Many buildings offer us more than just a roof over our head for shelter. Hotels, spas and shopping centres all seek to offer users a sense of calm, refuge and tranquillity from the hustle and bustle elsewhere. This encourages people to stay in these buildings longer, to shop more, relax more or have a bite to eat. However, noise quickly builds up in these areas through conversational chatter, children shouting or crying, footsteps on hard floors, air-conditioning systems… the list goes on and on. This noise is distractive and can taint customer experiences.
One way to create a welcoming, stress-free environment is through reducing this unwanted noise in buildings.
Plants have a number of known benefits to their environments and the people within them, including noise reduction. Plants are used in many applications to reduce noise, including planting along motorways to help reduce the amount of traffic noise transferred to surrounding communities. Plants can also greatly reduce unwanted noise inside buildings.
How do plants reduce noise?
One way plants reduce noise is through sound absorption. Plant ‘parts’ such as stems, leaves, branches and bark absorb sound. Rough bark and thick, fleshy leaves are particularly effective at absorbing sound with their dynamic surface areas. The greater number of plants and the larger the size of the plant and it’s surface area will all greatly increase it’s ability to absorb sound.
Deflection is another way sound can be reduced. When sound hits a solid brick wall, the wall does not vibrate because it’s rigid. Sound waves are reflected off the wall and back towards the source. When sound waves hit a flexible material (such as plant leaves), the material will vibrate and the waves are transformed into other forms of energy, as well as being deflected in other directions.
Sound waves can also be refracted. This happens with carpeting in a home. If a room has all solid floors, sound waves bounce all over and can create echoes. When carpeting is added, the echoes disappear. Planting that covers surface areas helps to accomplish this same feat. Vines on walls and the sides of buildings will help refract sound. Lawns, ground cover planting and green walls are excellent at refracting sound.
Why not add some plants to your indoor spaces to help lower noise levels and create a more calming atmosphere.