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These hole-riddled walls are like noise-canceling headphones for your office

The secret to quieter rooms and offices may be hiding inside a bottle.

Or really, many bottles. A new prototype sound absorption technique developed through a partnership between the Seattle-based architecture firm NBBJ and acoustics researchers at the University of Washington shows that the shape of empty bottles is highly effective at reducing noise. If embedded inside buildings or wooden panels, the narrow necks and wide empty cavities inside bottles could serve as architectural sound traps.

By tuning these forms to resonate with specific acoustical wavelengths—particularly the low frequencies of human speech—ceiling or wall panels pierced with Swiss cheese-like holes can capture and neutralize noise. Tests of prototypes inside NBBJ’s office measured noise reductions of around 13 decibels, or about the equivalent of wearing noise-canceling headphones. In terms of the perception of noise in the space, that’s a 60% reduction.

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