Open plan offices are truly on the rise. Gone are those days when productivity, efficiency and communication all had to bow down in front of designated cabins, corporate structures and office politics. Today, office buildings are anything but private. Not only have most of the cabins given way to private cubicles in a large shared space, offices are now being constructed with thinner flooring slabs and large unsupported spans as well. One of the biggest drawbacks of such designs is the ‘bounce’, the tendency when the flooring begins to make noises under the weight of the people who walk across the floor, a huge nuisance for anyone working in a corporate environment.
To counteract this nuisance and to help in damping down the office, Professors John Wilson and Emad Gad and members of Swinburne’s Centre for Sustainable Infrastructure developed flooring using vibration damping material that is not only cost efficient to fit existing office modules, but is incredibly compact as well. This module makes use of heavy plastics to force the bounce to ‘die down’ and it is already being used across offices in the UK and in Australia.
The problem seems trivial. After all, why would you bother about silly vibrations and look to revamp the entire flooring? Why change anything at all? Is vibration dampening really worth the effort? A few questions running through your mind. Well, think of it this way. Studies show that movements as small as a tenth of a millimeter can cause major discomfort for employees seated at the desks in a shared cubicle space. Such has been its impact that design guidelines are now using the highest permissible foot traffic vibration limit into consideration while constructing new office buildings. So would you really want to ignore something that can potentially break down employee productivity?
These vibrations can be easily reduced simply by damping them with added weight, using #high density materials and increasing the stiffness of the floor using structural beams. However, these approaches are only possible during construction. “Floors that suffer excessive vibration due to people walking can be rendered unusable, even though they are perfectly safe. Until now, there was no proven technology that could be economically and efficiently applied to fix such problems,” says Emad Gad. His team has also come up with an innovative solution, a damper that is quick and easy to install and cost effective as well.
This vibration dampening feature consists of a number of viscoelastic rubber flat beams that have been sandwiched between steel plates, fixed at one end, and weighed down at the other. The simplicity and beauty of design lies in the fact that it is very cheap and simple to construct and needs no electrical power whatsoever. It is easy to install in most sub-floor gaps found in office buildings and can reduce vibrations by as much as 50%, working wonders in reducing employee discomfort.
High density materials have been at the center of reducing environment pollution, making our favorite products sturdier and better and making the world a better place. So give into the Heavy plastics phenomenon now and reap rewards for years to come.