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Designing for our Ears

This month, MTM Solutions and partners hosted a series of discussions on the topic of Acoustics, and spoke about the many reasons why the way our environment sounds really matters.

Designing for our Ears

Project: ZHS. Product: Soundscape Shapes Convex from Armstrong Ceilings

On the morning of 8 March, MTM Solutions and partners Armstrong Ceilings and Optima Systems hosted a panel discussion titled SOUNDSCAPES: Acoustics in the Workplace. Held at The Projector, the event was moderated by Julien Treasure, Sound Evangelist, author of Sound Business, Chairman of The Sound Agency, and BrandSound Strategist. Speakers included Eddie Lau, senior lecturer at the Department of Architecture, NUS, and Associate Editor, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America; Gavin Wellington, Regional Manager SE Asia, Armstrong Ceilings; and Peter Long, Technical Manager, Optima Systems (UK).

During the discussion, Julien Treasure pointed out that architects in the US receive very little training on the subject of sound, and this lack of attention in academia, he reasoned, is perhaps why “buildings don’t get designed very much for the ears.”

Gavin Wellington made the argument about how one only notices ‘bad acoustics’. He said, “Buildings are made for people, so I think the challenge for us in the acoustics industry is make it more visual, to make people [better] understand [what acoustics is].”

Treasure noted that the objective isn’t for “the search of silence everywhere,” rather, that the “conversation is about [determining] the most appropriate sound in the space to support people in whatever they are doing in that space.”

The panel spoke about making spaces ‘future ready’. Treasure stated that it was important to consider the flexibility of acoustics given the rise of the flexible workspace. He suggested that having acoustical ceilings as a standard was a good way to go, such that even if wall partitions had to be moved around to fit organisational needs, acoustical issues would still be effectively addressed.

This line of conversation was further covered in the Q&A session, where the discussion took on some of the latest R&D in the field of acoustics, from intelligent sound masking to acoustical products that can be moved around the office as needed – admittedly much of it still in its infancy stage in terms of mass production.

Eddie Lau noted how noise in the workplace, particularly in open plan offices, can have a negative impact on privacy, our health, and ultimately our productivity.

Peter Long shared how the WELL Building Standard has a very specific element dealing with acoustics and the way the building ‘feels’. Treasure noted that wellness was becoming an increasingly important part of the corporate agenda. “It’s a big recruitment factor. If you go to get a job at somewhere like Google and they want you, they will be talking about how well you’ll feel at work, how your health will be enhanced, and how your productivity will be as well.”

In his afternoon presentation, Sound Affects, Treasure spoke about how in our culture, “we focus very much on how things look, and not so much on how things sound,” yet sound affects us in fundamental ways: physiologically, psychologically, cognitively and behaviorally.

“We’ve looked at a lot of science about the way offices affect people and what we found was that noise was a significant issue on a lot of levels,” says Treasure. “It’s an issue for productivity, it’s an issue for wellbeing, and it’s an issue for happiness.”

MTM Solutions and Optima Systems also ran an Acoustic Revolution seminar/workshop from 6 – 8 March.








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