The open, collaborative office; the premium price of office square footage; and the ongoing buzz and hum of office technology have conspired to make employee workspaces noisy places. Small offices or cubicles devoid of noise-blocking features are becoming the norm, as are face-to-face online chats and videoconferences that up the sound amplitude. Headphones and ear buds may help workers struggling with poor acoustics and too much background noise, but tend to cut off the very ‘team’ spirit many businesses are trying to encourage.
Semios Studios, a Chicago, Ill., group of graphic, industrial, experiential and interactive designers, wanted a solution that would improve the acoustics and the aesthetics of the modern office—specifically, Industrious Office, a Chicago-based company whose mission is to reinvent the modern workplace. Semios Studios developed a ceiling canopy that quashes noise in the glass-walled offices and open workspaces of Industrious Office. The canopy, formed from a series of flat, cut louvers slatted together perpendicularly to form a honeycomb-like structure, is made of ezoBord, an inherently rigid and acoustically absorbent felt. ezoBord is made from polyester, 50 percent of which is recycled from soda bottles. It is Class A fire-rated, and the ceiling cells have open voids for light and sprinkler fittings, as well as the felt cells that capture noise from almost every angle.
How? The designers used an acoustical analysis of the office and worked backward to determine the amount of ezoBord needed to acoustically balance the space. Using the acoustics map, material quantity and office parameters, Semios Studios developed a canopy with multiple peaks and valleys shaped to capture sound through pleasing ceiling sculpture. The canopy doesn’t reduce the office space’s square footage; it just makes the space more conducive to quiet concentration.