Good design solves problems. From simplifying wayfinding to creating more equitable communities, designers have the power to improve the lives of the people who use their spaces.
One common complaint? Poor acoustics that make it hard to hear and speak comfortably in a space. It’s a perennial thorn in designers’ sides, but solutions like acoustic lighting fixtures can help address the problem. The lighting system can do double duty by lighting the space and helping control sound transmission.
Unika Vaev, a firm that manufactures acoustical products and contract textiles, recently introduced two acoustical lighting solutions: Trumpet and the Lineal Collection. Both incorporate acoustical material, but they address the problem in different ways. Trumpet is a thin lamp suspended from the ceiling, while the Lineal Collection is a set of ceiling tiles with embedded LED lighting.
“Normally what happens with interior design is that we have to solve both problems, the lighting and the acoustics,” explained Cutu Mazuelos, who designed Trumpet with his business partner, Eva Prego. “It’s much more expensive because you’re buying acoustic panels and lighting. Why not put these two functions in one place?”
Designing for Acoustics
The commonly used mineral fiber ceiling tiles are popular for a reason—they have a fairly high Noise Reduction Coefficient for the price (the typical NRC rating for mineral fiber is about 0.70, according to vendor ProCeilingTiles). The Noise Reduction Coefficient measures how well a specific material absorbs sound as it passes through an object. The higher the NRC rating, the quieter the room.
So mineral fiber ceilings have their place. Unfortunately, they’re also visually unexciting and may not solve a space’s acoustical issues on their own.
Trumpet and the Lineal Collection attack this problem in different ways. The Lineal Collection, which has an NRC rating of 0.85, can replace mineral fiber ceiling tiles in places where you need a little help acoustically—for example, directly over cubicles. Intersperse it throughout a space to add visual interest to the ceiling while improving the acoustical value.
Trumpet, which has an NRC of 0.40 to 0.45 depending on the model, is ideal for adding an extra acoustical boost to spaces with a surplus of talking, like meeting rooms. Its thin profile and curved form (crafted to resemble an inverted trumpet) is unobtrusive, yet elegant—perfect for a boardroom.
“I really have a disdain for drop ceilings,” said Scott Goodwin of the ubiquitous white ceiling tiles. Goodwin is creative director for Unika Vaev Studios, which designed the Lineal Collection. “I just look at them and go ‘We can’t do anything better than that?’ [The Lineal Collection] was really born out of necessity. How can we make drop ceilings look better and not cost a fortune?”
Meet Your Client’s Green Goals
Both Trumpet and the Lineal Collection use energy-efficient LEDs to light the spaces they’re in.
The construction of the fixtures can also contribute toward meeting environmental goals; the Lineal Collection is made of PET (polyethylene terephthalate), a highly recyclable material often used for food and beverage containers. The Lineal Collection emits no VOCs and contains no post-consumer content. All of the tiles can be recycled at the end of their life, according to Unika Vaev.
“What’s great about PET is that it’s VOC-neutral, fire-retardant and made of recycled materials,” Goodwin said. “It’s like the best of all worlds.”
Trumpet features a solid wood body that’s upholstered on the outside with a choice of polyester, wool or Trevira CS. Its acoustic core is made from recycled waste fabric and worn-out PET bottles. Both promise the long lifespans common to LED products (40,000 hours for Trumpet and 50,000 for the Lineal Collection).
Designers will also enjoy a wide spectrum of color choices to suit any product, which can be tough to come by in ceiling products, Goodwin said.
“This allows them to introduce some great colors into the ceilingscape, so you’re able to expand the palette you’re working with when you’re creating a ceiling using a drop ceiling grid,” Goodwin added. “You can also add dimension up and down, so you can take that ceilingscape and make it part of the room instead of just a ceiling in a room. A lot of people don’t think people look at ceilings, but it’s part of the whole feeling you get out of the room. This gives the designer even more tools to create that drama that they want to create.”
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