Sensory stimuli affect the way we act within our homes, workspaces, and even our relationships. These stimuli could be visuals, sounds, touch, tastes, movement and body awareness. All of our senses have a large impact in the way we learn and focus. Acoustics: sound and noise – These are factors which impact our lives every day, yet it is not a subject that is often discussed.
Saint-Gobain Ecophon’s Lauren Kruger, an Interior Architect and concept developer researching non-visual aspects of design and specifically the effect of sound within workspaces, and Dr Annemarie Lombard, the Founder and CEO of Sensory Intelligence Consulting, have partnered to delve more into this topic and have broadcasted a podcast as part of an international Ecophon series entitled “A sound effect on people”.
Dr Annemarie Lombard has 26 years national and international experience as an Occupational Therapist in Learning and Development and has a special interest in comparing sensory profiles with performance, particularly the dynamics of open plan working and high-impact environments and how this influences performance. A core focus of the work Sensory Intelligence® Consulting does is to address and improve the interactions between people, environments and resulting human behaviours. She explains how she creates sensitivity profiles based on the human senses, and then advises clients on how to optimise for each of them in order to “improve quality of life”.
Lauren and Dr Lombard explore how making small and practical changes can align spaces to better suit a person’s behaviour and personality. One of these changes may be improving the acoustic environment.
Hearing is the one sense that cannot be turned off. Many people spend up to 80% of their time indoors, and struggle with excessive noise and or an ability to hear clearly. The physiological response to constant loud noise causes fatigue, stress and elevated heart rates, quite the opposite of what is needed for successful healing or productive work. Ecophon has recently completed a research study on Psychoacoustics, which explores people’s psychological response to noise in the workplace.
“If we determine how people are wired, on a sensory level, we can predict their performance in the workplace,” says Dr Lombard.
For those people who have a low threshold to noise, for example, it is likely that they will not be able to focus in areas which are noisy as these spaces are far too distracting. These people will be best suited to working within a quiet area in the office. Those people with a high threshold, and who are in fact energised by sound; may prefer to work in a location with a constant buzz.
“These things sound very simplistic but they have a profound impact on how people live on a day to day basis,” adds Dr Lombard. “I really try to push to help people to see that space can be conducive for performances but can also be reducing performance,” she says.
Translating these learnings into creating optimal work environments, one needs to consider the use of a space, what activities will take place within this space, the human sound preference for that space and the type of room being designed. Ecophon offers acoustic ceilings and wall panels that will help create the best possible room acoustics for most types of indoor environments, whether they are educational facilities, healthcare, office environments, residential or leisure.
“From a design perspective, we are giving people so much more choice in where and how to work, but do we really understand enough about how we as individuals respond in these varying environments,” says Saint-Gobain’s Lauren Kruger. “Between Ecophon and Sensory Intelligence, both here in South Africa and in the UK, we are starting to work together to understand both the psychological and physiological responses to sensory stimulation as well as educate people in our respective concepts.”
Dr Lombard proposes that applying sensory intelligence can help rethink the way people work, learn and live. With the world getting more complex by the day, our senses are being bombarded from all directions. Perhaps this overstimulation has affected our productivity more than we realise?
To listen to the podcast, go to: http://www.ecophon.com/za/about-ecophon/newsroom/ecophons-acoustic-podcast/
Read the “research study on Psychoacoustics” white paper: http://www.ecophon.com/uk/about-ecophon/Contact/Request-information/office-whitepaper/
More about Saint-Gobain Ecophon
Ecophon dates back to 1958, when the first sound absorbers from glass wool were produced in Sweden to improve the acoustic working environment. Today the company is a global supplier of acoustic systems that contribute to good room acoustics and a healthy indoor environment with the focus on offices, education, health care and industrial manufacturing premises. Ecophon is part of the Saint-Gobain Group and has sales units and distributors in many countries. Ecophon efforts are guided by a vision of earning global leadership in room acoustic comfort through sound-absorbing systems, enhancing end-user performance and wellbeing.
Ecophon maintains an ongoing dialogue with government agencies, working environment organisations and research institutes, and is involved in formulating national standards in the field of room acoustics where Ecophon contributes to a better working environment wherever people work and communicate.