Five from Finland
Preventing noise pollution
Known for their appreciation of silence, Finns are offering various solutions to keep unwanted noise at bay.Julia Helminen
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.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 company's flagship product, the QuietOn 3.1 earbuds, has already appealed to customers in more than 120 countries, helping them to sleep better, travel in a more relaxed way and stay focused when working in noisy environments.
“About two billion people struggle with sleep because they are disturbed by noises, such as their partner’s snoring or the traffic outside,” said CEO Katja Siberg. “The urban lifestyle means that external noise is becoming more and more of an issue. QuietOn 3.1 offers a solution to this massive problem that is proven to work.”
QuietOn has been aiming for international growth since day one. The company’s potential to captivate global markets was recognised once again in 2023, when it was chosen as the winner of the SUPERFINNS mentoring programme. Organised by Nordea and Kasvu Open, the programme targets scalable Finnish SMEs with the ability to make an international breakthrough.
Framery is boosting employees’ productivity and wellbeing by supplying sound privacy to open-plan offices.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. The product family is made from durable, renewable and recyclable materials, and all the pods are designed to have a long lifespan.
“Design is enormously important. When creating inspiring spaces, there is no room for awkward design or products,” head of sales 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.Pexels
A few years ago, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and technology group Wärtsilä completed a 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 re-thought 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.
A 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.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, with 95 per cent of the raw materials originating in recycled materials, such as PET bottles. Previously, Soften participated in the Telaketju project to explore the possibilities of producing acoustic panels from recycled textiles.
“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.”
With its green initiatives, Helsinki aims to improve the acoustic environment, increase biodiversity
In the summer of 2023, Helsinki embarked on an innovative experiment to combat urban noise pollution using green noise barriers. These initiatives were part of a broader effort to explore greener and more aesthetically pleasing solutions to mitigate noise in densely populated areas.
As part of the trial, a green noise barrier was erected at Erottaja Square with the help of InnoGreen, Parkly and WSP. The nine-metre-long oasis featured a green wall combined with seating, designed using sound maps to dampen noise effectively with an acoustic element. The choice of plants focused on enhancing biodiversity with pollinator-friendly varieties, adding to the square's visual and environmental appeal. Another eye-catching green noise barrier, designed and brought to life by Wau Efekti, could be spotted in front of the city’s Design Museum.
“We’re testing this type of noise barrier for a dense urban environment for the first time,” explained Jenni Kuja-Aro, a senior environmental specialist from the urban environment division. “In addition to noise control, it increases the volume of vegetation and provides a rest area under the shelter of a wall, and the structures can also be reused in the future.”