Design

Let silence prevail

Architects will have to rethink the way they look at structure, including decibel levels, along with the visual appeal of design.  

You are on an important call, straining to hear every word. And there is this constant exterior din permeating the interiors, making your task harder. Frustrated, you shut the windows and doors but the noise continues to filter, leaving you feeling helpless. Noise pollution, be it in residences, commercial establishments, corporate offices, institutions or even health centres, has become an intense stress factor, affecting both productivity and health of occupants.

In a recent event titled ‘Acoustics integration in modern architecture’ hosted by Rosh Pinna, Willsingh Wilson, Managing Director and Head of R&D for Wax GmbH, spoke on various possibilities of integrating architecture with acoustics, demonstrating the use of his patented acoustic material and a state-of-the-art solution to architects and designers.

Stating that an interesting pattern exists in free nature which can be adapted and applied to sound absorption and diffusion in architecture whereby the sound can be distributed evenly, Wilson demonstrated how the acoustic material can be uniquely shaped and designed to address individual requirements.

“Sound pressure such as 85 decibels for 8 hours can result in permanent hearing damage and if this pressure is increased further by 3 decibels, the tolerance time would have to be reduced by half”, opined Wilson. “Unfortunately our traffic decibels cross 90 decibels, putting our traffic managers at risk.”

According to him, in a study conducted on students in an institution, lower levels of cognition was revealed from heavy noise pollution, requiring them an extended two months to complete their learning as compared to those with a lower decibel level of background noise. “Noise pollution similarly impacts recovery in a hospital, productivity in a corporate house. It requires an incredible amount of focus to ignore sound and listen”, he added.

Noise pollution could be a problem of reflection, the sound reflected by surfaces in a room or it could be one filtering directly from outside. While foam and heavy drapes absorb higher frequency sounds, lower frequencies continue to prevail. Hard surfaces such as bricks, stone, and glass prevent sound absorption and hence need to be avoided. Use of resins through the presence of resonators absorbs low, middle as well as high frequencies.

Stating that the acoustic material has to be thinner, lighter, evenly absorbing, and sound damping, Wilson displayed his patented acoustic material made of polyurethane which could be used in multiple patterns to address individual needs. The polyurethane material is completely recyclable and safer in terms of health standards as compared to the mineral fibres that are currently used, Wilson added.

While the integration of acoustics with the architecture of a building can be more effective, a completed structure too can opt for sound absorbers and dampeners. Incidentally, these sound absorbers are applicable not just for walls and ceilings but even on furniture, open doorways and windows where they can be placed in strategic spots to absorb sound. “They are applicable even in open areas”, he contended.

While the acoustic material offered may be totally effective in eliminating sound, is the cost of implementation economical? Given the tendency to confine the use of acoustics to home theatre in residences and special areas in commercial spaces, is there a market for wider use?

Says Wilson, “The cost factor is decided by the higher value received. The stress arising from noise pollution has increased tremendously and so has the awareness among people about the ill effects of noise. Coupled with this, lifestyle changes as well as a total rethinking in architecture will boost the market for acoustics significantly.”

Says architect Leena Kumar, of Kumar Consultants, “Given the nature of construction, being bricks or stone, most of the sound permeates through windows, unlike in the West. Double glazed windows came in to address this situation. The structures erected here too are for a lifetime and not short spans as in the West. Besides, if all our walls are insulated, even drilling a hole becomes an issue to hang an art piece. To top it all, we do not have such a heightened intolerance to noise at this point.”

Says architect Dinesh Verma, of ACE Group, “The levels of sound permeating into the interior spaces is so much in the current day scenario that it affects productivity, working environment, level of cognition in institutions, and recovery in hospitals. Our apartment complexes are notorious for the noise levels that seep in from other units as well as from the streets. There is hence now a conscious approach by companies and institutions to address this.”

According to him, while architects will soon have to rethink the way they look at structure, including decibel levels, along with the visual appeal of design, the issue of noise can also be addressed with the use of minimum of material and analysis of from where sound filters in.



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Printable version | Dec 2, 2020 11:33:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/design/Let-silence-prevail/article13988491.ece

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