BuzziSpace + Zenith Interiors: The Science of Sound

For Belgian company BuzziSpace, silence and style go hand-in-hand. Along with Zenith Interiors, BuzziSpace is committed to rethinking the management of noise in our workspaces – leading the charge of acoustic engineering in product design.

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If our workspaces are environments for focus and concentration why, then, are they noisier than ever before? When you consider just how much ‘work’ and our workspaces have changed over the past generation, this really isn’t too flippant a question. With higher workstation densities, the influence of the dot.com explosion, the globalisation of operations, the rise of collaboration, videoconference calling, we’re working faster, harder and much, much louder than ever.

And while this may very well be the case, some are concerned that in our wholehearted embrace of connectivity, the resulting din is actually proving to be counterproductive. Recently, international research conducted by Jungsoo Kim and Richard Dear of the University of Sydney on the behavioural psychology of workspace design found that a staggering majority of workers are dissatisfied with their working environment. In what is quite a startling indictment from those surveyed, the research indicates that in addition to waning motivation, general wellbeing, productivity and collective morale, more than 60% of workers claim to lose close to an hour out of an 8 hour work day due to “noise distractions […that are] doubled in open-plan offices”. Aggregately, that equates to billions and billions of dollars worth of lost revenue for corporations worldwide, every day. With workspace noise pollution taking out the top billing in detrimental indices affecting worker productivity and health, the A+D community is now becoming increasingly devoted to investigating ways in which spatial attuning can work alongside acoustic engineering.

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This human-centric turn in design ideology has been at the forefront of Belgian company BuzziSpace since their beginning back in 2007. Understanding the performative, behavioural and aesthetic nuances surrounding noise in the workplace, BuzziSpace became an international success story seemingly overnight.

The BuzziSpace secret is three-fold: firstly, by upholding rigorous R+D processes, their products respond playfully to the eye while soothingly to the ear. Secondly, collaborating with only the very best international designers such as Alain Gilles has seen their suite of noise-conscious furnishings adopted in top-end offices all over the world including Facebook, Microsoft and Google.

But thirdly (and possibly, most importantly) BuzziSpace made a promise on day one which – at the time – was decidedly revolutionary. Thanks to their signature patented Eco Felt, BuzziSpace’s 100% ecological commitment has seen them bring the conversations of sustainable design and production together with the conversations surrounding wellness, optimum performance and user-oriented workplace design. According to Daniel Verloovan – BuzziSpace’s Global Acoustic Ambassador – “at its core, acoustics are a social driver […] because it’s all about how we hear and understand each other. It’s very simple and very integral to the emotional aspects of community and happiness”.

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Because sound strikes at the heart of our communality, Verlooven makes it very clear that out of this enormous reinvestment in the relationship between acoustics and design across the entire A+D community, the question of acoustic engineering is far more complicated than just simply making things quieter. Naturally, the values of quiet for those engaged in rigorous tasks or concentration are numerous and heavy. Because, as Verlooven says, “open offices need spaces for solo work, togetherness, focus, retreat and disconnection”, consideration for acoustics requires a distinct attention to flexibility in design practice that covers:

  1. Noise absorption (the process by which a material/structure/product impedes sound energy as opposed to reflecting it);
  2. Noise diffusion (the process by which sound energy at different frequencies is dispersed evenly throughout spaces);
  3. Noise attenuation (the process by which the energy loss of sound propagation reduces the sound transfer in spaces).

What appears to be the issue is not creating a cocoon of silence that is segregating, but instead providing acoustical design systems that are malleable for our agile working habits. That is, providing acoustic shelters here for focus and concentration, or acoustic areas there for breakout and dynamic collaboration. While this is the case, there is a decidedly important flipside to noisiness (and not just ‘noise’) in the office too. As the spatial trend of open plan work environments continues to remain popular, the championing of collaboration, social interaction and zones for touchdown and breakout proves to be a strong influence in (on the one hand) the qualities of innovation and creativity. On the other hand, the noise inherent in open plan spatial arrangements is largely recognised to be a big contributor to forging workplace culture – the social aspects of work, team building and integrating all individuals within common goals that are, inevitably, also shared by the corporation at large. In short, too silent a space equates to too isolating a space; and, in terms of wellbeing and health (mental and physical) for workers and corporations, isolation represents the ultimate defect.

Instead, constantly celebrating the needs for flexibility and modularity in our lives – as our environment becomes more and more compact we seem to crave more and more openness with our spaces and each other – Buzzi products unite an aesthetic language of joy, ease and levity. Coupled with the cutting-edge science of acoustical engineering, their collection stands for furnishing that fits the working tools to the body (not the body to the tools).

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Now in partnership with the premier workplace furniture supplier Zenith Interiors, Team BuzziSpace and Team Zenith are committed to delivering organisations across the world the latest innovative ways to engage their employees by creating spaces that are functional, beautiful, and always ready for what tomorrow might throw at them.

In our contemporary world of hyper-connectivity and bustle, it is no surprise that we increasingly seek solace. In their upcoming seminar series Demystifying Acoustics, Zenith and BuzziSpace’s Daniel Verlooven tackle noise-management systems, the philosophy behind cocoons and sound-absorbing materiality: the core themes that currently fuel the desire in the workspace for quiet, serenity and escape.

By David Congram, Indesignlive

What Does 60 Years in Design Look Like?

We take a 60-year trip down memory lane, looking at the development of one of Australia’s most significant manufacturer and supplier of commercial furniture … Zenith Interiors.
By Sophia Watson, Indesign.

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A lot has happened in the last 60 years; the moon landing, ATMs, Woodstock, the mobile phone, tearing down of the Berlin wall, the first African-American President, disco and grunge, the cronut. And, throughout this period, Zenith Interiors has been there; evolving, growing and learning.

Zenith’s roots take us all the way back to 1956 as a manufacturer of office partitions and later, workstations. Back then, commercial furniture was very static – a reflection of the models of working at the time. Many had their own office, and if you weren’t a particularly high-ranking executive, you might have a modest cubicle with three obtrusive and separatist felt walls which you would decorate with pictures of your children, family and maybe a “hang in there, baby” calendar.

It wasn’t until the early 1990s that Zenith changed tack, and launched their first dedicated commercial furniture showroom in Melbourne. This was a period of great change for workplace design, where our European counterparts were beginning to experiment wildly with the concepts of work modalities and commercial systems. Zenith dipped their proverbial toe in the water here, began to take these radical principles and manifest them into very usable yet forward thinking products.

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In 2003 Zenith launched Sydney. Then Perth in 2005, followed by Canberra in 2008.  In 2009, Zenith took a huge leap forward with a major expansion program, featuring a new vision to become a leading commercial furniture manufacturer and supplier in the Asia Pacific region.  This included launching into Brisbane, Adelaide, Auckland, Wellington, Shanghai, and Hong Kong  between 2009-2014, followed by the acquisition of their Christchurch distributor in 2015 and in November this year a new showroom in Singapore will open.

2009 was a landmark year for the company…

In 2009, Zenith began to invest significantly in their in-house R+D department, and as a result founded the Zenith Design Studio. To this day, the Design Studio leads the brand’s in-house manufacturing and design direction with the output of 12 highly skilled industrial designers and product engineers.

2009 also saw the brand launch an assembly and storage facility in Sydney to house imported product to better service the Australian market by shortening the lead-times on international brands. This facility has since grown into a 5,000sqm operation in Sydney’s Kingsgrove, featuring a fully-serviced upholstery line and frame-making workshop, as well as improved warehousing and logistics.

This was the year that Zenith made its very first foray into international brands, introducing Allermuir and the Senator Group UK into the collection, which brought with them a solid global flavour, though Zenith localised many of their core products to better service the Australian market.

In the same year, the brand worked very hard to balance the global players under their banner with local talent, working collaboratively and launching product with Australian designers including Yellow Diva, Keith Melbourne, Bang Design and Woodmark.

In 2010 Zenith secured the BuzziSpace brand for Australia and NZ, which gained instant popularity because of its capabilities in bringing silence back into the work environment with style.

In 2012, Zenith opened their first manufacturing plant in Shanghai, as well as a manufacturing facility in Auckland.

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Technology is a huge player in the modern market, and Zenith has not been immune to the demand for integrated technology, both in their internal operation and their products. That’s why in 2013, the brand added their own state-of-the-art powder coating facility to their 20,000sqm factory in Melbourne, followed by the addition of a new CNC machine worktop plant in 2014, which allows them to improve and control their delivery programs.

In 2014, Zenith began to really own their ideas and approach, cleverly packaging their high-quality curation of local and global brands into useable frameworks which, even now, continue to respond to hot topic movements in the sector such as acoustics and agile work environments.

Now 60 years on, by the end of 2016, Zenith will have 11 showrooms (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Hong Kong and Singapore) and 4 manufacturing facilities in the Asia Pacific region.