After another busy day touring NeoCon showrooms at theMART in Chicago, it was abundantly clear that acoustics is a topic that won’t soon fade into the static of other fads or passing tends. With the wellness movement in full swing, it has become evident that mitigating unwanted noise in the workplace (and elsewhere) is essential to human health.
As a result, a noticeable number of manufacturers at NeoCon 2019 showcased new acoustic solutions or figured out how to more effectively incorporate them into their existing product mix.
The timing couldn’t be better. Acoustics has emerged front-and-center after spending many years in the periphery. I believe that architects and designers are paying more attention to acoustics again as a result of the emergence of the open office plan.
As private offices and cubicles have gone by the wayside, so did the privacy and acoustic properties they inherently possessed. To be clear, I’m not in any way suggesting that the old workplace design paradigm is superior to the current open office framework. Rather, I believe the emergence of more effective and thoughtful acoustic solutions paired with a variety of open and closed environments in the workplace is giving occupants greater control over their surroundings. This will help keep them focused on the work at hand rather than looking for ad hoc ways (e.g. headphones) to limit their exposure to unwanted noise.
Variety of Acoustical Solutions on Display
To that end, a number of NeoCon showrooms included sound-dampening wall and ceiling panels, and felt seemed to be everywhere.
Integrating lighting: LuxxBox showcased decorative wall panels with LED backlights, as well as hanging panels with integrated lights.
Wall options: Wolf-Gordon highlighted their Felted collection, which can now be laser cut, digitally printed and engraved. Made from 95-percent post-consumer plastic bottles, it also has a sustainability story to it as well.
Likewise, 3form’s showroom included a number of acoustical solutions to mitigate noise, such as its Hush Blocks, which boast an impressive Noise Reduction Coefficient rating of up to .80 (meaning 80% of sound in the space is absorbed), when paired with its ILTUO room dividers made for a more serene and beautiful environment. KI featured desking systems with easily movable sound-absorbing partitions.
Unique incorporations: On the seventh floor, a number of exhibitors featured interesting and eye-catching iterations of acoustic panels in different shapes to address the issue of noise in the workplace. Companies like Zintra, Interior Felt, Fsorb and Snowsound all quietly made big impressions on attendees, offering a wide range of product applications from wall and ceiling panels to partitions and even suspended pieces that resembled nature-inspired art (“Botanica” from Snowsound).
A Healthy Addition
Controlling noise is the new challenge that designers and manufactures alike need to address to make spaces more effective and support human health.
It was encouraging to see so many companies addressing acoustics at the show this year. It was noticeable when you stepped into a space that effectively dampened the sound around you — and it was a welcome respite from the typical ruckus that is NeoCon.
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