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Creating comfort

Designers and building owners are using sustainable building techniques to create interiors that take comfort to a new level.

The interest in “green building” is maturing and accelerating. Gone are the days of simply chasing after certification. Today, building owners and developers are looking for sustainable ways to make buildings responsible, profitable and healthy places to be.

Increasingly, occupant comfort is being integrated early in the building design process. Comfort goes beyond physical considerations and encompasses things like flexibility and wellbeing. The goal is to anticipate the way the building will be used in the future and make design decisions today that ensure not only the sustainable environmental performance of the building, but also the sustained enjoyment of the building by its occupants.

   Lyceum Schravenlant  Southmead Hospital
   Orange City  Metro Toronto Convention Center
  UPM Headquarters   Making sustainable buildings sound good


      From cradle to cradle

      The Dutch High School LYCEUM SCHRAVENLANT is the first educational building in the Netherlands designed and built after the cradle-to-cradle principles. The cradle-to-cradle philosophy is a holistic approach to consumption and construction processes seeking to create systems that are not only efficient but also essentially waste-free, where used materials are repurposed in another product without loss of quality or creating additional waste.

      The Schiedam Municipality has committed to an ambitious target to reduce carbon dioxide from community buildings, to take into account how long a building is expected to be in use and assume responsibility for what happens to it afterwards. That means that public buildings in Schiedam must be completely demountable at the end of their life cycle and materials given new life as different products. Taking these sustainability principles into account, it was first examined whether the old school building could be given a facelift, but most of the materials in the existing 1960’s structure were far from sustainable. Like other schools built in that era, he building had an old-fashioned educational structure, and the price of bringing energy consumption up to date would eventually be much higher than opting for a new-build.

      As the Hague-based LIAG architecten took on the project, they decided on an innovative approach that would put the needs and ideas of the 600 students at the centre of the design process. Working with the school they facilitated a 3-day project asking the students to 'Design your school’. The project allowed the students to visit other construction projects and come up with solutions that were presented to the other students, their parents and the municipality. These inputs were then included in LIAG’s design process.

      The product was a relatively small, but fully CO2 neutral building with optimal temperature regulation and clean air meeting the highest Dutch standards (Frisse Scholen Klasse A). The building is powered by 120 solar panels, the toilets are flushed with natural water, and the construction was made from re-used and recyclable building materials including 30,000 m² of ROCKFON Krios D acoustical stone wool tiles that create a healthy acoustical atmosphere. A long wall of reindeer moss supports the ceiling in creating a comfortable acoustical  environment and regulates the humidity in the building.

      Including the importance of indoor climate as a part of the sustainability discussion convinced the municipality and the school board that it was crucial to invest in this field. Thomas Bögl of LIAG architecten explains the importance of not just thinking of sustainability as a question of chosing low-impact construction materials: “A building is only sustainable if it contributes to the primary goal of its existence – in this case education. In that sense a healthy indoor climate is a must.”

      "An energy friendly building built with sustainable materials
      is not by definition a healthy building,
      so we also paid a lot of attention to the indoor climate of the building,
      where acoustics is a major parameter"

      “An energy friendly building built with sustainable materials is not by definition a healthy building, so we also paid a lot of attention to the indoor climate of the building, where acoustics is a major parameter. If the sound levels are low, people experience less stress, which leads to a lower absence due to illness,” Bögl continues. The result is a comfortable and sustainable school which is future-proofed to easily accommodate the adaptation of new techniques and the flexible division of rooms, allowing the building to shrink or grow in the future and potentially fulfil other functions – for instance allowing the local community to use the sports hall and the classrooms outside of school hours.

      See the reference video from Lyceum Schravenlant - VIDEO TO BE UPLOADED


        A healthy construction process

        The NEW BRISTOL HOSPITAL, which recently opened its first phase, is one of the most environmentally friendly buildings of its size in the UK. Smart material solutions and process innovation all contributed to earn the hospital its ’excellent’ BREEAM rating. Bridging aesthetics and the ambition of creating a sustainable building, the architects wanted to move away from the square look of typical suspended ceilings, but still needed high-performing ceilings that would reflect light and reduce the energy needs for artificial lighting. The building design incorporates lots of big windows and a large glass atrium as its centre piece, which called for building materials that would support the distribution of the natural daylight and provide a uniform spread of light in operating theatres and examination rooms.

        Contractors Carillion met both demands by equipping the building with ROCKFON MediCare ceiling tiles with concealed edges to create a uniform look and achieve an 86% light reflection. The MediCare range fulfils the cleaning and hygienic demands of healthcare environments and do not contribute to the growth of MRSA. They have a low particle emission and have achieved the Clean Room Classification ISO Class 4 for ROCKFON MediCare Plus and ISO Class 5 for ROCKFON MediCare Standard. This solution also met with the Trust’s requirements for larger plasterboard margins for rooms and reduced the amount of standard exposed grid ceilings in the
        new building.

        ROCKFON also contributed to achieving the positive BREEAM rating by reducing the amount of waste generated in the construction process. Working closely together, the ceiling contractor Carlton Ceilings & Partitions, Carillion, the distributor SIG Interiors, the Construction Development Manager and the ROCKWOOL factory in Wales developed an innovative process for returning all site waste including ROCKWOOL insulation slabs, pipe lagging and ROCKFON ceiling tiles to the ROCKWOOL factory in Wales for upcycling into new products. By picking up the waste each time new products were delivered to the site, the operation reduced the costs for transport, managed the storage of material at the Bristol depot, and delivered the waste to ROCKWOOL for reprocessing. While all ROCKWOOL factories are able to process waste into fibres of the same quality as those made from new materials, this was the first and largest project where multiple operating companies on one site collaborated to create a single waste stream.


          Orange is the new green

          Renowned telecommunication provider ORANGE relocated to its new BREEAM certified eco-friendly headquarters in Poland’s capital, Warsaw. It is one of the largest office complexes in the area, serving around 3,500 people over 43,000 m2 of floor space across five buildings that stretch six storeys. With an underground parking lot accommodating 1,050 cars and 120 bicycles, a canteen with over 300 seats, a grocery store, kiosk, ATM, cafeteria, fitness club, car wash and a garden, it’s no wonder it has been dubbed ‘Orange City.’

          Architects Fiszer Atelier 41 designed the project with a specific environmental, functional and adaptable vision in mind: “The concept was to design a flexible space that would adhere to meticulous thermal and energy saving requirements to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certification,” explains lead architect Piotr Bujnowski. The complex complies with requirements for energy efficiency, green-area management, energy consumption for lighting, factors affecting the employees’ health and solutions to reduce water consumption. 

          “the products bring their own environmental credentials,
          which supports our aim of minimising the impact on the environment
          and maximising the facility’s efficiency”

          With efficiency, adaptability and sustainability in mind in all aspects of the project, the architects chose ROCKFON Tropic E as the ceiling system for the entire project: “We wanted a system that was highly efficient and adaptable in every aspect, from its technical properties to its physical dimensions. The ROCKFON system worked for single and large open-plan office spaces, while creating continuity with the rhythm of the facade. It has superior sound absorption qualities, which is essential in a busy, fast-paced office environment. Additionally, the products bring their own environmental credentials, which supports our aim of minimising the impact on the environment and maximising the facility’s efficiency,” elaborates Bujnowski.


            Environmental conventions

            MTCC’S South building, located in downtown Toronto in Canada and spanning an area of more than 110,000 m2, showcases a striking number of environmental strategies with its restoration. The existing building, which opened in 1997, no longer aligned with MTCC’s functional and  environmental ambitions in achieving LEED® Canada certification, a rigorous and internationally recognised certification from Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC).

            Over the years, MTCC has evolved its environmental awareness within its event planning, offering sustainable meeting solutions with options for renewable power, zero waste, locally sourced menus and carbon offsets. The restoration opened the opportunity to use high performance materials to support a lower carbon footprint, especially by replacing large systems, such as the ceiling and floor, which can fundamentally alter sound and energy values. “Choosing products that have recycled content and low/no-VOCs is important to the convention centre,” explains Joshua Jaikaran, MTCC’s facilities technical coordinator and project coordinator.

            "Many of our events can be quite large
            and so the need to contain noise
            and provide acoustic privacy is essential"

            One of the main design considerations became the ceiling system, covering 34 meeting rooms and 4 exhibit halls with a barrier-free, fully accessible floor plan. “Since we are Canada’s largest convention centre, many of our events can be quite large and so the need to contain noise and provide acoustic privacy is essential - rather than having sound penetrate the plenum and carry to adjacent spaces,” says Jaikaran.

            MTCC chose to use a ROCKFON Koral ceiling system for the project due to its high acoustic performance rating, low-VOC and good recycled content levels, long-term durability and its light-weight, lightly textured and easy clean surface. Jaikaran elaborates, “Having a white ceiling tile with a smooth surface and high light reflectance brightens up the space, which could potentially mean energy savings, light reduction and a cooler space.”


              Light and transparency

              After occupying a prominent site for a century in Helsinki’s historic city centre, UPM relocated to a purpose-built office designed by Helin & Co Architects on Töölönlahti. The new headquarters of the Finnish Biofore company forms part of a new urban development of the site. “UPM set a target of cutting-edge architecture, both functionally and aesthetically, that stems from the company’s long history at the heart of Finnish industrial and social development,” explains Mariitta Helineva from Helin & Co. Facing the city, the striking L-shaped building is set behind an expansive forecourt. Wood, especially from UPM, features extensively throughout without restrictions for fire regulations. Plywood clads the facade, the interior features timber furniture and wood panels on ceilings and walls, and wood plastic composite floorboards on the balconies. On the west facade, sunshading is fashioned from the fine mesh used for UPM’s paper processing. These measures and others including an advanced HVAC system helped award the building a LEED Platinum certification.

              Light and transparency characterise the interior. Its heart is the voluminous atrium with a reception cafe and leaf-shaped void, around which circulation is organised, that brings plentiful daylight into the building. Vertical LED fins create a play of light reminiscent of dappled light. Corridors and workspaces also front onto the void to access extra daylight. Transparency translates to the workspaces, which are all openplan. “This adds communication in the office,” Helineva continues. “The workplace has become a meeting point for employees because many of them travel extensively or work in various locations.”

              Here, heating and cooling are provided by modular metal ceiling panels in varying configurations. Helineva: “We needed to integrate an acoustic ceiling system with these technical panels and ROCKFON Krios was a good solution. It’s an easily accessible white ceiling system with good acoustics, it’s good quality and cost-effective.” With lighting and ventilation placed in a 10 cm profile between the panels, this seamless ceiling contributes to ensuring optimal acoustic and thermal comfort in the workspaces.

              Making sustainable buildings sound good

              Gary Madaras, ROCKFON
              Acoustics Specialist and PhD
              This section features examples of buildings that are not only built with concern for the environment, but also provide acoustic comfort for people to learn, work and heal in. Because buildings should not only care for the planet, but also for the people using them, says ROCKFON Acoustics Specialist and Ph.D., Gary Madaras.

              While concepts of environmentally friendly building are gaining increased foothold, the importance of sound is not always given due thought. The tendency to focus solely on reducing environmental impact entails a risk of compromising construction longevity, indoor climate and fire safety. Sustainable buildings should also be comfortable and safe buildings designed for the people who use them.

              But protecting the environment is only a part of what it means to be sustainable: “Many people think that conservation of natural resources and protecting the environment are the most important components of sustainability. And of course they matter, but there are also human
              components,” says Gary Madaras.

              Still, social indicators of sustainability, such as fire safety and acoustic performance, are often overlooked in discussions about ‘green’ buildings. “Even though a building is built with the most sustainable materials or uses little energy, it can and should be viewed as a sustainability failure if it wastes human capital that is so highly valuable,” Gary Madaras says.


              Noise affects our productivity, our relationships and our overall well-being. Like some of our other senses, hearing informs us about the situation we are in, and whether it is safe or dangerous. “Our hearing is part of our natural defenses, so loud sounds are very disconcerting to us, and can cause a startle reflex whereby we experience an increase in heart rate, respiration rate and muscle tension,” says Gary Madaras. But hearing is the only sense we can’t shut off, so noise can be very stressful.

              “It can very much affect both our short-term and long-term well-being. And this stress can also reflect on social behaviour and our relationships at work and home,” he says. “So designers need to recognise and appreciate the extent acoustics affect the well-being of the occupants of their buildings and ultimately the long term financial viability of their clients. Acoustics are not about simply checking a box in order to comply with a minimum standard.”

              Nowhere else is this more evident than in healthcare buildings. “If patients don’t get restorative sleep, they stay longer in the hospital. While there, they use more pain medication and are at greater risk of falling. After they leave, they are also more likely to be readmitted due to complications associated with their hospitalisation. This is why some hospitals in the United States are reimbursed in part based on how quiet areas around patient rooms are.

              Similarly, noise and poor interior acoustics can greatly affect the learning environment in schools. “Statistically, children in schools only hear and understand 3 out of 4 words. And the younger they are, the less developed they are at filling out that missing word,” Madaras says. Poor acoustics can make it difficult to communicate accurately. That can be a problem in schools and workplaces, but in hospitals it can be a matter of life and death.


              Noise not only affects our well-being, but also our overall productivity. Staff costs are -
              without comparison - the largest expenditure of organisations. Studies show that up to 90
              percent of an organisation’s resources are spent on manpower, while less than 10 percent is spent on the physical workplace.

              “So even though a lot of people think that making sure that the carpeting on the floors or the wood on the walls comes from sustainable sources is most important, those types of environmental concerns actually account for less than 10 percent of the resources used by a company – the rest is manpower,” Madaras explains. “So if you really want to be sustainable, you have to have a balanced approach including environmental issues, social aspects and overall prosperity.”

              Because staff costs make up such a large part of company expenditures, even small changes in the acoustic experience may significantly affect business over time. Therefore, says Madaras, business leaders should pay attention to providing buildings that improve the acoustic experience for people. “We know that office employees spend 62 percent of their time doing quiet work, so they really need to concentrate. This reality conflicts with the general trend towards open collaboration space. If people are constantly distracted by noise, it reduces their productivity,” he says. “So acoustics should be brought to the forefront of sustainable thinking. Even a small improvement in the acoustic experience can improve employee productivity and limit health risks, leading to much larger financial savings when compared to those associated with an efficiently designed and operated building”.


              “Some of the sustainability assessment schemes and building codes are integrating social factors such as acoustics and fire, but the incentives still don’t appropriately reflect the efforts and costs of improvements beyond basic compliance.”

              This places a great responsibility on the architects and interior designers. “They need to have a conversation with the building owners about if they just want to meet the bare minimum compliance or optimise the acoustic experience,” Madaras says. “But the building owners don’t know to think about this on their own, so it’s the designers’ responsibility to inform them of the possibilities for improvements,” he says. “So far, ignoring the importance of acoustics has led to the development of building systems that often prioritise cost-optimisation over the comfort of the people who use the buildings”.


              As the following pages show, architects have several different reasons to prescribe ROCKFON stone wool tiles in effort to meet LEED, BREEAM or similar requirements. Some combine natural daylight and the high light reflectance of the tiles’ white surface to reduce the need for  electrical lighting, while others have successfully adopted the local ROCKWOOL and ROCKFON recycling schemes to reduce landfill from the production process.

              The ROCKWOOL Group has spent the past three decades developing recycling schemes in many countries, where discarded insulation products and ceiling tiles can be upcycled into new products without any loss of quality. In order to meet customer expectations and continue our continuous development of more sustainable acoustic solutions, ROCKFON now deliver  sustainability documentation, from recycled content, to EPDs, recycling schemes etc.

              ROCKFON tiles are made from basalt, a virtually inexhaustible resource. And a little goes a long way: 1 m3 of basalt produces 2,200 m2 of 15 mm ROCKFON tiles – or the equivalent of the ceilings of about 30 classrooms. Apart from basalt, ROCKFON uses recycled content, which means that ROCKFON products consist of up to 42 percent recycled materials.

                THE BEAUTY INSIDE

                Revealing the beauty inside renovations and new builds

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