Good design is not only easy on the eyes, it can also be easy on the ears. It comes down to acoustics. Good acoustics tend to make the space feel right, people can hear and speak comfortably, and the design elements that are making that possible fall into the background.
“People don’t even think there’s a solution there anymore, it just becomes incredibly natural,” says Ryan Smith, president and creative director at LightArt, a 3form company, which recently expanded its Acoustic Collection.
“It’s much different than traditional design where you solve a problem with design and people look at it and go, ‘Wow this is a great design, we love it.’ You’re constantly reaffirmed by it.”
Why Acoustic Solutions Matter
Public spaces tend to be loud with sound reverberating off hard surfaces, flooring, glass and the ceilings. This leads to uncomfortable ringing in ears and can be determinantal to human health, productivity and well-being.
Understanding the powerful role that acoustics play in a space, LightArt decided to modify its current custom lighting offerings (using the same materials) to create the Acoustic Collection, starting with two products, Static and Echo, and later adding the Acoustic Ring, Acoustic Box and Acoustic Drum.
Photos courtesy of LightArt, a 3form company
“We understood the decorative space for lighting and most of our fixtures had scale and presence in the space,” Smith says. “When we started thinking about acoustics, we said, ‘Well there’s this real problem out there, and we’re probably positioned pretty well to deal with this because we’re already in this space.’”
The ring, box and drum are scalable and come in over 40 sizes, making it possible to alleviate sound issues in densely populated, large indoor areas that range from restaurants and bars, to airports, open offices, hospitals and classrooms. The fixtures can also provide an acoustical solution without obstructing architectural elements, such as covering a decorative wall with a sound-deadening panel, which Smith says may deter companies from addressing the issue.
“If you can imagine a big ballroom space with a copper ceiling or a big rotunda type space, you can hang one of our big rings in a space like that and have it actually look interesting, but have it completely leave the architecture of the space alone,” Smith says. “That was also a real component to how we thought about the design of these pieces.”
Products and Components
As a starting point, all the fixtures use energy-efficient LED modules, with two directional lighting and have 1 percent dimming capabilities. Additionally, all are made with 40 percent recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) Sola felt, are available in 15 color options and come with an adjustable 24-inch to 96-inch suspension system with custom lengths available. Smith says they’re also pursuing a variety of other eco-friendly, LEED qualifiable options, including:
- Using post-consumer recycled content in the panel
- Using Red List free cords
- Testing diffusers made of recycled content
- Using a Declare Label certified powder coat
“We make all of our fixtures in the U.S., and we have a lot of steps that we take to be transparent along the way about how we’re doing it, that’s how we were able to get the Red List free fixture,” Smith says, adding that they’re also pursuing the Living Product Challenge through the International Living Future Institute.
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Testing and Results
As LightArt stepped into the realm of creating acoustical solutions, they tested their products using acoustical testing labs near Chicago and Seattle and found that the product’s acoustical performance ranged from 20 sabins per fixture to more than 250 sabins per fixture.
Wanting to test the Acoustic Collection in the real world, LightArt teamed up with a Seattle-based restaurant and a bar that they were familiar with and filmed before and after videos.
“Everyone’s been in a space like this, where you almost can’t talk to the person next to you,” Smith says. “They’re popular spaces, so people want to go there but they sort of leave with their head buzzing. So, we wanted to figure out how to solve that and it was very cool to see that kind of after effect because it was like night and day.”
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