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Five from Finland

Preventing noise pollution

Known for their appreciation of silence, Finns are offering various solutions to keep unwanted noise at bay.

Julia Bushueva

With noise pollution becoming an increasingly serious issue for modern society, diverse solutions against this invisible threat are being created in Finland.

In today’s world, noise is everywhere. Having become a part of our everyday lives, especially in big cities, noise pollution poses a tremendous health hazard to people, affecting us on physical, mental and emotional levels.

These five Finnish solutions were designed to reduce unwanted noise and noise exposure – at work, at home, during travel and leisure time.

QuietOn’s vision “to create a peaceful, Nordic experience of quietude on demand” has resonated well with customers in over 120 countries. Image: QuietOn

Founded in 2015, this fast-growing technology startup from Oulu has made a name for itself by designing and manufacturing the world’s smallest active noise-cancelling earbuds that are especially effective against low-frequency sounds, like snoring and ambient noises.

The award-winning product has already helped tens of thousands of people in more than 120 countries to sleep better, travel in a more relaxed way and stay focused when working in noisy environments. Boosted by a 4.5 million-euro investment earlier this year, QuietOn is accelerating its growth throughout Europe, North America and Asia, as global demand for its product is soaring.

“Today, with all the stress in our lives brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and being forced to work from home, the need for quiet and rest has never been more pressing, and we are here to help address that need,” commented CEO Jussi Lemiläinen.

Framery is boosting employees’ productivity and wellbeing by supplying sound privacy to open-plan offices. Image: Framery

Listed among the globe’s best workplaces for innovators, Tampere-based Framery knows first hand how to make employees happy and comfortable at work. Framery’s soundproof pods and phone booths help to solve noise and privacy issues in modern open-plan offices and can now be found in dozens of leading companies worldwide, including Microsoft, Puma and Tesla.

The recipient of a number of prestigious design and business growth awards, Framery is eliminating distracting office noises with sustainability and safety in mind. Its products are mainly made of environmentally efficient birch plywood, and most of the materials are recycled or recyclable, including the acoustic foam and the interior felt.

“Design is enormously important. When creating inspiring spaces, there is no room for awkward design or products,” head of products Lasse Karvinen told us earlier.

Placing emphasis on aesthetics, however, does not prevent Framery from delivering on its pivotal promises: “It is important to remember that a phone booth is a functional product, so the design cannot replace acoustics.”

New solutions in the acoustic design of a power plant, created by VTT and Wärtsilä, enable more efficient noise management. Image: Pexels

In 2019, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and technology group Wärtsilä completed a three-year project funded by Business Finland that resulted in the development of innovative solutions for reducing power plant noise emissions. The project’s outcomes enable bringing energy production closer to residential areas and making power plants “a good neighbour”.

The project team rethought the acoustic architecture of a power plant and focused on the main source of noise: the ventilation and cooling of the plant’s engine. The results showed a reduction of 10 to 20 decibels in noise emissions. In practice, this means that the plant produces 90 to 99 per cent less noise – a remarkable improvement for living conditions in nearby areas.

Senior scientist at VTT Antti Hynninen illustrated the achieved reduction:

“This kind of decibel change in the everyday life of city dwellers could mean attenuating the traffic noise coming through an open window to the home sofa by closing the windows and wearing earplugs,” he said. “In the open air, this would be equivalent to moving a kilometre away from the noise source, such as a large outdoor concert arena.”

Soften creates stylish acoustic interior solutions for reining in the disturbing noises and echoes we encounter in public spaces, open offices and at homes. Image: Soften

Noisy environments and echoing rooms have many negative effects on people’s comfort, and the soundscapes of both public spaces and private homes can (and should) be improved. Turku-based Soften is doing exactly that with its wide range of acoustic panels, space dividers and lamps. The elements come in different colours and shapes and can be easily customised, allowing the building of impressive and adaptable decorative entities with excellent sound-damping properties.

All the products are designed and manufactured with high-quality materials in Finland, and staying environmentally friendly is an important aspect for the company. Earlier, Soften produced an experimental batch of acoustic panels from material originating in recycled textiles as part of the Telaketju project, which aims to create a collaborative network to promote textile recycling in Finland.

“Of course, our core focus is acoustics, but besides that the most important factor for us is how a product looks,” stressed CEO and founder Sami Helle. “We aim to make stylish and easily transformable products which you are not ashamed to put on display in any space.”

The Green Paths app helps pedestrians and cyclists to avoid the noisiest, busiest and most polluted routes. Image: Jussi Hellsten / City of Helsinki

The Green Paths app is a novel route-planning tool which, unlike most its counterparts, prioritises quietness and fresh air, enabling pedestrians and cyclists to choose routes with the least noise and the cleanest air and thus making the journey more enjoyable.

Developed by a research team at the University of Helsinki as part of a project coordinated by the City of Helsinki, the app is currently available as a prototype and is functioning within the municipalities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen.

To recommend the best route, Green Paths utilises data on average noise levels from the municipalities and the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), and real-time air-quality values provided by the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI).

“By guiding cyclists and pedestrians to more pleasant environments, the route planner aims to promote health and wellbeing among city residents,” explainedAge Poom, a researcher at the University of Helsinki.

Originally published in November 2020

By: Zhanna Koiviola