Felt: A Time-honored Material & Modern Acoustic Marvel

11/02/2020

Earn CEU Credits:

interiors+sources’ Continuing Education Series articles allow design practitioners to earn continuing education unit credits through an article.

Use the following learning objectives to focus your study while reading this article. To receive one hour of continuing education credit (0.1 CEU) as approved by IDCEC or 1 Learning Unit as approved by AIA, read the article, then log on to take the associated exam

After reading this article, you should be able to:

1. To gain an understanding of what felt is and how it is made
2. To be able to identify the different types of felt and their uses
3. To gain an understanding of why felt serves well as an acoustic material
4. To be able to explain why certain felts can contribute to sustainable design projects
5. To be able to identify common styles for acoustic felt ceiling panels/installations
6. To be able to explain why felt as a ceiling installation is one of the most beneficial acoustic placements

RFCI*This CEU opportunity is sponsored by CertainTeed Architectural


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The colorful craft material of youth takes an architectural turn

For many people, felt conjures memories of childhood craft projects and a colorful, easy-to-cut (even with child-safe scissors) material of youth. But, felt is a material with a lengthy and interesting past as both an insulator and influencer, a material that grew with the times and shape-shifted into everything from a high-end fashion accessory to a commercial design acoustic must-have. The unique cloth’s past and present reveal a material that can do just about anything. And, in many ways, it already has.

CertainTeed Hunter Douglas CoLab
Photo: CertainTeed-Hunter Douglas CoLab; Credit: John Cole

Felt’s Place in History

Felt is argued by some to be the oldest fabric on record, even though its wide-reaching uses and extensive rainbow of hues would take generations to unfold. The story of the material’s discovery is not just the stuff of legend but the stuff of many legends, with the mystery of its origin a subject of historic debate. That said, one point that every version of felt’s history includes is the fact that the material was discovered as great inventions often are: by accident.

There is the story of Saint Christopher and Saint Clement, well-traveled monks who would stuff their sandals with flax and linen fibers only to find the combination of perspiration and pressure from walking many miles pressed the loose fibers into a type of cloth. Clement would go on to be named the patron saint of hatmakers, who continue to use felt in their creations to this day.

Some believe felt dates to prehistoric times in Central Asia when wool shed from wild sheep was used to create comfortable sleeping areas and formed slowly into a cohesive fabric, again due to human perspiration and pressure. In fact, from about 400 B.C., felt was so widely used throughout Central Asia that the Chinese referred to it as “the land of felt.”

Images of felt production were discovered in the ruins of Pompeii.

The Sumerians tell a tale of felt being discovered by their legendary traveler and warrior hero, Urnamman of Lagash.

Even Noah and his ark are sometimes credited with the fabric’s discovery, as the animals on board reportedly shed their fleece during the voyage and trampled it underfoot forming natural felt.

So, while its origin may be up for debate, one thing is clear: Around the globe and throughout history, people were discovering felt’s unique construction, its versatility, and the contribution it could make to their personal comfort. These attributes continue to drive the material’s popularity for an extremely wide variety of uses today.

What is felt and how is it made?

So, what exactly is felt? Felt is a unique cloth that is not constructed on a loom and does not have the warp and weft that are characteristic of other flat fabrics. It is made up of a mass of fibers (and sometimes fur) that are matted and compressed with no traditional system of threads holding them together to create the finished form. The compression used to produce it is what makes felt such a dense fabric, and it’s the combination of heat, moisture, and pressure that creates its distinctive quality.

As early as the late Middle Ages, felt—particularly the felt that was used for making hats—used animal fur as a component, combining it with other fibers, like wool, to create the final felt cloth. Beaver was the most commonly used fur for the purpose of hat making, a practice that led to men’s fine hats being referred to as beavers. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many of the beaver skins used by European hatmakers actually hailed from North America.

The preparing of felt for hat making also led to a phrase most will recognize: Mad as a hatter. While much about felt making has remained unchanged since the introduction of machinery to the process in the mid-1800s, one key ingredient in the earlier technique—mercury—was retired in the late 19th century. The term mad hatter stems from the tremors, hallucinations, and other ill effects hat makers endured before the connection was made to the mercury and the process was altered for health and safety measures.

As thick felt can be stiff and not drape well and thinner varieties can stretch easily, felt has not traditionally been turned to as often as other fabrics for clothing in the West. That does not, however, mean it has gone unnoticed by fashion history. Just a few of felt’s varied fashion credits are the stiff poodle skirts immortalized by teen girls in the 1950s; the soft, waterproof linings of boots for men and women even today; and the haute couture runway fashions created by Italian artist Cristina Pacciani and Dutch designer Ronald Kolk in the past decade.

Beyond fashion, felt has been put to use throughout time for everything from carpet underlay, to gaskets and filters, to polishing wheels, piano parts, decorative accessories, and, of course, felt tip pens.

Felt Revival

The 1970s and 1980s saw a resurgence in the popularity of felt (and textile and fiber arts in general) as a material for many uses. In 1984, the formation of the International Feltmakers Association, marked the widespread interest in the craft of felt making and design. The association itself was sparked by a 1979 exhibition—Art of the Felt Maker, at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal, United Kingdom—and a book, The Art of the Feltmaker, published the same year in support of the exhibit by Mary Burkett, OBE. The exhibition and book highlighted felts from the Middle East, Asia, and Scandinavia and included historic and contemporary work. Burkett went on to be the association’s first president and, today, the group maintains its original mission to inspire global interest in the material and to support those who continue the tradition of felt making and design through exhibitions, workshops, regional groups and events, and more. Its members are involved in the historical and anthropological study of felt, as well as the art and craft of felt as a medium.

More recently, felt served as the subject of another exhibition—Fashioning Felt—at New York City’s Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in 2009. The exhibition focused on the varied uses of felt in multiple disciplines, including product design, fashion, architecture, and home furnishings. Some of the articles from the exhibit are still on view, along with a video and review of the exhibition, on the museum’s website.

Modern Manufacturing

The process for creating felt today puts mechanization to work for speed and efficiency but essentially follows the same principles as the early legends. Heat, moisture, and pressure still are combined to create the final product but the process itself is naturally a bit more refined from early accidental or by-hand production. The results yield a reliable and consistent outcome that has led to felt’s wide acceptance and use. Depending on the application and budget, felts of varying constructions may be employed. Sometimes, when an all-natural material is desired, a 100% wool felt will be used; other times, a synthetic felt, which may contain sustainable, recycled materials, will be the best solution.

If a felt is to be made up of more than one fiber, the fibers must first be blended together prior to processing. In such cases, the varied fibers go into a large studded cylinder that mixes them together to form a cohesive mass. Those blended fibers then head to a carding machine where they are stretched into a web-like material. The carding process is often repeated a second time, creating a thicker web that is then combined with others to form a web even thicker still. Ultimately, four rolls of web are layered in alternating directions to form a standard single roll, which is often referred to as a batt.

At this stage, the batts are passed through a steam table where they encounter the heat and moisture needed to create a thick, dense felt. Once steamed, batts are matted together then shrunk in both length and width to further increase density. Large plates compress the batts and matt the material to specified widths; a fulling machine then shrinks the material to the specified length. A series of rollers will then further press and shrink the batts, again increasing the density of the material. A strip of felt may shrink up to eight yards during the overall process, during which time the batts are kept consistently wet.

At this point in the process, the wet felt will either head to a dye vat to go through its color treatment or proceed directly to be dried. Drying the felt can be achieved in several ways: in a centrifugal dryer that will spin out the water, laid flat on beds in oversized dryers, or air dried in a dedicated drying room. When the felt has dried, it is sometimes pressed or ironed to create a consistent thickness. The heat of the ironing process can sometimes shrink the felt slightly yet again.

The felt’s final step is one of finishing where the edges are trimmed for a clean presentation. The felt is then ready for use in a variety of applications.

A Versatile Material

Today, felt is a versatile material that can vary in length and width, color and thickness, to adapt to a given use. Felt can be used for a wide variety of applications—from home or school craft projects to clothing and fashion accessories to acoustic installations for residential and commercial applications. Its density offers impressive sound absorption that can be particularly useful in wide-open spaces like open-plan offices, restaurants, airport lounges, and more.

There are many benefits to working with felt for interiors projects and other installations as well. Felt holds color very well, allowing for custom colorization of specific areas and for a pop of color for areas like ceilings that have historically been blank white fields. The density of its makeup allows for very rich, saturated hues that can make for striking, art-like installations. Another great benefit, particularly when working with great quantities of the material as one would in a large-scale interior installation, is the fact that since it’s not woven, the edges can simply be cut without the worry of strands of threads hanging loose or of the fiber coming unraveled. This ability to work with the material without having to finish the edges saves both time and labor costs.

In more recent years, felt’s ability to dampen and absorb sound has led to a paradigm shift in the way the material is utilized on a larger scale, particularly in architectural interior design projects. The material has helped scores of workers in open-plan offices, and others in shared, wide-open interiors of all kinds, to avoid the cavernous echoes and buzzing din of sound that can accompany such spaces.

Different Types of Felt and Their Uses

As with most materials, all felt is not created equal. Felt can be made using a variety of materials—synthetic, natural, and/or sustainable—and the type of felt selected should be based on the demands of the project at hand. Here, we’ll review four basic types of felt.

1. Craft felt

Craft felt is a term often used for synthetic, man-made felt. These felts can be made of acrylic, polyester, rayon, or a blend of rayon and viscose. The term craft points to this felt’s best use: crafts of all kinds, including projects for kids. This is the felt most people remember from young school days. It is often found in pre-cut sheets and a variety of colors, and is, in some cases, sold by the yard.

2. Eco-friendly felt

Eco-friendly felt has gained popularity due to the increased demand for sustainable and recycled materials. This felt is often made using a polyester fiber that is constructed from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles. The sustainable material offers a very similar look to craft felt but can sometimes have a stiffer feel.

There are additional roads to sustainability when creating and selecting felt. The cloth can also be made using a bamboo/rayon blend. Bamboo is regarded as a sustainable resource as it grows rapidly and can be grown in a variety of settings, it releases more oxygen than other trees, and can grow without the aid of chemical fertilizers.

Eco-friendly felt can be used in the same applications as craft felt and can also be employed in commercial settings, in the form of acoustic ceiling systems and other sound absorbing installations, where sustainable building materials are desired.

3. Blended wool felt

Blended wool felt is made by combining real wool with other materials, most commonly rayon. This felt will have a softer hand than synthetics and slightly more texture due to the natural state of the wool fibers. It also tends to be heathered in coloring, again due to the variations in natural wool. Blended wool felt will be more expensive than craft felt and can be purchased either in sheets or by the yard. Suggested uses for blended wool felt include home décor items, like pillows and table runners. It also can be used in commercial settings for acoustic installations.

4. 100% wool felt

100% wool felt is made completely from real wool. It is pressed into different thicknesses and sold by the yard. This felt is used in apparel and home décor applications, like hats, pillows, wall coverings, hanging wall dividers, and wall art. It is more expensive than the earlier mentioned varieties.

Felt and Acoustics

The first thing to remember when specifying felt for acoustic purposes is that felt offers sound absorption, which is not the same as soundproofing a space. This is an important point of differentiation. Sound absorption is not about blocking sound from entering or leaving a space but rather about improving the acoustics of a space. The amount of noise absorbed is referred to as NRC or Noise Reduction Coefficient.

CertainTeed LSU Heartfelt Room; Credit: Nathan Tucker Photography
Photo: CertainTeed LSU Heartfelt Room; Credit: Nathan Tucker Photography 

Materials that work to absorb sound are typically soft, light, fluffy, or porous—characteristics that point to felt at every turn. A sound absorbing material like felt will work to reduce echo and reverberation, thereby revealing a sound that is more authentic and clearer.

In both residential and commercial settings, felt can be used in interior installations as ceiling systems, wallcoverings, or designed to be decorative wall panels or series of panels to create custom designs. Considering the ability of felt to relay rich, saturated hues, the bespoke possibilities are countless and can be treated as personal art installations. In larger, commercial settings of all kinds—offices, hotels, transit hubs, and more—acoustics are an even bigger issue that affect many at once. Effective acoustic design and sound absorption can contribute to the overall comfort and enjoyment that guests, employees, and passengers experience in a given indoor environment.

In the era of the office cubicle, partition walls were often covered in a variety of fabrics and/or padding of some kind to dampen the echo from neighboring conversations and general workplace noise. Fast-forward to the age of the open-plan office and acoustics became a topic of interest to everyone from building managers to interior designers to the employees who would eventually come to occupy the space. The loss of the cubicle made for a wide-open area designed for greater human interaction but where was all the noise to go? Enter the acoustic ceiling panel and some of the most large-scale, creative, and human-centric uses of felt to date.

Dimension, Style & Sound Absorption

For a designer, among the greatest advantages of the use of felt for a ceiling installation is not just its effectiveness at absorbing sound but the creative versatility it offers as well. In addition to the wide variety of colors that can be achieved, felt can be used to form almost any look. Whether a design professional is looking to create a crisp linear pattern, wave-like shapes, botanic forms, or more, felt can provide the solution, with the added benefit of increasing the sound comfort in a space.

Most companies that produce acoustic felt ceiling systems today will offer a range of standard colors, plus customizable heights and lengths so that acoustic control and design can truly be personalized. Another bonus is the use of felt allows for even linear designs to achieve an unexpected softness and to lend texture and color to an area of offices and other wide-open spaces that would otherwise be a lost opportunity.

Felt ceiling installations are formulated to address higher frequency and sound, like an abundance of speech and assorted office noises. Controlling sound in such spaces creates a more pleasant environment that works to improve the flow of communication.

Common Styles for Acoustic Felt Ceiling Installations

Offices and other commercial spaces were historically referred to as having four walls. All design and decoration were relegated to these four flat surfaces, with the floor sometimes being referred to as the fifth wall in regard to design possibilities. The creative introduction of felt acoustic ceiling installations, however, rendered the ceiling perhaps the most exciting “wall” in a given space. Aside from ornate locations like religious spaces and historic buildings, the ceiling was traditionally an expanse of white—a monolithic surface whose purpose was more functional than aesthetic.

The felt ceiling installation options on the market today have helped change this space and the experience of spending time in an open-plan environment that previously would have echoed and been acoustically uncomfortable. The visual interest these ceiling installations can bring to a space has its own positive effect, leading a once modest surface down an exciting path rich with both color and texture. But that’s not the only positive. Comfortable acoustics have been proven to enhance occupants’ overall wellbeing, both while in a space and after they leave it. If applying for certain third-party wellness certification for a particular project, for example, acoustics will be measured in multiple areas with specific criteria to be met depending on the intended use of a given space.

With positives to deliver to both the design and performance of an interior, the versatility and lightweight composition of felt also makes it a flexible material with which to create and many styles of acoustic ceiling installations are available today. Here are a few of the more widely used options:

Baffles can take the form of straight beams or wave-like patterns and can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, profiles, and colors. Design flexibility is enhanced through the ability to vary heights, stagger the baffles, or create unique configurations. Felt ceiling manufacturers today offer factory pre-assembled, attached systems that allow for quick and easy installation using adjustable wire hangers or scissor clips. Baffles are lightweight and do not require drilling or field cutting. When installed in accordance with local code requirements, felt baffles are suitable even for installation in seismic areas.

Levels bring an interplay of dimension to an installed design. The linear strips offer the ability to mix depth, height, and colors to create a unique optical design that works to absorb acoustics as well. Levels feature a square-edge design with carrier module options for step, scatter, wave, and choppy visual presentations. Custom carrier modules are available from some companies as well to truly customize an installation design.

Linear strips offer a crisp look with all the warm texture and acoustic control of other installation options. This style will involve a modular ceiling system and a square-edge design. Standard carrier modules for this option allow for a varied reveal so that acoustics and aesthetic presentation can be adjusted to suit a given space.

Open Cell ceiling installations allow for visually engaging geometric creations that still allow for access to ventilation, lighting, and security systems. These ceilings allow for honeycomb linearity or wave-like dimension and depth. A factory pre-assembled, attached system makes for easy unpacking and installation. Open cell ceilings can be hung using adjustable wire hangers or scissor clips. Like baffles, they are lightweight, require no drilling or field cutting, and are suitable for installation in seismic areas.

Panels are available in a variety of sizes with some manufacturers now offering large-format panels—some as large as 4-by-8-feet. These large-scale options lend a monolithic look when installed. Some companies’ oversized panels have a lightweight honeycomb core that resists sagging, even in high-moisture applications. Large-scale panels offer a smooth surface and high light reflectance, making them ideal for brighter spaces.

Custom engineered felt ceilings are also available and allow for the ultimate in creativity. Such imaginative installations allow designers and their clients to make truly individual statements that reflect anything from branding to an overall style directive for a company to a work of art that serves to inspire, all while enriching the acoustic experience and general enjoyment of a space.

Why the Ceiling?

Acoustic design has long been a concern for interior designers and architects, and while it was believed even decades ago that sound could be controlled by installing ceiling materials that would work to absorb it, solutions for how to handle this were not always effective or they offered little design benefits. Because of their budget-friendliness, suspended ceiling panels are often the go-to choice for acoustical installations. Earlier attempts to control acoustic levels consisted of products made of materials like asbestos and cellulose; newer products are safer and more sustainable, with mineral fiber or fiberglass construction, but provide only one style of flat, smooth visual.

To understand how to absorb sound, it helps to first understand that sound is a form of energy and one that is omnidirectional. It travels through the air and can also travel through surfaces, a point that any apartment dweller who has had a noisy neighbor can affirm. These behaviors represent the two different types of sound: airborne and impact. When looking to absorb sound in a wide-open space, like an open-plan office, interior designers and architects are largely concerned with airborne sound. And that’s where acoustic absorption comes in. Without it, sound can keep on traveling, bouncing off of hard surfaces to create the reverberation or echo most people have encountered when in large, open spaces.

In the case of the open-plan office designs that took hold in the past decade or so, the lack of soft surfaces that stems from the decommissioning of cubicle walls and the wall-to-wall carpeting of old, left the everyday sounds of the workplace—conversations, typing on keyboards, copy machines, coffeemakers, HVAC systems—without a place to rest. While intended to inspire a sense of togetherness among a staff, open workplaces instead often left employees scrambling for private spaces of any kind or heading outdoors to make phone calls without being overheard by every one of their coworkers. With offices’ understandable increased focus on cleanability—hard flooring instead of carpet and the use of non-wood furnishings, for example—the one surface that offers the ability to absorb the excessive sound that is bouncing off walls and hard flooring is the ceiling.

An acoustic felt ceiling has a further advantage in that it can cover a wider area than an acoustic wall treatment would. That wide-reaching coverage redoubles efforts to dampen ambient noise and further serves to enhance the sounds you do want to hear, like collaborative conversations with colleagues, rendering them as full and rich as they are meant to be heard.

Felt Ceilings & Sustainability

With the majority of today’s architect and design community aiming to achieve LEED, WELL, and other third-party certifications for aspects like sustainable materials and the health and wellbeing of the humans who will occupy the spaces, felt can contribute to the points necessary to achieve desired status. If sustainability is a concern for projects, it’s important to discuss project goals with your manufacturer’s representative.

In today’s market, manufacturers are working to not only incorporate sustainable materials but to employ sustainable practices in their manufacturing processes as well. As such, certain felts used for ceiling panels and installations have achieved certifications like GREENGUARD and Cradle to Cradle, both of which can contribute to green goals and certifications like LEED BD+C and ID+C for schools, retail, hospitality, healthcare, and commercial interiors. Some companies even offer eco-calculators that help designers and architects evaluate the environmental impact of varying products. Such calculators provide documentation and assurance for the design professionals and their clients alike. They also serve to support applications for sustainable certifications as they allow designers to evaluate the impact of a company’s ceiling products against the leading environmental rating systems.

Sustainable acoustic felt ceiling systems are designed to optimize interior environmental quality, material resources, and energy usage as well. Of note, some products meet rigorous standards for low emissions of VOCs and offer life-cycle assessments, from raw material sourcing through the manufacturing process and on to the eventual disposal or reuse of the product.

Recycled content contributes to sustainability but some of the options on the market are also 100 percent recyclable, adding even more to their eco-friendly profile. Some companies offer ecological transparency via Heath Product Declarations (HPDs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), making the search for a sustainable option simple.

And, the sustainable conversation doesn’t end with the material makeup of the products themselves. Companies that produce felt acoustic ceiling systems also focus on preserving resources and improving the overall environment by monitoring, controlling, and reducing water usage, energy consumption, carbon footprint, and waste. They commit their processes to the principles of industrial ecology and preservation of ecological environments. And, they involve their suppliers, employees, and customers in the sustainable conversation and practices as well.

Healthy Interiors, Healthy Occupants

Acoustic absorption is a practice at the intersection of science and design. Not only can an effective acoustic felt ceiling or other interior installation create a more pleasant momentary experience, it can contribute to long-term hearing health as well. Research proves that noise-induced hearing loss is a health issue that can affect anyone and at any age. Estimates taken from hearing exam results prove 13 to 18 percent of U.S. teens ages 12 to 19 and 24 percent of U.S. adults ages 20 to 69 show noise-induced hearing loss in one or both of their ears. Research has further proven sound is not just damaging when it is too loud but when it is long-lasting as well. The inner ear can become damaged, resulting in permanent hearing loss that can worsen over time. Designed efforts to absorb sound and deliver it at healthy acoustic levels, via acoustic felt installations of all kinds, can contribute to greater long-term hearing health and overall wellbeing.

While the use of sustainable materials in building and interior design has been a part of the design trade conversation for decades, and an understanding of what it means to be sustainable has established itself in the common vernacular as a result, the practice of designing healthy interiors is a more recent effort and one that is gaining in interest and implementation. The designation of sustainable design versus healthy design breaks the importance of interior design decisions into subsets that address their effects on both people and the planet. Sustainable design refers to the material components themselves, their makeup and the effect their manufacture, use, and disposal can have on the planet. Healthy design instead refers to the health of the humans who will occupy a given space. As we spend 90 percent of our time indoors and, now, with the reality of pandemics part of our everyday existence, this consideration for occupant health is more important and more in the foreground than ever.

The International WELL Building Institute is among those that was established to address the need for healthy interiors and to provide scientific data and established standards that buildings could follow to ensure better occupant health. In 2014, following six years of research and development, the WELL Building Standard (WELL) was launched. It is among several established third-party certifications buildings can achieve to ensure the health and wellbeing of those who will occupy a given space. WELL examines ten concept areas: air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, materials, mind, community, and sound.

According to IWBI’s research, the human ear has a very specific range of sensitivity with regard to sound. While individual sensitivity to sound will vary, the average range of comfort is between 10 dB and 130 dB. And, it’s not just the ear that can experience a negative reaction to excessive, poorly controlled sound. Both sound pressure level and frequency can affect the body in more ways than are commonly realized. One finding in particular points to the connection between sound impact and stress. Noise levels as low as 55 dBA have been discovered to cause an increase in urinary stress hormone excretion. Since the negative effects stress can have on overall health are widely known, efforts to control contributing factors like acoustic levels and sound absorption take on greater importance.

The WELL certification provides guidelines for movie theaters, hotels and resorts, offices, education, restaurants, and more. In all of these settings, felt acoustic ceiling installations can contribute to a more pleasant audible and overall experience and contribute to the points needed to achieve healthy building certifications. Manufacturers of felt ceiling systems can provide statistical information with regard to a particular product’s ability to absorb sound. Such details can guide a design professional to the proper product for a specific project.

IWBI is not the only group working to monitor, control and certify sound levels for the better health of the population. Fitwel is a third-party certification that counts the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as its research and evaluation partner and the Center for Active Design (CfAD), a not-for-profit organization designed to operate at the intersection of health and the built environment, as its licensed operator. Launched by Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City, CfAD has since taken a local New York initiative international. Its scorecards utilize evidence-based design and operational strategies to address a range of health behaviors and risks. Included among its evaluations are strategies that promote decreased rates of chronic disease and mental health conditions, as well as strategies that instill an overall feeling of wellbeing.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also works to control invasive, damaging noise and specifies building sites must operate at an average sound level of less than 65 dB 24-hours a day. And, the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) maintains a portfolio of more than 150 standards, technical reports, and projects in development that share expertise from diverse sources including practitioners, government, academia, research, and end users.

Emphasizing a greater and global need for focus on the importance of sound and the sciences and technologies that help us to understand and control it, 2020 was named the International Year of Sound. The brainchild of the International Commission for Acoustics (ICA), the global initiative mobilized international member societies and affiliates and included a series of lectures and presentations on varied acoustic matters throughout the year, including online content and regional, national, and international events. The focus of the dedicated events was to generate a better understanding of the importance of noise control in nature, in the built environment, and in the workplace. The event transitioned to a two-year schedule to accommodate cancellations due to COVID-19 and will continue into 2021.

With such focus placed on the importance of healthy hearing levels and the overall wellbeing that can be achieved through the thoughtful design of a space’s sound quality, acoustic felt ceiling installations become a vital part of an interior’s design and the experience occupants will enjoy while there.

Installation & Maintenance

Many of the felt ceiling systems available today allow for great creativity, even when working strictly with linear panels. A designer can often adjust length, depth, color combinations, and more to create visual interest, all while serving the additional purpose of absorbing sound. And, installation is easy and oftentimes supported via online instructional videos produced by the manufacturer. When working with an engineered modular carrier system, once the system itself is installed the lightweight felt panels simply click into place. Others will be hung easily using wire hangers or can be installed in standard ceiling suspension systems. Some felt ceiling installation options will require no trimming at the job site, while others can be trimmed in the field with a sharp knife. No specialty equipment is required.

Maintenance of acoustic felt panels is easy as well. A maintenance team need only dust or vacuum lightly when needed; no special cleaning processes or solutions are required. For best performance, care should be taken during installation and over the lifetime of the installation to avoid or minimize the accumulation of dust and other particles.

There are even more attributes that make felt ceiling panels a wise choice for interior installations that might not always come to mind and can simplify an installer’s job. The felt used for ceiling installations is compatible with industry standard lighting, speakers, and HVAC systems, and meets standards for fire safety and security systems as well.

Residential Future?

As the COVID-19 pandemic sent most office workers in the United States into a work-from-home existence, increased attention has been focused on the future of the workplace and where and how work will take place as we move ahead. Thanks to technology, many companies large and small were able to quickly adapt to the new circumstances and, while some employees do report missing the camaraderie and collaboration that an office environment provides, many others have enjoyed their remote status and intend to continue it into the future. Many companies, too, have acknowledged the future of their own workforce is likely to include double-digit percentages of remote staff.

The one aspect of working from home many were not prepared for however, was acceptable acoustics for their home offices or makeshift work areas. So, while large-scale felt acoustic ceiling installations have widely been considered for commercial purposes previously, as homeowners move ahead with their remote work plans, acoustic design and absorption will be an important conversation for interior designers and architects to have with residential clients as well. The benefits that massive open plan workplaces have enjoyed due to the installation of felt acoustic products could serve individuals now looking to have a better acoustic experience in their home offices as well.

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About the Sponsor

Fast, focused, and flexible, CertainTeed Architectural is your partner in building design problem solving. We'll help you rise to any ceiling specification challenge with a complete product portfolio and unmatched support along the way. From the familiar forms of our standard products to our range of custom offerings to truly unique installations, the skilled engineers and design support team at CertainTeed Architectural can tailor a solution for every space and every budget to help bring your ideas to life. For more information contact CertainTeed Architectural.

Sources

1-Acoustical Society of America (ASA), www.acoustics.org

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3-CertainTeed, www.certainteed.com

4-Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Fashioning Felt: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/exhibitions/35350951/

5-Favecrafts, 5 Types of Felt: Felt 101
https://www.favecrafts.com/Felt/5-Types-of-Felt-Felt-101

6-Fitwel, www.fitwel.org

7-History of Clothing, historyofclothing.com
http://www.historyofclothing.com/textile-history/felt-and-feltmaking-history/

8-How Products are Made: Felt
http://www.madehow.com/Volume-7/Felt.html

9-International Feltmakers Association, https://www.feltmakers.com/

10-International WELL Building Institute, www.wellcertified.org

11-International Year of Sound, www.sound2020.org

12-Love to Know, lovetoknow.com
Fashion History: Felt 
https://fashion-history.lovetoknow.com/fabrics-fibers/felt#:~:text=The%20origin%20of%20felt%20is,Felt%20is%20a%20good%20insulator.

13-National Institutes of Health, “It’s a Noisy Planet,” www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov

14-A Quiet Refuge, www.aquietrefuge.com 
What are Some of the Best Sound Deadening Materials?, https://aquietrefuge.com/best-sound-deadening-materials/
7 Best sound Absorbing Materials to Improve the Acoustics in Your Room, https://aquietrefuge.com/best-sound-absorbing-materials/

15-Robey Incorporated, robeyinc.com
The Advantages of Having Acoustic Ceilings Installed: https://robeyinc.com/the-advantages-of-having-acoustic-ceilings-installed/

16-Smore.com
Haute Couture Dress: https://www.smore.com/mpgfq-haute-couture-dress

17-Snoring Source, snoringsource.com
Does Sound Travel Up or Down? Noise Explained
https://www.snoringsource.com/does-sound-travel-up-or-down/#:~:text=In%20short%2C%20sound%20is%20omnidirectional,directions%2C%20including%20up%20and%20down.&text=So%2C%20as%20you%20can%20see,depends%20on%20several%20different%20factors.

18-Wikipedia, Felt, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felt