Ceiling applications can assist with the control of noise
Ceiling applications can assist with the control of noise
Today’s acoustic designs allow the reverberation treatment to be a part of the design
The acoustic panels available today have the power to increase the ‘wow factor’ of a space
Noise significantly impacts our experiences in any indoor environment, such as hotels, restaurants, workplaces, recording studios, and, of course, our very own private sanctuaries; our homes. To control noise and give ourself the pleasure of no echo, no reflection sound that colours or muddles amplified speech and music, the use of sound absorbing panels (acoustic panels) is indeed a life-saving option.
There are generally two types of treatment for reverberation – absorption and diffusion. Absorption is the trapping of noise by the fabric of the acoustic panel, and diffusion is the breaking up and scattering of the soundwaves. Most acoustic panels on the market address sound absorption. Sound diffusion, on the other hand, is more challenging to address because it requires acoustic panels to have (instead of a flat, linear surface) surfaces with varying depths, curves or other three-dimensional construction.
An acoustic product that addresses both absorption and diffusion is far more effective in controlling noises and for this reason, many acoustic panels are manufactured from fabric. Wool polyester fibres and foam are all porous so allow the sound that hits them to be absorbed into the panel themselves where it becomes trapped. The surface area of the panel creates the diffusion element where the pressure of the soundwaves is converted into heat. The 3D panels now on the market are a perfect example of this; their multi-planed faces breaking up the sound waves on contact and preventing the noise from bouncing back into the room.
Long gone are the days when a business was judged solely by its ability to deliver goods. Today, the way of delivery and how it impacts the environment and society are also considered important, and rightfully so. A strong commitment to environmentally ethical behavior is paramount. Certain brands keep to this by using more than 50% of recycled polyester, that started its journey as a plastic PET bottle, to create third generation sound absorbing panels for an eco-friendly approach to acoustics, and in doing so, create an acoustic material of unbeatable quality and performance. It goes without saying that for companies seeking green options for their offices or other indoor spaces, as well as solutions for excellent acoustics, having sustainable sound absorbing panels will tick all their boxes.
Of course, the design of a room may not cater for the addition of acoustic panels – especially if there is a lack of wall space. Open-plan offices and glass partitioned rooms create a hive of reverberation and lack of privacy, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be treated. Ceiling applications in the form of suspended acoustic panels, hanging partitions, or even the addition of acoustic furniture, all assist with the control of noise created by the layout of modern designed offices and public places, and consequently improve sound clarity and limit distracting noise when added into a scheme.
In fact, with ceilings being the largest expanse of flat reflective areas, this is the prime location for the addition of acoustic panels and in many cases the only available space to do so.
This is most apparent in one of the most overlooked areas for controlling noise – restaurants. Designers and architects alike take great care to provide the owner and customers with a visually appealing space made of glass, marble, brick, wood, metal, granite, tin or drywall easy-to-clean surfaces, but overlook the impact the selected materials will have on a restaurant’s noise levels. Besides inventive dishes and an awe-inspiring decor, sound ambience is often the most direct factor impacting a customer’s experience at a restaurant. As guests assemble in a restaurant with no sound-proof design, their voices will begin to carry. Given that only a mere 5% of the echoes produced in the room can be absorbed by hard, reflective surfaces, the remaining 95% will continue to carry through the space, creating an unpleasant background noise that pushes conversations to raise up and causes feelings of discomfort and strain to guests. This is when customers characterise a restaurant as too noisy, although they can’t put a finger on exactly what makes it like that.
According to a Harvard business school study, a one-star increase in a rating can lead to an increase in revenue of about 5-9% (for non-chain restaurants). Unhappy clients, due to the noise levels of a restaurant, won’t hesitate to deduct a star or provide a negative review that can affect the restaurant’s reputation and business. A problem that can be solved by installing acoustic panels.
Another major area for concern is schools and this led to the updating of the BB93 report, which is now a recognised and highly exercised guidance as it sets out minimum performance standards for the acoustics of school buildings and has resulted with most newly-designed projects factoring in the acoustics at concept stage.
The acoustic panels available today have the power to increase the ‘wow factor’ of a space or blend beautifully into an existing ceiling or wall space. With sound absorbing panels, you can create that mix of minimal calm with a focal point that a building or business will be remembered for.
The level of absorption for acoustic panels ranges from A-E with Class A absorption (the highest sound absorption, based on the measured absorption performance across a frequency range between 4KHz and 250Hz) and noise reduction coefficient (NRC) of 0.95 offering the highest ability to reduce background sound noise levels while increasing speech intelligibility. It is the Class A that attracts the most interest, as not only is less product needed, but this class also absorbs the most heard mid-frequency (500-2000Hz) noise.
Whether you need to install acoustic panels for an office, conference room, classroom, auditorium, retail outlet, restaurant, theatre or any other setting when controlling and managing the level and quality of sound is paramount, you can heave a sigh of relief that you won’t have to sweat over it. Installation is very straightforward. In fact, most manufacturers have created systems that are very easy to install for wall or ceiling applications.
As for care, polyester acoustic panels can be easily cleaned with soapy water. It is recommended to use a carpet cleaner, specifically designed to remove marks or stains if needed, but you only need to blot the panel first to help loosen up surface spills and help remove them more easily. It is recommended to clean gently with a soft, clean cloth, making sure you don’t overdo it with rubbing.
Pretty much every building these days focuses on clean lines, minimal furnishings and, often, open-plan layouts and, whilst this looks fabulous, the truth is that once the building is occupied the noise issue only becomes apparent. From offices to schools, hotels to home cinemas, the acoustic treatment of a room should be considered at design stage. And whilst it is easy to retrofit acoustic panels into a building, it is difficult to upheave an office and costly to the company in lost working hours while the building is treated.
The beauty of the acoustic solutions on offer in today’s market is that products allow the reverberation treatment to be very much a part of the design and in many cases the feature is an otherwise understated concept. It seems we are finally listening to roar of the people to create the silence we crave.
Open-plan offices and glass partitioned rooms create a hive of reverberation and lack of privacy, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be treated
Wool polyester fibres and foam are all porous so allow the sound that hits them to be absorbed into the panel themselves
Having sustainable sound absorbing panels will tick all companies’ boxes