Camira discuss acoustic fabrics with Resonics

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How has the demand for acoustic panels changed since the start of the pandemic?

As you would expect, we have received increased enquiries from people looking to improve the acoustics in their homes. People really are noticing poor acoustics when working from home and on a conference call. We are also seeing a higher demand for improving commercial meeting room acoustics. The pandemic has caused an increase in the use of audio-visual equipment for staying connected. How these rooms perform acoustically has been brought into sharp focus. 

Are you seeing a shift in how designers and architects factor acoustic panels into their designs?

Definitely. We’ve seen office designs change so much over the past 5-10 years. The trend has been a movement towards open plan offices with exposed concrete soffits, and hard surfaces. Traditional suspended ceilings and carpet tiles are less common than they used to be, especially in London. Glass, stone, timber, and tiled finishes have increased. The problem here? Sound is bouncing around with nowhere to go. Architects now know they need to do something additional to mop up sound within the office. This is one of the main reasons we are seeing a trend for acoustics specified on every single project.

When it comes to specifying a fabric for a panel product, what are the main attributes you look for? 
Virtually all Camira fabrics work as the face layer of acoustic panelling. As a rule of thumb, if you can pick up a fabric and are able to breathe through it, it will allow sound waves to transfer through it. Almost all Camira fabrics are ‘breathable’ and are therefore a suitable surface for acoustic panel products. It is the core material that sits behind fabrics that absorbs the sound.
Does this differ from what an interior designer/architect tends to look for?
Architects and designers understand that they can specify virtually any fabric as the face layer of acoustic surfaces – which means they focus more on textures, colours and sustainability to meet with their design objective.

How much does sustainability play a role in fabric choice?
Even within such a niche industry such as acoustics, we are seeing a growing trend and preference for sustainable products. Often with large corporate projects, the level of sustainability required is specified by the client and not the architect. When we install our FabricWall system we use an acoustic PET core which is created from recycled plastic bottles, our track is made from recycled UPVC windows so it is a natural step that we would like the fabric to be as sustainable as possible. Sustainable fabrics could certainly be the difference between being specified and not. 

Have you spotted any specific trends emerging in your sector? 
As we’re starting to realise that things are not going to change for a long time, people are going to get used to remote working. And, as we’re starting to encourage workers back to the office, smaller meeting rooms with smaller AV capabilities are going to be more desirable and practical, as opposed to huge conference suites. We expect a lot of work places will be looking to adapt their existing floorplan, exploring how they can modify meeting rooms and open plan spaces.

In terms of aesthetics, we’re seeing a surge of neutral colours being specified, along with fabrics that have quite an obvious weave or texture to them, rather than flatter wool products. From what we’ve seen coming through from Camira, we’re excited by the new Japanese inspired worsted yarn product, set to launch in October.

We know that acoustic panels are proven to increase concentration and productivity and that they allow for effective communication and privacy. What are the other advantages of your specific products?
Studies have identified one particular factor as having the most impact on office productivity. This factor is conversational distractions, where private conversations are overheard by other workers in the space. Of course, this is a much bigger issue in open plan offices, where there can be many people holding different conversations.

Essentially, our stretch fabric system control reverberation within rooms and cellular spaces. Deadening sound and reducing echo, our products also enable good clarity of speech, which is often an issue within modern offices full of hard surfaces. Suspended ceilings, tiles and exposed concrete soffits, for example, all create a very noisy, reverberant space.

Good acoustics can improve...
Motivation by over 60% - Evans, Johnson, Cornell university, “Stress and open office noise”, Journal of Applied Psychology, 2000, vol. 85, no. 5, 779–783
Ability to focus by more than 40% - David M. Sykes, Ph.D., “Productivity: How Acoustics Affect Workers’ Performance In Offices & Open Areas”
Arithmetic performance by 20% - Banbury, Berry, “The disruption office-related tasks by speech and office noise”, British Journal of Psychology, 1998, 89, 499–517
oncentration by up to 50% - Weinstein, University of California, Berkeley, 1974, “Effect of noise on intellectual performance”, Journal of Applied Psychology 1974, vol. 59, no 5, 548–554

Good acoustics can reduce...
Adrenaline levels by 30% - Evans, Johnson, Cornell university, “Stress and open office noise”, Journal of Applied Psychology, 2000, vol. 85, no. 5, 779–783
Stress levels by 27% - David M. Sykes, Ph.D., “Productivity: How Acoustics Affect Human Productivity”
spoken distractions by more than 50% - David M. Sykes, Ph.D., “Productivity: How Acoustics Affect Productivity”
Errors by 10% - David M. Sykes, Ph.D., “Productivity: How Acoustics Affect Workers’ Performance In Offices & Open Areas”

Where do you see the future of acoustic panels headed?
Stretched fabric systems are still one of the most common methods for controlling reverberation and achieving good acoustics, providing the benefits as described above. Regular, new, and exciting fabric ranges, with a focus on sustainability, we believe, will only increase the use of stretched fabrics.
What would your advice be to clients worried about maintaining, cleaning and disinfecting fabric panels in the post-COVID world?
Just as you would expect to regularly clean and maintain upholstery products within the workplace, the same maintenance and cleaning advice would be applicable to fabric panels. The great thing about the track system we use is that the fabric can be easily unclipped to clean/maintain.

To find out more about the acoustic solutions Resonics offer, visit their website or check them out on:
Instagram: @resonicsuk
LinkedIn: @resonics