Photo credit: hugovk licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Ronda Kaysen, who writes the “Ask Real Estate” column for the New York Times, where she frequently responds to inquiries about noisy neighbors, must have been delighted to visit the PinDrop room designed by AKRF, an environmental and engineering consulting firm, to be “one of the quietest rooms in the world.” At first, she thought she had entered an “acoustical nirvana.” But Kaysen say that the room was so quiet that “it hurt.” She added that she felt like her ears were popping and Dan Abatemarco of AKRF told her this reaction was common, especially amongst city dwellers who are unaccustomed to quiet surroundings.

Now as to why this extremely quiet space was designed. Actually. it was designed to test out ways that rooms can be made quieter. Walls, ceilings, and doors can be designed in a way that makes it more difficult for sounds to bounce around. Properly designed acoustical windows can keep out the rumbling of nearby elevated trains. AKRF advises architects, home designers, and homeowners on how to make dwellings quieter as well as how to improve the overall sound quality of these dwellings. Listening to music in such a quiet room, according to Benjamin Sachwald of AKRF, transports one to “another world.”

AKRF expects to invite the people to whom they give advice to visit PinDrop to experience how elements in the design of a room can indeed make it quieter. Yet, what about the people who are already living in buildings without the acoustical treatments in place, asked Kaysen. She was told that acoustic curtains or window inserts could keep out some of the intrusive outside sounds.

While the introduction to this article comments on how disconcerting a silent room could be, the overall theme of the article is the importance of a quiet home as well as a home where beautiful sounds can be better appreciated, e. g. music. Urban dwellers want to keep out the construction sounds, the traffic horns, sirens and noises from upstairs neighbors, but they welcome the sounds of music, conversation, and the laughter of their children in their dwellings. Whereas loud, intrusive sounds are harmful to health, pleasant sounds can enhance well-being.