Smith And Nephew – Novawall Systems

Matt Oeler recently had the opportunity to meet with Bethany Yoder of Perkins Eastman Architecture to talk about the project Oeler Industries, Inc. collaborated on with them. The Smith and Nephew project incorporated the award-winning Novawall products and served as a great solution for a unique construction.

Matt Oeler: So, Bethany. As the designer on the Smith & Nephew project, during the design phase, what are some of the concerns of your clients that were expressed regarding the acoustics of the space? Is that part of the discussion early on? Do you see most of your clients are concerned with how a place is going to sound?

Bethany Yoder: I think it’s very by-client based on our experience. At Perkins Eastman we always come to the table with acoustics in mind, because throughout the design process each project is different. Each client, each site, everything about it, so really understanding the program from the very beginning, understanding volumes and spaces, what the client’s needs are based on their program, how they are using the spaces. There’s always something with acoustics in the project that we are always considering throughout the design.

Matt: How do you typically approach those issues? One of the things we see a lot, especially in open plans, is a situation where you may have an Accounting or H.R. section that might have some particular concerns about privacy from a security standpoint and they might be placed next to what we typically refer to as the “noisy guys” which is usually like the Sales department, who might be loud, with a lot of collaboration. How do you usually approach those spaces from a design standpoint?

Bethany: When planning, we try to minimize a lot of those extreme adjacencies – put the quieter groups or quieter rooms somewhere located away from some of the louder areas. For Smith & Nephew, we had to put some quieter areas next to larger lab spaces, so even in those instances we really take into consideration materials, how we are treating the floor and the ceiling. Even down to the construction where we’re sealing top and bottom of floors, penetrations in walls, and what we are applying to those walls and how they’re going to help the aesthetics, whether it’s absorbing, or reducing any exposure to those noises from the quieter spaces.

Matt: Another question that’s kind of a 2-part question for you and Ken regarding this particular project. Were there any particular challenges on this project that guided you to recommend the Novawall products for the sections that Oeler was involved with for acoustic panels?

Ken Lucci: Yes, and looking at the initial design when we were going through the development process, this was a pretty large project. It was 3 floors, and there was somewhere around 2,000 square feet of acoustic panels that were going to be placed in the space in various locations. One of the things that Bethany and I talked about even with the construction manager on the project was the phases in which these rooms were going to be prepared. So for example there may have been a space on the 3rd floor that needed to be completed and ready and done but there were still construction and walls being put up that were being put up on the 1st floor. So I came to Bethany and the construction manager at the time and recommended we go with a site installed system, which one of the benefits of a site installed system like Novawall is the fact that you can go in there before the project is done in various stages, and build to whatever is there. If for example, a ceiling is a little bit out of square from construction, we can build to what’s there, and we can move on to the next space as it’s ready. There’s really no long lead times or anything when it comes to using a site installed system like that.

Matt: The obvious benefits of fit and finish, the ability for the product to really be adapted to whatever variables might be in the field as well as scheduling- Bethany are there some other things? Bethany you’ve worked with Novawall in the past on some other projects, are there some other things that you might have that when you hear “We’re going to use Novawall” that makes it attractive to you? What makes it click?

Bethany: What makes it click is the flexibility, the site installed, I know we’ve discussed several “what could have been or could be complicated” installations in the past on past projects, and the Novawall system, it was our go-to. Specifically for the site intall. For Smith & Nephew, the product and the walls, we had it in almost every conference room and collab space. It really came out true to what we wanted it to because it was so site specific, we didn’t have to worry about gaps or what that was going to look like in the field, because as you said everything has a tolerance in construction. So it really came out great, and the other thing that was so great about the system and working with Ken, is we were also able to go through a lot of fabric selections that really kept with the aesthetics that we were trying to achieve on the project. It’s really nice to walk into a room that everything looks clean, and really nicely put together. 

Matt: One of the things that we really like about the Novawall products is it affords us that ability to bring proper acoustics to the space without making it look like a grade school cafeteria. Acoustic panels should just disappear. That being said, have you gotten any comments from clients that we’ve used the Novawall product for, about how nice and tailored and sort of ‘invisible’ that works? And is it something that clients bring to your attention during the design, ‘we want to have good acoustics but we don’t want it to look like panel, panel, panel everywhere’? Or is that something that you bring to their attention?

Bethany: For Smith & Nephew, because they understood how they work, and what they were asking of their spaces with the loud labs and also the integrated collaboration locations throughout their open office, they actually, that was one of their top concerns was acoustics. We did bring in an expert specifically for the lab spaces. But when we approach any project, our immediate thought is using those tips and tricks you learn along the way. A lot of the conference rooms, focus rooms, and collab spaces, we really have learned how to apply an acoustic material that complements the room, the aesthetics and also really gets the client what they need based off of acoustics within like a large board room next to a phone room that should really be quiet.

Matt: Okay, now this is a tough question. At what point in a project do you internally sit down with your team and say “i think we need to bring in an acoustical consultant”. What are some of the things that kind of trigger that event?

Bethany: When we’re planning, if we can’t really get work out, and we have an adjacency that we don’t particularly like, we tend to start talk about pulling in somebody. So we really start from the beginning, and with Smith & Nephew’s case we did start at the beginning with an expert for some of the more challenging spaces, things that maybe are a little outside of our knowledge when it comes to acoustics, such as equipment vibration or even just the noise that the equipment makes when in operation. It really depends, every project is different. Depends on if it’s something as unique as Smith & Nephew was with all the different space types.

Matt: Sometimes it’s just a bandwidth matter, right? Let’s give that to the specialist just to make sure!

Bethany: Yes, definitely.

Matt: Do you have any thoughts or questions for us regarding any of that?

Bethany: No, I mean the project went off great, everything looks great on site. The client’s happy, we’re happy. Novawall is a really great product, I know we’ve used it in some of our other projects.

Matt: Thanks again, we really do appreciate taking the time today, so thank you very much, and if there’s anything we can do to help and future projects as well, please keep us in mind.