Since undergoing the open concept revolution, today’s offices tend to be vast spaces ripe for collaboration and flexibility. They’re also prone to uncomfortable noise levels.
Acoustics continue to be top of mind for facilities managers and tenants—how do you create a sought-after space that’s also not distracting?
“About seven or eight years ago, we started really hearing from designers that they needed acoustic solutions as a result [of the open office],” says John Stein, president of acoustical solutions company Kirei. “They were getting these high ceilings from open spaces with sleek designs that caused acoustic problems.”
Your acoustical solutions, though, don’t have to be detrimental to your building’s aesthetics. Options today for acoustic materials are meant to add a design element—and heighten your building’s look while lowering the noise.
According to Stein, the rule of thumb is that 40-70% of available surface area in a space—from walls to ceilings to floors—should be covered in some kind of acoustical material. Panels likely come to mind first, especially if you have enough wall space to support them.
“Some of these glass conference rooms use four glass walls or three glass walls and windows,” says Stein. “So there’s no wall space available or very little wall space. So then you say, ‘OK, I’ve got to use the ceiling.’”
[Related: Acoustical Solutions For an Open Office]
Acoustic baffles are noise-absorbing panels that can hang from the ceiling. At Kirei, Stein says baffles can range from a very neutral design to eye-catching.
“Because they have a lot of surface area, both sides are exposed to capture a lot of sound,” he says of baffles.
In Philadelphia, Kirei installed its EchoPanel H-Baffles, made from recycled material, inside Venture Café. The baffles’ design provides movement, definition and wayfinding into the space with its color. Kirei can customize its panels and baffles to fit your space’s theme.
Put a Lid On It: Acoustics from TURF Design
Eaton Lighting recently released its Shaper Sense line of acoustic lighting products. The LED fixtures are wrapped in FilzFelt materials for sound absorption that can help reduce unwanted noise and distractions.
[On topic: 3 Lighting Trends We Saw at LIGHTFAIR 2019]
You can customize a fixture with multiple colors, and some patterns are even handcrafted.
“FilzFelt has an artist in New Mexico who hires art students from the university and they hand cut these pieces and apply them to a cork backer,” explains Sohana Arni, marketing manager for Eaton’s Architectural Products Group. “So, all of this [patterning] is hand-done. You don’t really see that in lighting very often, or at all.”
Create an Acoustics Plan
In the end, planning for acoustic solutions—especially on the ceiling—is a science, says Stein. “You have to budget for it.”
He also recommends speaking to an acoustics consultant. They can calculate room dimensions and recommend the right type of system and material. “[Acoustic consultants] are becoming less intimidating,” he adds.
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