of foot traffic to chat. An acoustical wall treatment designed by TA in cooperation with the architect, Pritzker Prize recipient Thom Mayne of Morphosis, prevents the sounds of conversation from spilling out of the stairwells into the office spaces. Encounters between employees are further supported by the elevator system, which stops only at every other floor. As a result employees are frequently obliged to use the stairs, which saves energy and promotes physical exercise. The building received an award from CoreNet Global [] in the category of “Public Sector and Government” during CoreNet’s annual Summit in Denver, Colo., on April 30, 2007. GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner David Winstead cited the building's “outstanding architecture in terms of integrated engineering, energy efficiency, and delivering high-quality workspace.”

An example of AIR practices applied to renovation work is the 2003 conversion of the 1912 Medinah Temple in Chicago into the convert|130000|sqft|m2|sing=on Bloomingdale's Home & Furniture Store for Federated Department Stores (Macy's). Trade journalist Dawn Allcot in the January 2004 Sound and Communications magazine [] describes the project at 600 N. Wabash Ave., in the city’s River North area, as “walking the tightrope between maintaining the historic integrity of the building and installing top-of-the-line AV systems to enhance the shopping experience.” Thorburn Associates and SPL were the audiovisual consultants, working with James Harb Architects.

The Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center at Baylor University Hankamer School of Business in Waco, TX received a Grand Prize for classrooms and training facilities from Presentations magazine [] in 2005 [] . TA was system designer, working with architect Stanley G. Love, AIA. Presentations editors cited that, “Behind every successful presentation room is a team of architects, designers and audio-visual integrators who have invested hundreds of hours of their time, energy and imagination toward the common goal of a successful project. In the process, the rooms they create become more than just another space inside a building; these boardrooms, classrooms and auditoriums are where vital business decisions are made, new ideas are shared and great presentations are made. Indeed, these rooms are where the organizations who use them come to life, inspired by a unique choreography of architecture, technology, function and aesthetics.”

Additional Project Information


* Personal Work:
** Professional Education and Training Committee Award "Educator of the Year", 1996-97 cite web |url= | |accessdate=2008-06-05 |publisher=InfoComm |date=
** First Place - Systems and Facilities Design, 1991, project: CSA Audiovisual Presentation Studio
** Award for Systems and Facilities Design, 1990, project: City of Fremont’s Council Chambers Audiovisual Upgrade
* Themed Entertainment Association THEA Award:
** Awarded Themed Entertainment Association THEA Outstanding Achievement Award for Paramount's King's Island "Tomb Raider: The Ride" 2002
** Universal Studios "Amazing Adventures of Spiderman," 2000
** Universal Studios "Islands of Adventure," 2000
** Columbus Center of Science and Technology (COSI), audio, video and control system engineering services and acoustical design 2000
* Building of America Award, 2007, project: The Mountain View Senior Center
* Northern California Region’s Most Important New Construction/ Renovation, 2007, project: San Francisco Federal Office Building, General Service Administration
* AIA Winner of Architecture & Excellence Award, 2007, project: Plaza Apartments
* SUGEN, Inc., South San Francisco, Ca was awarded First Gold LEED Certified Biotech Lab, and was also awarded:
** AIA San Mateo County/Sustainable San Mateo County Green Building Award, 2006
** SAMCEDA Awards of Excellence, Environmental Action Award, 2005


* “Sculpting Sound: Matching Music and Acoustics to Ambience,” Archi-Tech magazine, Jan-Feb 2005 []
* “Practical Applications of Display Technology,” Church Production magazine, June 2008 []
* “Buying a Videoconference System They'll Actually Use,” AV Technology magazine, May 2008 []
* “Music Too Loud? Maybe...” Sound & Video Contractor, January 20, 2005 []
* “Bloomingdale's Home and Furniture,” Retail Traffic magazine, May 1, 2004 []
* “How to Optimize Your Presentation Environments,” Pro AV magazine, April 2004 []
* “Morphosis: United States Federal Building,” Arcspace, October 14, 2007 []
* “Waking Up the Neighbors: Bring on the Stadium Noise – But Quietly,” Stadia magazine, January 2002 []

External links

* [ Thorburn Associates official website]
* [ Infocomm International official website]

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