Clatter & noise ?!
Reducing clatter and noise in “eateries”, bars & cafes to a level where it’s perceived as a buzz rather than annoying is just one way of enhancing customer experience.
This is often not easy, with the dual desire for hard, sound reflecting surfaces:
1) Easily cleanable
2) Fitting current design trends
But, considering sound quality on equal terms along with other design and environmental aspects, like natural light levels, temperature Etc. doesn’t have to be anything like impossible.
UTAM (under table absorption) helps enormously – utilising an otherwise unseen and unused surface, representing (typically) the same amount of sound absorption as carpet covering around 60% of the floor area.
This is really useful sound absorption implemented in a totally unseen manner, without any disturbance to, or effect on other visual design features.
In many cases (dependent on room size, build material and table numbers) UTAM treatment may not be sufficient on it’s own to gain a desired acoustic quality or may not represent sensible value for money. In which case, other treatments involving other surfaces, (and that almost certainly means “seen” surfaces) may be needed.
This is where a “mindset” often never before encountered has to be adopted !
Rather than viewing the need for visible acoustic treatment as a “problem” screwing around with beautiful and potentially expensive design elements, we have to turn the whole thing on it’s head …
View the concept of adding “stuff” to absorb sound as an opportunity for new creative design !
A dirty great wall hung chalk board style menu, can quite easily become an acoustic absorber. So, without thinking too hard, and without proposing anything horribly radical, we’ve just got ourselves a bit more absorption.
Creatively, we can enhance that very idea by, for example, adding integrating lighting – ending up with something that was potentially always going to be there, but making it do 2 jobs and a real feature.
The balancing act
To get absorption to work well, and achieve the outcome we want, it has to be balanced. By that we mean that absorptive areas have to well distributed around the space. Or to put it another way, simply “parking a lorry load of mineral wool (which is a brilliant sound absorber) in the corner of a room” will not work !.
This was nicely proven by a high street department store, who treated a cafe ceiling with the same product we had specified for a previous job. The trouble was, they treated the whole ceiling, whereas our previous recommendation was for only a small percentage and, that recommended percentage was room specific, taking into account all other areas of absorption. The outcome was audibly worse than before – because of a drastic imbalance of absorptive surface areas.
Less is NOT more. More is NOT more (or correct). Only the right amount in the right place is “more” & correct !
Predicting the acoustic outcome with maths (ugh) and computer simulation is pretty well the only way to guarantee the effect you want, is the effect you get.
This is something we do on a daily basis, with alarming accuracy, and ensures no time or material wastage, no costly mistakes and the fact that you get it right first time.
It does require that “upside down” mindset and willingness to negotiate design elements, but works, adding a considerable “we want to be here” factor.
Most cafes, bars & restaurants, from single family owned unit to an international chain in any country, have known and trusted partners for design and supply. The relative simplicity of “new” absorption elements, “tweaked” existing design elements or even UTAM fitting means that these already known guys can easily create what’s needed, locally, at minimum cost. This working practice reduces the need for any “specialist” acoustic “materials” to virtually zero – ok, a scheme may need one or two specialist materials, but in the main, it’s nothing more than standard building / decoration materials. A far cry from the “bad old days” of ugly and expensive pre manufactured absorbers of year ago, but, still available right now !
In fact, with a bit of acoustic design and room modelling at the design concept stage, intelligent use of build materials can reduce the need for any retrofit treatment even further. So there is a good argument for acoustic design, while a project is still on the drawing board !.