In Europe alone, noise pollution is said to cost over €28 billion per year in the form of lost work days, impaired learning, healthcare treatment and decreased productivity. You might not think it but also in the space of one year, noise pollution takes a day off every human life in Europe, amounting to one million years taken off the continent’s collective life expectancy.
Drilling this down to the individual, sound can actually have a phenomenal effect on our daily lives – if you can hear someone talking whilst reading or writing, productivity can dip by up to 66% – counteracting the strong argumentation for open plan work spaces. But what about the commute to work? Many of us use our commute as downtime – whether this be to get some work done or sit back and relax, which both often involve reading or writing. As stated in our previous blog post on passenger health, the average commute time is getting longer and as you can imagine, sound is a large part of traveling no matter what the mode of transport is; music in your headphones or on the radio, the person next to you on the telephone, the whir of the vehicle in transit, announcements on the tannoy, someone typing on their laptop, large groups chatting – the list is endless but the point is, they can all impact on our well-being and state of mind.
A study by the Office for National Statistics determined that in the UK alone, journeys on a bus, coach or train lasting longer than 30 minutes have a more negative impact on personal well-being than traveling by private vehicle. With average commute times increasing, it is important that the industry looks at how to tackle this and improve the passenger experience. Interior design is instrumental here – as suppliers of a service to the public, we as designers, manufacturers and public transport operators, have the ability to use interior design as a way to improve passenger health and well-being and therefore customer satisfaction – not to mention increased public transport usage.
Public transport is essentially like a waiting room, all passengers are waiting to get from point A to point B, but this is a waiting room that must appeal to all – one where you can eat, work, rest, relax or play. They key is in creating a desirable environment in which passengers will be happy in, no matter the length of their journey. Acoustics play a large role here. Passenger comfort is immediately linked to noise, vibration and impact sound. As quiet coaches on rail services decline, acoustic properties are now becoming much more of a priority in the design process. When it comes to bus travel, operators typically use resilient flooring for public transport services due to its ease of cleaning and maintenance. However, acoustic values are typically much less for resilient flooring than textile, diminishing the comfort of passengers. It would be foolish to say that acoustic value is the key decision criteria when choosing flooring but actually, it can have a large impact on the ambiance of the carriage or vehicle and should be carefully considered. A floor covering with good acoustic properties can absorb sound to create a more peaceful area for passengers whether they are working or relaxing.
There are two types of noise that affect public transport; inter-space and interior space. Inter-space refers to noise coming from outside of the carriage or vehicle whilst interior space is noise within, i.e. other people talking or luggage being moved around. Both can be measured using two different tests – EN ISO 717-1, which looks at impact noise (sound traveling through the floor covering) and EN ISO 354, which looks at absorption of sound from within the space. It is important to look at how a floor covering performs to reduce both types of sound in order to create a more relaxing passenger environment. Carpet is the most effective in reducing unwanted noise – our textile floor coverings reduce impact noise by between 22dB and 32dB and absorb sound from within the space by between 10% and 25%, helping to enhance the journey experience.
The public transport industry is continuously pushed to use more lightweight materials for various reasons such as speed and running costs, but this can sometimes be at the detriment of passenger comfort. Offering a space that is comfortable and relaxing will improve passenger mood and in turn, contribute to better mental health. Employing good acoustic materials within the interior space are instrumental in reducing disturbances and enhancing the passenger experience, and thus, customer satisfaction – a win win for both commuters and transport operators.