Recently I had dinner in a new, stylish restaurant. In the part of the restaurant where we were seated were seats for approximately 35 to 40 people. Although there were free tables, the noise level was so high that we almost had to yell to understand each other. The reason for this was not celebrating or other yelling guests, it was the fit out.
The room had a wooden floor, painted brick walls, a technical ceiling with visible installations and ductwork. The furniture was charming and stylish but was made out of wood only. There were no carpets or curtains, plants or anything else that could help absorb sound.
In many hotels, we face similar problems. Lobby, reception and seating areas, bars and restaurants are no longer separated. The public space serves as a welcome area and a living room where people hang out, work or mingle instead of staying in their rooms. The function of the different areas changes during the day. It starts with breakfast and converts into a seating area and living room during the day. Later on it may change into a bar and entertainment area.
Today’s design concepts rarely show carpets or curtains. The classic heavy lobby carpet and heavy curtains are found in the traditional hotels only. In most cases we find so-called technical ceilings without suspended ceilings. The consequence is that there is a lack of sound-absorbing materials.
If the costs for an acoustic engineer and some sound-absorbing measures are left out to save money, the whole concept could be at risk. Saving on costs isn’t the only reason for neglecting the issue. In many cases, the lack of knowledge and understanding of sound and noise conditions are the reason.
The industry provides lots of tools to help to improve the situation. Here is an example of noise-absorbing furniture. There are many more available on the market. It is the task of the interior designer to create the right atmosphere and to bridge the gap between privacy and open space.
A certain noise level is desired to support the liveliness of the hotel concept. However, if the noise level is too high, it gets uncomfortable – not only for my age group! It is up to designers and architects to face the challenge.