A Growing Demand for Acoustic Materials – Simon Jones Reports
First seen in MIX Magazine, issue 45, Simon Jones finds that, in an increasingly noisy world, silence has become a rarity. Consequently demand for materials with acoustic properties is growing exponentially.
When it comes to controlling noise pollution, designers are facing a perfect storm; the trend for open spaces, glass and exposed ceilings, coupled with unprecedented levels of digital noise and multi-functional open plan requirements. “We are in an era when our ability to make noise has never been cheaper and easier to get, while at the same time our interiors are being denuded of soft furnishings. As a result we are left with increasing issues of noise pollution. Acoustics therefore should be an ever increasing consideration for people wishing to lessen the issues created by their, and other peoples noise,” explains designer Anne Kyyrö Quinn.Peter Gomez, Design Manager of Zoffany Studio adds: “Cities are becoming more populated and we are living closer to our neighbours than ever before, making it all the more important that we try to make sure our homes still have a quiet, tranquil nature.”
Materials can certainly offer a valuable and often cost effective means to dampen sound. Jim Biddulph, Projects & Materials Manager at Material Lab explains:“We’ve seen a sharp increase in designers and surface material specifiers designing with sound in mind. The end user’s sensorial experience of the spaces they inhabit is being approached with a far more holistic perspective, and as our lives and workplaces become increasingly multi-functional so it seems are surface materials.”
Many new initiatives for these developments have sprung from the contract sector, especially hotels. With quiet rooms now rating highly on wish lists from hotel guests, there’s a sound commercial driver at play. “Modern architecture today as seen for instance in hotels, restaurants, offices or public buildings often uses lots of glass, concrete and stone. This results in the need for sound muting interior design. Curtains or interior solar shading textiles can combine both sun-screening as well as a sound-deafening properties,” saysAnke Vollenbröker, Head of Marketing, Trevira GmbH.
Trevira is taking the demand for acoustic fabrics seriously, and already has an extensive range of yarns available that cater to these requirements. Of all its developments the one that stands out is the ongoing trend towards materials in hybrid yarns with a low-melt component. “The fabrics with a three-dimensional character, which as a result make ideal sound absorbing materials. In addition they are even digitally printable which allows for a highly individual or customised interior design,”says Vollenbröker.
Biddulph of Materials Lab notes that fabric and architecture can work together effectively, providing a very fluid solution. “We’ve known about ‘soft’ acoustic panels from the likes of Anne Kyyro Quinn and Soundtect for some time. They work perfectly because the porous nature of the materials themselves absorbs sound while the 3D surface reliefs help to reduce reverberation,” he says. Biddulph is also a fan of Modulyss, and its dBack range of carpet products specifically designed to improve the acoustics in working environments.
Another way to dampen general noises, as Gomez of Zoffany suggests, is to use laminate wall coverings made up of a layer of wallpaper and a layer of fabric, thus providing more sound installation. And materials don’t even need to be soft. “We’re also seeing a further trend for ‘hard’ surfaces such as Baux and Troldtekt. The open structure of the wood wool set in cement creates an open structure that reduces sound reflection and dampens noise,” says Biddulph of Material Lab.
There’s no doubt that noise pollution is a very real issue; it has been linked to health problems including hypertension, stress and sleep disturbance. As current trends in architecture are showing no signs of altering, and heavy velvet curtains are not really an option for all those gleaming panels of glass, it seems highly likely that we will see increasingly sophisticated products enter the market. The demand is there, as Kyyrö Quinn explains: “A greater understanding of acoustics should be used to create an ambiance in the workplace to lessen the negative effects of noise.”