Garden-Variety Acoustics

Our Challenge

Saje Natural Wellness is an operation that’s all about naturalism, and their spaces possess a strong reference to it in the form of gorgeous horticultural installations. For their boardroom at their head office in Vancouver, Saje’s interior designer Jennifer Dunn decided to create a stunning drop ceiling, clad in preserved Reindeer Moss from ByNature Design, with a light well running all around it, making the room pervasively natural with a cool, modern tone.


Functionally, the room is like most boardrooms, where the activities include face to face meetings, presentations, teleconferences and video conferences. In each case, communications are key to the effectiveness of the space. Even two people speaking in a room are directly affected by the acoustics of the space, where a conversation can happen with ease and comfort, or it can be unintelligible and discordant due to poor physical acoustics. Once you complicate matters with teleconferencing, poor acoustics are picked up and compounded by telephone transmission, and hearing what’s being said in the room becomes challenging for remote callers.

Acoustics can be fickle, and are entirely invisible to the eye. Most rooms, are built with little acoustic consideration at all, and a modern space with many flat surfaces can have a very hollow sound. Saje’s boardroom presented that challenge quite directly, with a long and narrow shape, multiple glass surfaces, and a large video screen on one end. However the installation of reindeer moss in the ceiling offered an undeniable opportunity.

The Solution

When we learned that the ceiling was to be clad in moss, we began wondering about its acoustic benefits, ad reached out to the supplier, Vancouver company ByNature Design. Because acoustics are significant factor to interior building technologies, ByNature had already researched the acoustic properties of the product. They had worked with BCIT to properly test acoustics of the moss, and were ready with the report, and eager to delve deeper with us. Partners like ByNature are fabulous to meet, already on a path of innovation in their own field. When we scratched a little further with them, they were excited to help.

Unfortunately, the acoustics of the moss are effective in a range that absorbs little of the most problematic wavelengths that effect vocal intelligibility (the understandability of speech). We were presented with a need to introduce more sound absorption in the room, or face the likelihood of poor teleconferencing quality. Designer, Jennifer Dunn was reticent to hang acoustic panels on the walls of the room, because it would impact both the Saje’s interior brand, and reduce space in an already narrow room. We were increasingly focussed on that ceiling.


In open dialog with ByNature, we were invited to explore ways that their product could be married to other substrates, and brought them a 2’ Primacoustic fibreglass acoustic panel to see if they could clad it in moss. They were able to adjust their standard assembly to use these panels as the moss’s substrate, and the result is a highly absorptive surface that entirely conceals the 2×4 foot panels from view, making the surface appear entirely contiguous because of the sponginess of the moss.

In order to measure the effect, an BCIT’s acoustic engineer was brought in to do audio testing before and after the installation of the moss and panels, and to compare the known acoustic properties of the moss with the new combined version. The results were a glowing success, where the added range of absorption  provided by the panels helped significantly to reduce reverberation that would have directly affected vocal intelligibility.


The Results

The benefits of this installation technique and collaborative solution are significant:

  • continuous acoustic surface, offering an attractive alternative over exposed panels
  • completing the range of acoustic absorption for architectural moss with acoustic panels offers an enhancement option for ByNature’s product
  • simultaneous layered installation of both components reduced total cost what were two required components to achieve Saje’s goal
  • there was no aesthetic impact to adding the acoustic panels behind the moss
  • there is no visual evidence of an acoustic treatment, where there would have otherwise been visible elements added onto the walls
  • Xprt now has a go to suggestion for attractively adding ideal acoustics into presentable environments
BCIT tested acoustics before and after the installation, confirming the dramatic improvement upon sound reverberation in the room.

BCIT tested acoustics before and after the installation, confirming the dramatic improvement upon sound reverberation in the room.

Thanks to Our Partners

We benefitted a great deal by working closely with ByNature to collaboratively solve a significant build challenge and meet Saje’s goal of a high performing, attractive central Boardroom. We want to thank ByNature Design, Saje Natural Wellness, designer Jennifer Dunn, and acoustics supplier Primacoustics for being great partners in achieving this innovative, reproducible solution.