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Ignoring the Obvious Interior Acoustics: Ceilings & Wall Systems

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The fifth in the series of discussions on Acoustics by Buildotech and AMF, manufacturer and supplier of high-performance acoustic ceilings, was held in New Delhi in September. The focus of the event was the acoustic challenges in corporate interiors that resulted in some thought provoking deliberations highlighting the way forward.

“As a designer creating a balance of spaces of different functions is important to sync workers aspirations and company’s goals. Workplace is all about the feeling of wellbeing achieved through efficient lighting, acoustics and IAQ among others. However, acoustics is invisible and how many clients want to invest or are even aware of something invisible yet critical for comfort. It is probably only in the conference room designs that the client is aware and asks for good acoustics to facilitate A/V presentations and tele or video conferencing.”

— Wadhwa

Effective acoustic design ensures harmonious interiors: an obvious fact yet often ignored.by building owners and most design professionals. What is also seen is the use of traditional or outdated acoustic practices and products, while more advanced acoustic products and solutions are now available in India. How do we bridge this gap between the architects and the acoustic consultants as also the acoustic solution providers and the designers?

The platform created by Buildotech along with Knauf AMF since last year has been a small step in this direction. The latest in the series brought together Delhi architects, interior designers, consultants and project managers to exchange their views on giving acoustics its due importance. The speakers of the evening – architect Sanjay Wadhwa, Principal and Design Director of SWBI, architect Amit Aurora, partner and Principal architect at DCA Architects and Ashok Ganjoo, Vice President – Projects at Maple Consultants, a multi-disciplinary Acoustic & A/V consulting firm, shared their design experiences, projects case studies and technical parameters with the peer group of delegates. Joining the speakers in panel discussion Teddy James Dsouza, Operations Head (India & South Asia) of Knauf AMF India Pvt Ltd expressed his own view points as the solution provider.

The evening kicked off with a presentation by AMF on the latest acoustic solutions offered by the company. Owned by Knauf, AMF has its head office and manufacturing plant in Germany with another factory located in Ferndorf Austria and products being supplied to over 80 countries worldwide. According to Alaukika Parab, Business Development Manager- AMF, the Company’s acoustic solutions provide high sound and fire protection, health & hygiene performance and varied range of designs & finishes. The products can offer noise absorption up to 1.0NRC and insulation up to 44db with fire resistance of up to 120 minutes. The presentation explained AMF products available in India that comprise Thermatex Acoustic, a perforated mineral board with acoustic fleece facing, Ventatec, a high performance exposed grid ceiling available in both 24mm and 15mm widths and Heradesign, a high performance acoustic wall and ceiling panel offering aesthetic design flexibility. Other specialized products include, Baffles, Wall absorbers and sonic sky or suspended elements with concave or convex shape in customized sizes which can be printed or painted and acoustic panels with anti-bacterial & microbial coatings that make them apt for clean rooms.. As Parab described, in terms of aesthetics, the panels can be as big as 2500mm planks for monolithic look in corridors, can feature customized prints or can integrate the sound and light systems with the ceiling grid structure for a seamless appearance.

 

Architect Sanjay Wadhwa who specializes in corporate interiors spoke on how workplace design has changed drastically in last few years. He agreed that it is common among architects to ignore the obvious importance of acoustics in interiors as unlike lighting or aesthetics, it is not visible. “For any given space, merging of acoustics with the interiors is important for occupant’s well-being. Various forums have been discussing the future of workplace but correct acoustics remains imperative in any design trend.” he asserted.

Presenting the latest survey, Wadhwa pointed out that today’s workplace is competitive and workers are no longer desk bound, in fact, multi-tasking is on increase. Some of the questions that are being asked now are:

  • Why work at my desk
  • When do I do my best work
  • Where I want to work today
  • With whom I need to work
  • How I can do this better
Teddy Dsouza with architect Amit Aurora

In response, the office designs need to comprise democratic and utilitarian spaces, giving power of choice to all employees and not just the select few from the top management. And, how the designer creates this – is the crux. Material, performance parameters and the shape and size of the work space depend on four different tasks – Focus and concentration, Collaboration, Learning and Socializing.

Wadhwa mentioned the global work space key trends and the acoustic parameters for each:

  • Open plan office – acoustics in such places becomes a critical design aspect.
  • Increased collaboration spaces – open landscapes for accidental meetings & chance interactions is a norm today. Accordingly acoustics need to match the space design
  • Hardworking space – for cost efficiency, work spaces are now multi task spaces like canteen has turned into work café or town halls presenting unique acoustic challenges
  • Multi-tasking spaces – require high performance materials & finishes with low maintenance and same holds true for acoustic products.
  • A/V enabled offices – bring their own nuances of active devices that have become essential. Video and tele conferencing areas particularly need good acoustics

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