The quiet strength of acoustic wood panels  

Matthew Bradford

Wood has many advantages, but reducing or eliminating noise doesn’t always top the list. To that end, industry innovators have come to market with acoustic wood panels that blend the material’s appealing aesthetics with an ability to absorb sound.

Among those innovators is Atkar North America, an Ontario-based provider of acoustic wood ceiling and wall systems. Working with an industry-leading innovator and manufacturer of acoustic cores, the firm supplies wood veneer panels comprised of near-invisible, sound-absorbing perforations.

“Each hole is 0.5 millimetres in diametre, so unless you’re zoomed up close, you can’t see them,” explains Jerome Burrowes, Project Manager with Atkar North America. “Those holes are then spaced two millimetres apart from centre-to-centre, so that they absorb sound and trap it within the in sulation core inside the panel. 

There are different methods of manufacturing micro-perforated acoustic wood panels. Most are bored medium density fiberboard (MDF) cores, but Atkar’s is unique, being essentially a high-density insulation. 

“The critical difference is that two-thirds of the micro-perforations on a bored core micro-perf panel are rendered non-functional, whereas on the Atkar product, every single micro-perforation is doing its job,” says Burrowes. “Sometimes, when I’m demonstrating these panels, I like to tell a client to hold a couple of them up on either side of their head so they can hear the impact the panels have between that space.”

Acoustic wood panelling has numerous applications. This product is primarily used in high-end offices, studios, and large-scale public facilities such as libraries, courtrooms, and other spaces where silence is golden.

“The acoustic wood panels we create, for example, are high-end products intended for architects, designers, or owners who want that appealing wood aesthetic in a space that requires a high degree of sound reduction,” adds Burrowes.

The installation of acoustic panels can vary between products and environments. Overall, however, when it comes to optimal placement, Burrowes says there are best practices to consider: “A professional acoustician will know a bit more about where to place these panels for maximum effect, but the general idea is to install them at head height, where voices are pointed directly at them, or on ceilings to absorb overall sound,”

Controlling noise is a challenge in any environment. However, thanks to innovations in acoustic wood paneling, the building community has even more options to turn down the volume while keeping aesthetics in the spotlight. 

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