Ancient Meets Modern At Belgium’s Oldest University

Dating back to 1425, the University of Leuven is Belgium’s oldest university. It has had a turbulent history, things finally settling down after the 1968 division into two separate institutions, the Dutch-speaking Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and its French-speaking counterpart, the Université Catholique de Louvain. The former has recently seen the installation of Ampetronic induction loops in two of its most prestigious teaching spaces, allowing hard of hearing students to enjoy exactly the same teaching experience as their fellows.

The Pieter de Somer and Gasthuisberg auditoria are respectively the oldest and newest lecture theatres at the university, but each needs to provide an equally high quality experience for the users of the induction loop systems.

“The university has students who are hard of hearing, but its administration also realises that legislation will require induction loops to be installed far more widely.” says Danny Bakkers of Hasselt-based PVS, which installed both systems. “It made sense to install an induction loop in the brand new space and also one in Pieter de Somer while it was being upgraded.”

Both systems were designed by Ampetronic, the shape of the lecture theatres playing a key role in the layout of the phased arrays - Gasthuisberg being the conventional fan shape, whereas Pieter de Somer is effectively circular in plan.

However, it was the brand new Gasthuisberg which provided the biggest technical challenges, due to the method of construction and the amount of steelwork in the building’s construction. Requiring six Ampetronic ILD1000G loop amplifiers plus SP5 phase shift/metal loss corrector, the loop system comprised two arrays of narrow loops, but each array had to be split into 12 sections side-to-side to avoid the floor support beams. Effectively this meant that the two loops each comprised 60 small squares, making for a complex installation of the loop cable.

In contrast, Pieter de Somer needed just two ILD1000Gs and an SP5, the twin loops sweeping from side to side of the auditorium in a straightforward manner.

“Gasthuisberg in particular was a complex installation. As the loop cables were installed beneath the concrete floor of the raked seating, we had to work around the longitudinal support beams,” says Danny. “In contrast, we were able to install flat insulated cable beneath the carpet for the loops in Pieter de Somer, which made it a lot more straightforward.”

Reaction to the Ampetronic systems has been universally positive, so much so that the university is committed to installing many more.

“The university is to fit induction loops as a standard to all its auditoria,” says Danny. “It has a rolling programme of refurbishing around five of its 210 lecture theatres each year, so we are sure it will see many more Ampetronic systems in the future.”