Web Exclusive: Selling Silence

This GO web exclusive discusses the growing need for sound abatement in the hospitality industry as more designers and building owners turn to hard surface flooring.

Selling Silence

Hospitality’s growing need for sound abatement

By Liz Switzer

CallisonRTKL’s design at the new Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach was designed with relaxation in mind and a splash of excitement that appeals to families. The hotel has 343 luxuriously appointed guest rooms with spectacular vistas, 22,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, a waterfront bar and restaurant and the area’s largest ballroom.
(Photo by Eric Laignel, courtesy CallisonRTKL)

Hospitality guest profiles are rapidly evolving as operators envision more inclusive spaces with family-oriented and pet-friendly appeal, a highly personalized business traveler experience and a seamlessly transformative, relaxing vacation destination that is food-focused and eco-friendly.

As a result, the hospitality space is undergoing an unprecedented shift toward a hard surface aesthetic. “Operators are really trying to bring in a more diverse clientele with more family and pet-friendly hotels where carpeting is a common problem,” said Clint Ashworth, CallisonRTKL associate vice president, architecture.

Interface’s Cindy Kaufman, director of marketing, hospitality, said the trend is moving toward using hard surfaces everywhere, without carpet or, in some cases, area rugs — in addition to less upholstery and more case goods. “I was in a hotel room recently where the only soft materials were the bedding and draperies,” she said.

One of the chief unintended consequences of this shift is increased concern over sound control. While travelers want a quiet place to work, rest and relax, more hard surfaces mean sound is bouncing around rooms and corridors like never before. And, according to those in the field, sound continues to be a regular complaint related to bad guest experiences. “Acoustics are an important part of the design process in hospitality as users have become more vocal about their impression of a space [through outlets such as social media],” noted Basel Jurdy, acoustics principal, Stantec.

He added that the interior acoustics of a space can project intimacy, energy, calm, quality, harmony or separation — often the underappreciated aspect that interior design can bring to the space’s experience. “This sensory experience is one of the early subconscious barriers that must open up to start appreciating the quality of the space and harmony with functions and offerings,” he said.

Larry Browder, chief sales and marketing officer, Karndean Designflooring, noted that sound control in commercial settings has become a top priority in product specification and is a benefit that has come to be expected by end users.

As such, designers have to find solutions that balance trends, sustainability and cost-effective materials with hotel brand requirements — creating a comfortable, memorable and acoustically pleasing guest experience. Designers said they typically evaluate the choice of materials based on acoustics and spatial adjacency. For flooring, that means looking at the impact insulation class (ICC) ratings of materials and possibly supplementing with sound isolation solutions during construction for challenging areas such as hotel rooms located near fitness centers and high traffic areas. This desired sound of silence is becoming increasingly more challenging to achieve from a technical standpoint as more operators need more products with higher ICC ratings, said Elizabeth Bonner, creative design director, Durkan.

Product Choices

When it comes to choosing the right product for an acoustically pleasing hospitality setting, designers said it’s all about matching design with performance. “As designers, we look for high-performing, original and aesthetically pleasing materials that will absorb the sounds and reduce reverberation while heightening the design concept,” said Weber Thompson’s Fanny Idoux, hospitality interior designer.

So exactly which products are answering the call? Well, some noted that while carpet is still an obvious solution to noise abatement with its sound absorbing qualities — particularly in high traffic areas such as ballrooms and major corridors — creative combinations of soft and hard surfaces are being used to mitigate sound transfer both inside guest rooms and throughout corridors.

“For today’s hospitality spaces, there is not one product that fits all needs. Soft surface and hard surface are both being specified, with a trend towards more hard surfaces in retail and guest rooms. As a result, it is becoming more important to use resilient products that use underlayment to reduce impact noise,” said Jeff West, vice president, marketing, Patcraft.

West hits the nail on the head as resilient has become the fastest growing segment of the flooring industry in recent years. LVT in particular offers realistic visuals that add a high-end feel, while remaining cost-effective over the product’s life cycle, making it especially popular within hospitality for an easy transition to the carpet tile often used in many hotel corridors and multi-story applications.

LVT has also become one of the biggest trends in guest room flooring, and the wide selection of sustainable product offerings now available make it a stand-by choice for CallisonRTKL projects, Ashworth said.

Karndean’s Browder noted the hospitality segment continues to grow for the manufacturer across its glue down, loose lay and rigid core product offerings. He attributed the recent growth of the rigid core category in part to its acoustical benefits, in fact.

Overall, designers and manufacturers alike agreed that the growing trend of mixing and matching soft and hard surfaces with an ear on sound abatement has opened up more design possibilities and will continue to do so in the future. “Combinations have freed up the space from a design perspective and opened up the space visually,” Durkan’s Bonner said.

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