One of the most underestimated criteria in people’s perception of their environment is the acoustic ambience. This is true whether the building is a large atrium, a foyer, a hospital, or a restaurant. The internal acoustics of the space has a significant effect on the comfort levels of the occupants. The problem often arises when the design calls for all hard surfaces in the cladding material, such as glass skylights and glass walls. This results in minimal locations for sound absorptive materials.
An innovative solution we are researching for a current project is Texlon, by Vector Foiltec. This product consists of air “cushions” seamed by aluminum extrusions which are supported by a lightweight structure. The manufacturer uses two to five layers of a modified cloth like material to create the cushions, which are then inflated with low-pressure air. This provides thermal insulation and helps the cushions resist wind loads. The cloth like material is a modified copolymer originally developed for the space industry, and is unique in that it does not degrade under ultra-violet light or atmospheric pollution. Because it is extremely long lasting, it can be used as part of the permanent building envelope.
The neat part, in our opinion, is that because the Texlon cladding is very light, with a mass of less than 1 kg/sqm (approximately 3 oz/sf). It is acoustically “soft”, thus it does not reflect internally generated noise back to the occupants. This means that the internal environment is considerably more comfortable with lower reverberation times than if the cladding were constructed from an acoustically hard material such as glass. This is particularly evident on spherical domes or other structures where the focus effect of hard materials can make speech almost unintelligible. In addition, the cost of intensive counter measures, such as the integration of acoustic absorbers into the space, is usually unnecessary