As workspaces – and homes – become more flexible and fluid spaces, designed to meet whatever need is thrown at them, acoustic product suppliers are rising to the occasion with portable, modular, and smaller-scale acoustic solutions.
“Furniture in and of itself is generously acoustic to some degree,” says Sean Oliver of Allsteel. “Through our partnership with Zilenzio, we have a credenza that’s upholstered and acoustic, as well as pieces that are dual-purpose, like screens, that have inner materials that do an excellent job of absorbing sound, but are also able to create visual separation.”
Oliver points out that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that there’s certain volatility and abrupt changes that can affect a workplace at a moment’s notice. “When you’re using products like screens and demountable walls, your office can be tailored to whatever you’re trying to support.” Products that are moveable, he explains, allow the users of a space to dial in their specific needs and ensure that their space is optimised to every facet, from acoustics to layout.
Luxxbox, meanwhile, offers lighting products in which acoustic properties are built right into the shades. The company is best known as a commercial lighting designer; its first acoustic product was the Vapor Echo acoustic pendant.
“We saw an opportunity to better utilize the void between the desk and ceiling, not just for lighting but also as a sound attenuation tool too,” says Jason Bird, founder and managing director of Luxxbox. In some cases, installing acoustic lighting fixtures can achieve sound reduction by up to 95%.
The company also makes other versatile acoustic products, including baffles, room dividers, whiteboards, and furniture. “Agile working is still something people are focusing on when developing the office space or creating home environments,” notes Bird, who says, in addition to flexibility “there’s also that element of fun in creating your own space.” Products like Brix, a lightweight room divider, and Waffle Leaves, a freestanding baffle, can be moved around to create different spaces and different acoustic outcomes, both in commercial offices and home offices. An added benefit: Freestanding baffles can be moved to create an online meeting background, “for when you want to block the line of sight on camera to what’s going on in the house behind you,” says Bird.
Another option to carve out acoustically enhanced space in an open office comes from Framery, which provides pods, phone booths, and other soundproof private spaces. The company’s newest product, Framery One, offers a digital ecosystem and 4G technology to create what the company claims are the world’s first digitally connected soundproof pod.
“Our pods were initially designed to increase the effectiveness in an open-plan office environment,” says Rasmus Nanhed, head of sales at Framery. “In recent years we have been observing the shift to a more nomadic worker.” Framery saw demand for its products accelerate during the pandemic – when many have been working in ever more flexible environments – and placed its pods everywhere from shopping malls to private residences.
“With the modular nature of the pods, they can be moved around and support changes in office layouts, unlike fixed walls,” says Nanhed. “Framery pods are even easy to take with you when moving to new premises.”
And the time is right for these modular and impermanent options. Notes Bird, “When we are all currently uncertain as to where and when we work, we are finding that clients are reluctant to bolt too much down.”