How to use plants to improve acoustics in commercial interior design

Plants bring so many benefits to their environments and the people in them, but noise reduction is one of the lesser-known advantages. 

Here we will look at the importance of being able to regulate noise within a commercial setting, how plants can be used as a barrier to dampen noise, as well as recommending what to look for in a plant when used for this purpose. 

Reasons to improve acoustics in commercial interior design 

Unwanted noise is an annoyance in any setting, but within a commercial environment it can have a measurable impact on the objectives of that space. It can also trigger health conditions such as Tinnitus, or in more extreme cases, cause adverse cardiovascular and psychological effects. 

Retail

Customers are often carrying out multiple negotiations in their head whilst browsing in a store: Do I really need this? Does this fit? Can I afford this? Having a level of noise which is invasive to these thoughts can encourage customers to retreat and potentially shop elsewhere.  

Hospitality

In 2016, Consumer Reports surveyed complaint types across several restaurant chains and found excessive noise levels to be the most commonly occurring complaint, above poor service, problematic food prep, and even cleanliness.  

Being able to regulate noise is especially important in a restaurant where guests expect a certain level of ambience that allows for conversation and a sense of intimacy. 

Click here to download our free Hospitality plant displays brochure. 

Corporate

Busy offices are filled with distracting and interruptive noise that can reduce the productivity of employees. A sharp increase in virtual meetings taking place in offices has also made acoustics a more important consideration than ever before. Time lost through being unable to communicate clearly due to excessive noise can be costly and may frustrate customers and clients. 

A 2021 study conducted by Cambridge University established a link between open-plan office noise and both stress and negative mood. They found that negative mood increased by 25% and sweat response by 34% in participants.

Click here to download our free Corporate plant displays brochure. 

Education

Classrooms usually share a wall with another classroom and often look out onto a busy playground. This can impact the behaviour of pupils and therefore the results they achieve. It is important for teachers to be able to be heard clearly and for outside distractions to be minimised to create the best environment for learning.  

The Royal College of Agriculture’s research found that attentiveness increases with plants in the classroom. When students taught in classrooms with plants were compared to students in non-plant classrooms, those in plant classrooms showed 70% more attentiveness.

 

How do plants absorb sound? 

Through deflection, absorption, and refraction; plants provide a colourful antidote to the chaos of a busy commercial space. 

In a similar way to carpet, plants act as a sponge for noise. Plants can be used as a barrier to deflect and prevent sound waves from travelling. Sound bounces from impermeable surfaces such as walls and hard storage units, whereas plants are porous to support photosynthesis which also gives them the ability to absorb sound waves from the air. Their thirst for air also helps to eliminate echoes which are a major contributor to noise pollution.  

Absorbent    

Plants such as the Dracaena Janet Craig, Pachira Aquatica and Spathiphyllum are commonly touted as being the ‘best’ at cancelling indoor noise, however, there are some general characteristics to look out for when sourcing plants to improve acoustics.  

A dense population of leaves on a plant increases their capability to trap sound and soften the acoustics in a room. Plants that are equipped with thick leaves and a large surface area will normally dampen noise to a greater degree. 

The volume of plants in any space will determine the degree to which noise can be dampened. More is always better but there will of course be limitations on space, budget and practicality to consider. 

The placement of plants will also influence how well they are able to soak up noise. Plants placed around the perimeter of a room and grouped together will have a more noticeable impact than plants that are sparsely placed in the centre of a room. 

We always recommend speaking to an expert to ensure suitability. Our friendly team can offer advice on specific plant types that are compatible with your climate and provide a full maintenance service to ensure they continue to thrive.  

 

How to use plants to dampen sound

We are bursting with creative solutions that can simultaneously make your setting more harmonious and aesthetically pleasing. 

Moss Walls 

Our Nordik Moss Walls are a popular alternative to traditional planting that require minimal maintenance whilst saving on valuable floor space. They provide excellent sound-absorbing properties, helping to dampen noise and improve working conditions in almost any indoor environment.  

Moss used on a wall is dense and tightly packed and has been proven to reduce noise levels by up to 10dB with an absorption rating of 0.96. International Noise Awareness Day estimates the average sound level in a busy restaurant to be around 85 decibels. This is just below the legal limit for daily or weekly personal noise exposure, which is set at 87dB, meaning that a moss wall could be the difference in keeping a space compliant whilst also protecting the safety of staff and guests alike.  

You might just notice a 3 dB change in noise level, because of the way our ears work. Yet every 3 dB doubles the noise, so what might seem like small differences in the numbers can be quite significant. – Noise at work: Guidance for employers on the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, published by the University of Glasgow. 

Alternative methods to dampen noise

Plants are just one of many methods interior designers can use to improve the acoustic qualities of an indoor commercial space. Acoustic battens/screens and selecting soundproof doors, windows and interior walls can also help to reduce noise levels but lacks the beauty and benefits of biophilia that plants can offer.  

To chat with a member of our team or obtain a free quotation, call us today on 01324 861300