Conceptualized as a response to distractions in the workplace, AuralSurface is inspired by the need to control ambient noise create from everyday life in the office, while also serving as an adjustable separator that maintains a sense of open space. For workplace performance and comfort, the dynamic responsive interior surface optimizes interior environments by adapting to the changing reverberation rhythms of voices and footsteps. AuralSurface can also be parametrically calibrated to a desired acoustic setting, which would allow for increasing or decreasing acoustic dampening depending on the needs of the interior space and its occupants.
As office cultures trend toward collaborative working environments with mobile workstations, office space designs are becoming increasingly open. There is a growing need to mitigate distracting and interrupting noise. Studies show that exposure to noise generated within the building can lead to reduced concentration and mental arithmetic performance, and increased distraction due to reduced speech privacy (Reference: WELL Building Institute, the WELL Building Standard, Comfort).
AuralSurface seeks to reduce fatigue and stress in the workplace by controlling ambient noise disturbances. Employee fatigue affects their well-being, productivity, and their propensity to commit errors; in addition, one study showed that a three hour exposure to low-intensity office noise induced a small increase in adrenaline level (Reference: Helena Jahncke, Cognitive Performance and Restoration in Open-Plan Office Noise). AuralSurface’s design allows it to autonomously deploy an acoustic material at specific locations when the perceived decibel levels are higher than normal. In addition to a physical response, the acoustic material may be seen as a visual cue once deployed. Those holding conversations may recognize this as a subtle sign to speak more softly or to take a conversation to another area. AuralSurface, a panelized surface, is an otherwise seemingly typical modular system.
Matt Wagner is an Assistant Professor of Interior Design in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech. His effort to discover and understand intersecting dimensions and applications of environmental comfort, physical interaction, technology, and design is enhanced by cross disciplinary collaboration and expanded by interests that encompass the following realms of research: the development and utilization of dynamic responsive interior surfaces, and the integrated use of digital technologies with an emphasis on BIM, parametric, and energy analysis modeling to inform new and emerging approaches to design and fabrication. Matt has an extensive background in environmental building analysis and design; prior to joining Virginia Tech, he worked at William McDonough + Partners, an architecture firm renowned for their environmental building expertise. Matt received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a Master of Architecture from Virginia Tech. He has received awards for outreach and design from Virginia Tech, Metropolis Magazine, the international Living Future Institute, the American Institute of Architects, and the Interior Design Educators Council.