For Belgian company BuzziSpace, silence and style go hand-in-hand. Along with Zenith Interiors, BuzziSpace is committed to rethinking the management of noise in our workspaces – leading the charge of acoustic engineering in product design. David Congram writes.
If our workspaces are environments for focus and concentration why, then, are they noisier than ever before? When you consider just how much ‘work’ and our workspaces have changed over the past generation, this really isn’t too flippant a question. With higher workstation densities, the influence of the dot.com explosion, the globalisation of operations, the rise of collaboration, videoconference calling, we’re working faster, harder and much, much louder than ever.
And while this may very well be the case, some are concerned that in our wholehearted embrace of connectivity, the resulting din is actually proving to be counterproductive. Recently, international research conducted by Jungsoo Kim and Richard Dear of the University of Sydney on the behavioural psychology of workspace design found that a staggering majority of workers are dissatisfied with their working environment. In what is quite a startling indictment from those surveyed, the research indicates that in addition to waning motivation, general wellbeing, productivity and collective morale, more than 60% of workers claim to lose close to an hour out of an 8 hour work day due to “noise distractions […that are] doubled in open-plan offices”. Aggregately, that equates to billions and billions of dollars worth of lost revenue for corporations worldwide, every day. With workspace noise pollution taking out the top billing in detrimental indices affecting worker productivity and health, the A+D community is now becoming increasingly devoted to investigating ways in which spatial attuning can work alongside acoustic engineering.
This human-centric turn in design ideology has been at the forefront of Belgian company BuzziSpace since their beginning back in 2007. Understanding the performative, behavioural and aesthetic nuances surrounding noise in the workplace, BuzziSpace became an international success story seemingly overnight.
The BuzziSpace secret is three-fold: firstly, by upholding rigorous R+D processes, their products respond playfully to the eye while soothingly to the ear. Secondly, collaborating with only the very best international designers such as Alain Gilles has seen their suite of noise-conscious furnishings adopted in top-end offices all over the world including Facebook, Microsoft and Google.
But thirdly (and possibly, most importantly) BuzziSpace made a promise on day one which – at the time – was decidedly revolutionary. Thanks to their signature patented Eco Felt, BuzziSpace’s 100% ecological commitment has seen them bring the conversations of sustainable design and production together with the conversations surrounding wellness, optimum performance and user-oriented workplace design. According to Daniel Verloovan – BuzziSpace’s Global Acoustic Ambassador – “at its core, acoustics are a social driver […] because it’s all about how we hear and understand each other. It’s very simple and very integral to the emotional aspects of community and happiness”.
Because sound strikes at the heart of our communality, Verlooven makes it very clear that out of this enormous reinvestment in the relationship between acoustics and design across the entire A+D community, the question of acoustic engineering is far more complicated than just simply making things quieter. Naturally, the values of quiet for those engaged in rigorous tasks or concentration are numerous and heavy. Because, as Verlooven says, “open offices need spaces for solo work, togetherness, focus, retreat and disconnection”, consideration for acoustics requires a distinct attention to flexibility in design practice that covers:
What appears to be the issue is not creating a cocoon of silence that is segregating, but instead providing acoustical design systems that are malleable for our agile working habits. That is, providing acoustic shelters here for focus and concentration, or acoustic areas there for breakout and dynamic collaboration. While this is the case, there is a decidedly important flipside to noisiness (and not just ‘noise’) in the office too. As the spatial trend of open plan work environments continues to remain popular, the championing of collaboration, social interaction and zones for touchdown and breakout proves to be a strong influence in (on the one hand) the qualities of innovation and creativity. On the other hand, the noise inherent in open plan spatial arrangements is largely recognised to be a big contributor to forging workplace culture – the social aspects of work, team building and integrating all individuals within common goals that are, inevitably, also shared by the corporation at large. In short, too silent a space equates to too isolating a space; and, in terms of wellbeing and health (mental and physical) for workers and corporations, isolation represents the ultimate defect.
Instead, constantly celebrating the needs for flexibility and modularity in our lives – as our environment becomes more and more compact we seem to crave more and more openness with our spaces and each other – Buzzi products unite an aesthetic language of joy, ease and levity. Coupled with the cutting-edge science of acoustical engineering, their collection stands for furnishing that fits the working tools to the body (not the body to the tools).
Now in partnership with the premier workplace furniture supplier Zenith Interiors, Team BuzziSpace and Team Zenith are committed to delivering organisations across the world the latest innovative ways to engage their employees by creating spaces that are functional, beautiful, and always ready for what tomorrow might throw at them.
In our contemporary world of hyper-connectivity and bustle, it is no surprise that we increasingly seek solace. In their upcoming seminar series Demystifying Acoustics, Zenith and BuzziSpace’s Daniel Verlooven tackle noise-management systems, the philosophy behind cocoons and sound-absorbing materiality: the core themes that currently fuel the desire in the workspace for quiet, serenity and escape.