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I’m joined by Ryan Graye, the founder and principal of Eremos, an acoustic design firm based in New York City and Miami. We get into how he got his start in this field, his design experience with major fitness facilities, and his current project with the NOBULL headquarters in Boston. Ryan shares what he learned during his time at Cerami & Associates and how he decided to leave the corporate world to start Eremos.
Acoustic design is all about applying the science of sound and vibration to architecture. It’s something that a lot of people take for granted, but quickly realize how important it is when a space is poorly designed. One of the most challenging spaces to design and configure are gyms and fitness studios, but Ryan has found a particular niche in that area.
NOBULL is a cross-training footwear, apparel, and accessories brand that is setting up shop in the former Boston Globe Headquarters. CrossFit is a major part of their brand identity, so Ryan is in charge of making sure that people can slam 300-pound tires on the ground without disturbing their co-workers in other parts of the building. There’s also a rock climbing wall, digital content creation spaces, and a track for walking meetings to consider.
Though NOBULL is gearing up to get back into their brand new office, Ryan provides advice for how people can improve the sound of workspaces at home and simple recommendations for limiting noise distraction in small spaces. Listen in to hear more about Ryan’s unique perspective on design and learn how to optimize your own space.
Ryan Graye is the founder and principal of Eremos, an acoustic design firm based in New York City and Miami. He previously worked at Cerami & Associates, the firm considered to be a pioneer in the field of acoustical design in the United States. He began his career at Lockheed Martin, where he worked as a mechanical engineer. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt and Penn State.
[00:00:00] What goes into making an iconic building in America? What are the stories and who are the people behind the next generation of architecture? If your work touches the real estate industry in any way, or you’re just curious about what goes into one of a kind cities and towns all across our country, join us on the American Building Podcast.
In season two, we learned about everything from skyscrapers to single-family homes from the famous and soon-to-be-famous designers and developers responsible. This season focuses particularly on the pandemic and how our buildings will change in response. Our sponsor is the iconic design firm, Michael Graves Architecture and Design. And now, your host award-winning architect-turned-entrepreneur, Atif Qadir, AIA.
[00:00:47] Atif Qadir: This is American Building, and I’m your host, Atif Qadir. I’m the CEO of REDIST, a technology company focused on innovative public financing for real estate projects. We are recording from the historic home of world renowned architect, Michael Graves, in Princeton, New Jersey. Check out this amazing space for yourself at the Michael Graves Architecture and Design YouTube channel. Now, let’s build something.
Our guest is acoustic designer, Ryan. Ryan is founder and principal arenas and acoustic design firm based in New York city and Miami. He previously worked at ceramic and associates. The firm considered to be a pioneer in the field of acoustical design in the United States.
He began his career at Lockheed Martin, where he worked as a mechanical engineer. He is a graduate of Vanderbilt go Commodores and Penn state. We will be talking about the. Corporate headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, and for our guests who continue to work from home, we’ll be learning from Ryan, how to make your work from home experience, more acoustically, pleasing.
Thank you so much for being here with us, Ryan.
[00:01:59] Ryan Graye: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
[00:02:01] Atif Qadir: Absolutely. So you started your career as an acoustic engineer with of all things submarines. Tell us more about.
[00:02:10] Ryan Graye: Yeah, I think I kind of fell into it. I, I was in college and studying mechanical engineering and I knew at the time I thought I wanted to either design cars or be a rocket scientist.
I don’t think I had a great grasp for what engineering really was or mechanical engineering. What really was early in my education, but I knew I needed to get some field experience or some work experience. So I applied to a lab that just happened to be near my home. And I didn’t really know what they did at the time.
And I got really lucky cause they did some really cool stuff. They actually designed nuclear propulsion systems for submarines. And so that’s kind of how I got started there. And then
[00:02:50] Atif Qadir: when you were working there, what are the key aspects to.
[00:02:56] Ryan Graye: Well, I started my first year. I think I told you when we were talking offline that, uh, I started as a, doing a thermal dynamic analysis and I found it very, very boring.
So it was a little disenchanted. I was a little worried that mechanical engineering wasn’t the right path for me. But before I left about summer, I told my then boss, I said, you know, I’m not sure that this is the right thing for me. Thank you so much for the experience, but. I think I need to kind of look around a little bit more for what I’m really meant to do.
And he was really cool to me. And he got me, he said, well, I’ll tell you what, why don’t I introduce you to some people like, let you understand what’s going on? And this was a lab of like 2000 people. So I G I got to meet these people from all different disciplines and they just sat down with me for half an hour and told me what to do.
In a lot of them frankly felt the same way. I said, well, that doesn’t sound very exciting. And then I, um, and not this one guy and he told me about noise and just somehow it just really resonated with me. He started talking and just my mind kind of just started lighting up, thinking of all the things you could do, if you understood the science behind this.
[00:04:03] Atif Qadir: And then help our listeners understand what is acoustics and what does acoustical design entail? Yeah.
[00:04:13] Ryan Graye: So acoustics is in the broader sense, the way it’s kind of used in my, in our industry and the building industry, it’s really anything to do with noise and vibration. So it’s really taking the science of sound in the scientists vibration and applying it.
So. It can be a really wide range of things. It can be, you’re building a high-rise condo building and you have an emergency generator on the roof, and that’s going to create noise that might kind of come down into say the penthouse apartment, and it’s also going to create vibration. And so you need to understand the physics behind those mechanisms to then give really constructive advice in how to prevent that.
So, uh, you know, it can entail that it can entail how do you build a wall so that you don’t hear someone on the other side? And it also falls into the range of things that you might think of more traditionally. And it’s what I’ve thought of before I really got into the field. Um, how to room sound when you’re in them.
So, um, in concert hall, but also think classroom, you need to make the space really great so that the students with all types of learning disabilities or other challenges can hear and understand what the teacher’s. Or if you’re in a boardroom, you want to be sure that your message is getting across loud and clear, and it’s not just jumbled up by an equity.
[00:05:31] Atif Qadir: That’s excellent. And you basically have listed a number of different spaces that have really high acoustical needs, but from your description to basically every space could have some amount of acoustical design as part of the design process. Is that
[00:05:44] Ryan Graye: correct? Yeah. Every space does. And what I really like to think about versus what the, what the end users are going to experience when they’re in the space.
Yeah. Um, so one example might be hospital. My wife has gone through some really health challenges over the years, and she has multiple sclerosis in kidney disease. And as a result of that, I spent a good amount of time in hospitals. There was a month stint where we essentially lived there in a hospital.
She was in the hospital bed and I kind of lived in the chair next to her. Firsthand experienced what the acoustic environment is, and it’s awful, right? These people are, they’re trying to heal they’re in their sickest place in their life and trying to heal and get treated. And there’s just noise, constantly alarms and bells and people talking in the hallway, or there’s so many things that could be avoided or mean better.
If someone took a step back and said, what is. Human experience in this space, you know, what are the end-users in? You know, who are we really designing for and how do we. Make the sound environment good for those people. So in that case, it’s patients, but you can really apply that to anyone, someone sitting in an open plan workplace.
And what is their experience and how do you design around that,
[00:06:58] Atif Qadir: that type of, uh, observation has really, I think, fabulous opportunity to. Listen on a panel about the sounds that are associated with equipment that’s used in home and commercial environments. When I was at south by Southwest conference last month.
And it’s amazing how. Old and how dated many of the books and bleeps and other sounds that are associated with particularly medical equipment are, and how a thoughtful redesign could make a large part of that uncomfortable experience for you go away. So I definitely appreciate the challenges, even from the small scale of equipment, to the much larger scale that humans and other types of noise.
[00:07:39] Ryan Graye: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:07:40] Atif Qadir: So you worked at ceramics and associates for six years. Talk to us about the projects that you worked on there and how you knew it was time to leave eventually.
[00:07:54] Ryan Graye: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. The projects got to work on a really wide range, I think in acoustics in general, which is why I really love my job.
I get to take something I’m passionate about and apply it to so many different areas. One of the things I’m passionate about is architecture and building, and it’s so neat to be able to work one day on a hospital and the next day on a museum. So while working at ceramic, I got exposed to a lot of really great jobs.
I got to be the project manager. Um, things like the Whitney museum of American art, I’ve worked on the moon by international airport terminal. And so these really great big spaces done by, you know, some of the best architects and, you know, kind of walking into the field. That’s where I got my start. After working in this mechanical engineer, it was just very quickly just getting immersed in this world.
And I’m so grateful to have been able to do that. So in terms of knowing when it was time to leave, I think I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I think the entrepreneurial spirit is what led. To go from a government type job. It was a very bureaucratic to a, uh, you know, a small consulting firm in New York in the first place.
But then after spending some time there and just wanting to kind of pursue things in a different way, working for a larger firm, uh, in kind of a firm, that’s done things in a certain way for a long time. At some point just didn’t feel like the right fit anymore. And so that’s kind of what led me to pursue starting my own.
[00:09:23] Atif Qadir: So starting your own firm can be both fabulously exciting and exhilarating, and also really scary. And tell us what the first few months of being out on your own. It was
[00:09:36] Ryan Graye: like, yeah. You’re so right. It can be exciting. I think it’s important to stop and just appreciate things sometimes because you’re also right.
It can be so stressful and absolutely the first few months. I don’t want anyone listening to thinking about starting their own business too. I think it’s all versus it was stressful. You know, I decided pretty. Quickly that, uh, once we realized it was time to do this, we kind of made the change quickly.
And so I went from having a steady job where things were very predictable to, you got to figure this out. As I mentioned, my wife had begun through some health things. She was dealing with some health things at the time. And, uh, so I was stressed out. I was worried, how am I going to make sure that I can pay her bills?
What is this going to look like? I knew I had the ability. But all the sudden once it’s time, it’s where where’s the next client can come from. It, it definitely is a process. Uh, I think it’s a learning process to kind of go through that and I think it helps you grow, but, um, first few months were words that weren’t going to come from.
[00:10:42] Atif Qadir: I think in particular, one of the additional things that I noted when I left corporate America and, and started my development company is the reality that without a particular. Place to go every day, every COVID and without the need to wear a suit. And without a particular title that you’re associated with at the fancy firm that you work at, it’s kind of jarring to figure out what your sense of self actually is without all of that.
Tidbits and do dads that you essentially make your sense of self. And I think that one of the most important things was to basically wake up each morning and look at the mirror and say, you are smart. You are important. Gosh, darn it. People like you. So that was definitely what helped me the first
[00:11:31] Ryan Graye: couple of months.
Yeah, absolutely. It’s been 10 years since I started my firm and I’m still learning. And I looking back, I can’t believe how little I knew then. And I’m definitely in that, you know, how much I needed to structure in the absence of structure from the outside. And maybe that’s not true for everyone, but it definitely is for me.
Um, and in those first few months, You don’t have a job. They want, I’m an acoustic consultant here. I am available to work. You don’t necessarily have a client at minute. And what do you do with yourself? You know, should I be creating marketing materials or coming up with systems to keep track of things?
Or what exactly are we getting? What do we do here? How do I manifest work? So, yeah, I think it’s, um, definitely gives you a time to learn about yourself a lot. And I think, I can’t believe how. Learned my sense of identity through this process. And it’s not something that just, you just do it for a year and you find who you are.
I think constantly re-evaluating and learning, but it’s so rewarding. Like, I don’t know that I would, for me personally, I don’t think I would go through those same motions if I was in a different situation. I
[00:12:41] Atif Qadir: absolutely agree. And I think this idea of entrepreneurship is one thing that is up to us and it’s one that’s.
I think easier understood on the small scale of a day, a week, a month at a time, as opposed to this grand arc. So I definitely, definitely appreciate what you described. Uh, so you have worked on a number of fitness facilities. What were they and what did you learn from those projects that you.
[00:13:08] Ryan Graye: Yeah. So I, I think over the course of, I’d say 15 years, you know, since I started at the, in my original job, you kind of fell into the fitness world as part of what I did as consultant.
Certainly I do lots of these other jobs, but what’s interesting about fitness as a discipline or as a subdiscipline and acoustics is that it’s incredibly, technically challenged. Whenever we’re working on any project type or, you know, assessing how to deal with noise and vibration and how to minimize it in fitness.
It’s all of those things really amplified. So you’re not dealing with a little pump, shaking, making noise. You’re dealing with 25 people running as hard as they can, and literally shaking a building. You know, I’ve, I’ve seen projects where maybe they didn’t have the right treatments in, and I was winning in retrospect to try to fix it.
And I’ve seen. A group fitness class. So, you know, think of aerobics has different terms now, but it’s a group of people dancing or jumping. Two to three stories up a commercial building and all of the desks were shaking and bouncing. So it’s really unreal how much energy can come out of a fitness project.
And that’s just vibration. There’s also extreme sound as, or the past 10 years, a boutique fitness where there’s group classes have been such a big thing. And the sound level is extremely high because it’s part of the experience. And it’s challenging because you’re trying to take something that’s extremely.
That wants to live next to something that’s extremely quiet because your key clients for those facilities are going to be in class a office buildings or high-end luxury condo buildings. And so it’s going to be on the ground floor retail right below a multi-million dollar condo. And so it takes all those things that you normally do and acoustics, and you have to do.
At such a high level. And it’s really interesting because you have to integrate all of the different disciplines to make it work. Structural fire protection, HVAC, thinking about architecture and ADA access, all of those things kind of interrelate. Once you try to get it accomplished on that scale. So in terms of what they were, I’ve worked for a lot of the large brands over the years, kind of when each of the brands went through a period of expansion.
And so first it was the. New York sports club type. They had know Boston sports called Washington’s farce club. And by, uh, Equinox went through a period of expansion back 12 or 15 years ago. And then, uh, went into some of the smaller boutique gyms that are really popular now, which is a soul cycle, flywheel, various bootcamp.
A lot of those brands, there’s a. A lot of gyms that maybe have, you know, restart ups. Uh, there’s a gym I really enjoyed working on out in California called botch union. Um, I think they, they have a couple of facilities and then they actually acquired title boxing. So the wide range of the, kind of the major players that are kind of taking the retail gym space.
[00:16:08] Atif Qadir: that’s probably a perfect segue into the focus of this episode. So the corporate headquarters for no volt is and the leather district in Boston and that sandwich between the Fort point channel and the Seaport district and Chinatown tell us about this area and about the site and
[00:16:28] Ryan Graye: project.
You know, I think I could be more educated on the area. I’m impressed with your description, but I have been
[00:16:36] Atif Qadir: there. I do have the advantage of having lived there for five years. So maybe we should switch the, turn, the tables on that question. I think in particular with, I have noted that you you’ve probably seen this or maybe understood as well, is that the amount to which this area has changed over the.
15 10, 5 years in particular from a relatively low density warehouse, uh, type area, uh, into one that’s become. Really full of class, a office and also class eight, residential as well. And I think particularly the area around the Fort point channel has now become a great place to, to walk and to stroll and to hang out when, before it was more a place you would go by or aim to get through quickly in order to get to somewhere else or your, some of your initial impressions when you were there.
[00:17:26] Ryan Graye: Well, that’s a great summary. I think, as you’re talking, I do recall I’ve been there a few times, a handful of times over the past 10, 15 years. And I do remember it was, you know, some office projects at first and there’s an architecture firm or two that actually had their offices there. And I remember at the time just being amazed at how much square footage was being developed, but they’re still very much in process we’re now I think you’re right.
It’s, it’s turned and it’s a. It’s a destination in and of itself. I mean, the project itself is located within the former Boston globe warehouse. And it’s a, it’s a really impressive building. It it’s a very large building and it has, um, it’s kind of this huge warehouse that they’ve converted into a multitenant facility.
Um, no bullets taking up a lot of space out almost a hundred thousand square feet there. Uh, but there’s other tenants they’re going to have biotech science firms and, um, they kind of have. Large atrium kind of coworking type spaces. Um, so that alone, you know, in terms of remarking at what’s going on in that area of Austin, certainly it’s.
Lot of development, a lot of new companies moving in. And I think particularly
[00:18:30] Atif Qadir: that the building itself that you mentioned that was a 700,000 square foot building. That’s the former Boston globe headquarters and include its office and its printing press. And that was bought in 2017 by Nord bloom companies and began capital partners, I think is one of the, the, the team members there.
And I think that’s very emblematic of the change that’s happening in terms of the office tenant profile. Uh, so no bulls moving in almost under a thousand square feet. What is the program that they have in store or.
[00:19:08] Ryan Graye: And don’t bowl is a athletic apparel company shoes and other apparel they’re really popular in the multiple, I think areas, but definitely they’ve have a ton of, um, following in the CrossFit area.
Um, they’re the sponsors of the cross, the CrossFit games, which
[00:19:26] Atif Qadir: they took from Reebok. I believe they were the former.
[00:19:29] Ryan Graye: Yeah, I think so. And so they cross into a big part of their DNA and what they do. And so the project is it’s their corporate headquarters, but they like to have experience and, and build that into their spaces.
So their retail stores have experienced kind of built into them. I’ve I’ve been talking to them about some of their stores that they’re building and they want to be able to have a retail component, but also. And experienced component, whether it be bringing in professional athletes to have an event, or even letting customers interact with equipment in different ways.
So then their headquarters project from one component of it is actually to have a training facility right in the middle of the workplace. Um, so think, you know, someone throwing a 300 pounds over their head and drop. Well, someone else’s writing report. So that’s kind of, I think the, the problem statement from an acoustic perspective, the project is also just has a very wide range of programming before its scale.
You know, a lot of times for a hundred thousand square foot office project, you have maybe a conference center in a town hall and mostly workplace. In this case we have, in addition to workplace, we have the training, but then we also have Nobles. Very noble is very into content creation in terms of creating their own content in digital content for our distribution on social media channels.
And so as part of their program, they have recording studios and photo studios mixed in as well. So we need to protect those from the training space. We needed to protect those from the workplace. We need to kind of isolate all these different uses and kind of keep it all cohesive and together and obviously open cause it’s such a cool gritty space to enjoy.
[00:21:10] Atif Qadir: So that I think brings us to the next question. I’m really fascinated to hear your response to is what was your design process for this? So my understanding is that the project you came in on relatively early in the design process, what was your process?
[00:21:27] Ryan Graye: And this particular project that was early, and I think there’s two different parts of the design process.
I think the second part we’re really in the middle of right now. And, um, so I’ll tell you about the first part. The first part is really space planning, especially if you have a unique use, that’s going to be creating. How do we plan around that? Um, both in terms of where does that space live relative to other spaces?
Because it might affect the workplace or the other program within this product, but also it could affect someone upstairs or next door to you. And so really early, right before they, I think it was even before they sign their lease, we went in and we did mock-up testing. It was. Really fun. We do mock up testing often not I did one this morning and I just brought a 35 pound dumbbell and, you know, drop it on the floor.
But for this, because I knew that they’re going to be doing much more extreme type things. I asked for some help because I knew I couldn’t actually do what they would do. Um, and so we had a, uh, an employee from Nobel come join us to also those CrossFit training and he would pick 300 pounds up and throw it up over his head and drop it on the floor.
And so we, instead of just doing. Physical tasks and doing predictions. We just took the actual activity and brought it to the actual space. It was going to be and measured the vibration in the surrounding spaces. So I went to the upstairs. Tenant, that’s going to be a future lab. And I measured how much vibration transmitted.
I went to the space across the hall and measuring that. So that was really early on because we first wanted to make sure that there was no impact to the surrounding tenants or how do we design around that? There’s always a way, but there’s, you know, if, if you, if you’re smart with where you locate it, maybe it’s less work.
So in this case, part of the structure was actually a single story below a parking lot. And slab on grade. That’s a great place to put very heavyweight drop as opposed to a space over a crawlspace. So the slabs going to vibrate more and below another tenant upstairs.
[00:23:27] Atif Qadir: Got it. So it seems like part of the design process is actually preventing the problem from even existing to begin with
[00:23:35] Ryan Graye: and preventing the problem from an existing.
And if you get in early enough, Trying to avoid preventing that problem. You know, the process of preventing the problem from becoming its own problem, right? So if the economics of the job can get significantly affected and that’s true in a lot of fitness jobs, the cost to construct to isolate the noise is extremely high.
You know, we can do things that are great at reducing noise and vibration, but they come at a cost compared to paint on the walls and, you know, traditional fit-out type activities. So yeah, absolutely. That’s, that’s why you need to get in very early. So the second part of the process is more of the interiors in terms of planning out, how did the people who are using the space, interact with it.
And yet you need to consider what the quiet spaces are, making sure if they’re in a wide open area, that they have an opportunity to go to a quiet area, to be able to focus or have a meeting. And so that part of the process is further along in the design. Once the architects have come up with their plan and their concerns.
And we start working with them on getting into the nitty gritty, gritty details of what types of walls you build. What types of finishes do you put on those walls? How do you build a glass wall that blocks noise from, from an, an open area conference, from a conference area to an open area and things of that nature.
[00:24:50] Atif Qadir: So the project will soon be in construction. And what role do you have during that process? Which is typically called like construction minutes.
[00:25:01] Ryan Graye: I really believe construction administration is extremely important. I’m sure a lot of people in the industry feel the same way, but I think through my years, I I’ve just feel more and more strongly about that.
You can spend all the time in the world to get something that looked great on paper. Here’s my acoustic design. And if it’s not built right, it doesn’t matter. And it’s often. Intuitive the way it’s being built. So if you’re not there on site, working with the carpenters, really every trade that they understand why it’s drawn that way, there’s a very good chance.
It’s not going to be built that way. You don’t take an example. A lot of times we’ll build an isolated room within a room. So you’ll build kind of the way you think of recording studios, being built with isolated walls and a ceiling kind of separate from everything else. Uh, so I I’ll do that on a much larger.
The drawings we’ll call for that in detail. How, how does everything go together and how does the HVAC pass through those walls? A carpenter might come by and just first of all, braced that wall to the other one, because it makes for a stronger wall or they might frame it differently because it’s a more efficient way to frame it.
And you’re still doing. Um, they’re used to looking at a set of drawings and saying, I’m going to create the space the way the architects draw on it, but I’m going to do it in the most efficient way to construct it so that they have the greatest intentions, but they don’t necessarily know the nuances as to why it was put that way from the acoustic producing.
So, um, I’d like to spend a lot of time on site when things are being built, work with a team to kind of explain why I’m there and what we’re trying to do. And it’s, it’s very rewarding because once you see the, the construction team. Kind of get what you’re doing. They’ll eagerly come to you. Hey, look it, look at what I did over here.
This pipe came through here and I sealed it up really well. And, um, it is, it’s a pretty cool process once, once she gets to that level. So you,
[00:26:48] Atif Qadir: the tray that you mentioned is carpenters, and I’m guessing there are a number of others that you interact with frequently. What are the other.
[00:26:55] Ryan Graye: I mean, carpenters are probably the primary one.
I’m thinking of noise isolation, right. Because it’s how, how are the walls going together? I mean, concrete, we pour slabs and lift them up. And so you have to do that, right? There’s there’s. Sometimes before we even do with these special, special deconstruction, sometimes you need to modify the building structure, both because you’re adding a lot of weight with this special construction, but the building itself needs to be stiff enough and strong enough that if you’re putting an isolated floor down, that the building doesn’t just bounce along with it.
Um, so we work with, uh, you know, structural framing and steel iron work, making sure that that’s going. In a way that it’s modifying the building in a way that’s going to actually improve the vibration response. Each vac contractors, uh, all the duct work coming in and out of a space, uh, even in a basic, uh, office project.
We spent a lot of time looking at how the duct play out is actually going in to make sure that it’s not going to take a little bend in a way that we didn’t expect and create a bunch of noise, but then on a, on a high noise isolation project into literally how do each of those services pass into the room without compromising the isolation that you’re trying to.
[00:28:06] Atif Qadir: Okay. That sounds like a lot of work, which sounds very interesting as well. Walk our listeners through the project as it will be when it’s completed, as they come through the, the front doors of the former Boston globe headquarters.
[00:28:21] Ryan Graye: Yeah. It’s, it’s really cool because the, um, it it’s such a grand space.
It’s, uh, I don’t recall exactly what it is. Maybe it’s 20 or 25 foot ceilings. Um, see you walk down a corridor and kind of walk through a portal and then the space opens up to a. Kind of the original warehouse space, which was, uh, waffle concrete waffles. Um, and that’s going to remain intact. We’re still kind of sorting out how to get the acoustics of that, right?
Because when you have a really big volume of hard surfaces, you, you need to somehow absorb that sound, but we want to keep that waffle slab appearance. So it we’re sorting out how to do it. In an economical way, you know, it would take a lot of work to have the labor up and putting something in each little waffle.
So it’s a little bit of a tangent, but yeah, so you walk in and you see this broad, a wide open space. And I think, uh, to one side, there’s going to be kind of a town hall area. It’s a kind of a gathering area on a normal basis. It’ll just be a gathering of people having their lunch and bleachers to kind of sit in and pass that there’s a, uh, a climate wall.
If you go the other direction, uh, you kind of walk into more of an old, traditional open office there’s desks, um, some big windows on one side and kind of just a more benching kind of office area. What’s cool is they have a, what looks like a running track. And I, as I understand it, it’s not actually to run on.
But they’d like to take walking meetings. So they walk around on this crap and I was actually relieved. I was just picturing, first of all, I needed to, if it was a running track, I needed to isolate it. But then I was picturing myself using the space. Well, someone’s running by my desk. I’m going to knock out.
So it’s just for kind of having walking meetings and kind of reinforcing the design aesthetic of this kind of an athletic brand. There’s a speed limit on the, the walking track. Yeah. That as I understand it, yes. At least when I’m there, I’ll enforced. That’s wonderful. So I think it’s, it’s that, and then, um, you know, off to another side, there’s kind of an, a hallway with photo studios and recording studios.
So there’s a kind of set apart on purpose and, um, you know, you kind of continue through some workspace. There’s a mezzanine with some more workspace overlooking and then towards the back is where the training area happens. Yeah. Actually walked through the headquarters all the way to the back of the space to get to the kind of experience area where you have the training and the workout going on.
Uh, and all of
[00:30:39] Atif Qadir: this has encompassed within the a hundred thousand square feet for. Yes. Excellent. That’s a lot, lot going on. I am going to pause here to let our listeners know that we will be having the amazing Iphoma Evo of creative, urban alchemy on the American building podcast. Next month Iphoma is an urban designer with a particular interest in streetscapes.
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So let’s talk about. All these great lessons that you’ve told us about the acoustics and specifically at the Nobel headquarters. And let’s apply that to a venue where all of our listeners will be familiar, which is the homeless environment. What are the common issues that you hear people facing noise wise when working from.
[00:32:37] Ryan Graye: And some of them aren’t too surprising or different than maybe what the experience in a workplace. And then, you know, some of them have a more personal twist. So I think distraction is a huge thing. And I think that’s true with anywhere you’re trying to do. You know, I just from studying this on my own for my own wellbeing, I understand that while people claim to be multitaskers, most people I’ve, I’ve heard that it’s understood that your brain can only really do one thing at a time.
And so I think as an acoustic designer, thinking about how to create a good workspace, I’m always very aware that if there’s a lot of different inputs, that’s not going to create a great work environment. Distraction, you know, maybe the distractions are different instead of it’s your coworkers talking about something that you don’t want to hear or a printer, and constantly going off our phones constantly ringing.
It might be more unique to the home environment that it’s, uh, your dogs barking or kids and things of that nature. But it’s still kind of the same core thing is first, you know, distraction. You know, I think it’s just from talking to people, not necessarily. Professional role, but just kind of sharing your income commiserating on some of the challenges you, you see people always on, on a zoom call.
They have, who knows what’s going on? They have the background board, but you know that there’s you say, mute it and turn around and tell their child or dogs that, Hey, you’re interrupting my call here. So I think people just kind of being located with their families in a small space can create a lot of challenges and definitely acoustics was one of them.
[00:34:08] Atif Qadir: And I’m guessing they’re probably even more subtle ones. Like, uh, for example, kitchen equipment, we were mentioning earlier the boops and the bleeps and all the sounds associated with that.
[00:34:18] Ryan Graye: Yeah, but, uh, I was on a call with a colleague yesterday and one workspace I use is actually in, uh, in an unfinished basement.
And the reason I go there is because it’s silent. I know I can pick up the phone anytime I want and just pick up the phone and get on. Okay. Have a conversation with the client and be uninterrupted. But what I forget is that there is actually laundry equipment around the corner. And so I was on the call with a colleague and he goes, what the heck is that noise?
Do you have an ice cream truck? Because it’s one of those dryers that when it’s done, it creates this little jingle. And I totally lost track that he would be able to hear that. And, you know, thankfully it was. Uh, a colleague and maybe not someone that was trying to win new work, but, um, you know, you have a moment of embarrassment and then it goes to just a moment of, yeah, this is kind of life now.
Kind of adapting to that.
[00:35:06] Atif Qadir: I feel like you might be able to pivot and particularly if it was a new client and say, yeah, I actually do have an ice cream truck at my office. You’re welcome to come by just once, once we start to start off in the project, I think that that definitely is something that I can, I can understand and I feel like there’s definitely.
I think phase one of zoom life was exactly what you described. The kind of putting things under the rug and trying to distract people on the zoom from the stuff that’s actually happening or background. But I feel like part two of zoom life is not using any of the fake backgrounds and just like. I’m just letting it all hang loose.
They like, yes, that is my, uh, unclean kitchen. And do you have a problem with,
[00:35:51] Ryan Graye: yeah, I, I, I do fall into that camp quite a bit. I think, um, you know, you get on these calls where half the people are, have the camera off. And I tried to turn my, sometimes I can’t am I not either, but when I can and I turned it on because.
Thank you. Yep. Here I am in, in, uh, in all its glory. Right? So you have a basement behind me or whatever it might be. But, uh, I think about this in acoustic design, for sure. I like having a sense of presence. Right. So people I’m presenting something. I want them to be able to see me. So I’m, you know, making eye contact, even if, if it’s through zoom.
And I think that kind of transcends to a lot of things to do professionally. I think about how that. Workout in. How do you, even as we’re getting into this mixed hybrid work, how do you get equity in someone who’s on zoom? How do they get their fair share of time in a, in a meeting? And how do you set up a space so that they.
There are voices coming through, right? So you can hear them clearly things like that’s
[00:36:43] Atif Qadir: an excellent point. And now that we’ve identified many of those sources of noises and the types of noises that are in the home environment, the home work environment, what process should our listeners go through to improve the sound in their own workspaces at home?
Like what, what would you suggest as a step-by-step?
[00:37:04] Ryan Graye: Yeah, I think the first thing that you should do is take an inventory of your investment. Even if it means, just sit there for, for, I was going to say five minutes, but that would probably be pretty overwhelming and just listen to what’s happening. You’d be amazed at how many sounds are in your environment right now that you’re not realizing you’re processing, but they might actually be affecting you.
You know, there might be a, an air conditioner or something running in the background that it’s just always there and you don’t think about it, but you know what? It’s actually. Creating a sense of agitation because it’s not a peaceful sound that you’re, you know, you’re, you’re just being able to concentrate on your work.
It could be much more obvious. You know, for example, my dogs are barking every two minutes because they see something out the window. Maybe those things you tune out a little bit, but take an inventory of what are the factors that are influencing your environment that might be making it not really an ideal.
Acoustic environment for you to be getting your job done. I think that’s step one. Step two is once you’ve done that you had to start thinking about what can you do? Um, and, and this is very similar to my process in consulting. You need to stay in reality. What are the tools that I have at my disposal and how can I use them to make this.
So in a home environment, you don’t necessarily have all the tools that I might have when we’re designing a brand new space, but there’s some things you can do if your issue is that you do have too much distraction. I think there’s things you can do first. It’s not possible for everyone. And I understand that, but maybe you should reconsider where you’re choosing to work.
Right. Um, and I think you should in doing that think how do I create physical? And if we’re talking, I’m kind of envisioning like a single family home. Certainly this is true in apartment two. I think distance homes and apartments are not designed to block noise. Well, even when you close the door, the sound just comes through.
It really does. And so if you have multiple places that you might consider, whether it’s a spare bedroom or even your own bedroom, and you put a desk there, what’s the one that’s physically furthest from the, all the other activity in your house. I th I think short of rebuilding your house, getting yourself physically further away is actually a good tool with acoustics because.
Dissipated. So first time in space, you’re over space. Second is I think isolation. Um, what are the things that you can do to isolate yourself? If there is a door, even if it’s not great, that’s better than maybe being in a little nook. Maybe it’s a nicer environment in other areas, but if it’s not physically separated with the door, you’re going to be subject to much more of the noise in your open house.
So I think those are some things you can do in terms of choosing your workspace. I mentioned, I actually choose to work in a basement some of the time and it’s because maybe I’m hypersensitive to these things, but I chose, I’d rather have less daylight and more kind of freedom from too much extra noise.
So I can just really focus when I need to sit down and write a report or compose something. I have the time of space to do that without knowing that I’m not going to get distracted. I think the other thing. You can consider just thinking about background noise. So there are annoying noises for sure. And maybe you need to change that in some way.
Probably won’t get into how to change an air conditioning noise right now. You should probably move yourself away from that. But sometimes background noise can be helpful if you are able to have the ability to get yourself to a separate room and you’ve given yourself some distance, but there’s still the household noise coming into your space.
Your perception of noises, both how loud the noise might be, but it’s also how loud it is compared to the background noise in this space. So for example, I have an air purifier in the space I’m sitting in now that create tobacco numbers and it’s a comfortable, normal, balanced background noise. And on a daily basis, you don’t really even notice it’s there.
If you turn it off, you had noticed, well, I didn’t realize that that was running and making noise. What it also does is it covers up some of the noise that’s left. That’s. And I think, uh, the last thing you should think about is, is think about the finishes in your room. If you’re sitting in an empty room with no curtains and no furnishing, it’s going to have a harsh echo.
So if you like to be on zoom a lot or speakerphone that it’s going to sound like you’re in a tunnel when you’re talking on the far end. And so depending on what your job is, it might be important that you have a little bit more present. And to do that, definitely, uh, thinking about the room you’re in can help because.
More furnishings help. Uh, but the other thing to overcome with a bad room, acoustic is use a microphone. Don’t talk into your speaker or your laptop with a screen open, right? Uh, use the headset or, you know, uh, earbuds, because they’re going to have a microphone that’s coming. Capturing the sound closer to your mouth and not the rest of the environment.
So it sounds like
[00:41:46] Atif Qadir: there are a number of great suggestions that you’ve shared with us, Ryan. It starts with moving yourself away from the problem, uh, which sounds like a solution that every kindergarten teacher knows all too well with, uh, finding kids. Uh, number two is, uh, to be able to identify the sounds themselves and see.
Things that you can do to cover, to mask or to reduce them. For example, you gave a suggestion of a white noise machine, and then to also consider finishes such as say, rugs, caulking, or rugs and drapes and valves and other materials like that. And then the last one would be. I’m also considering the equipment that you’re using in terms of, uh, headsets and speakers and other, other equipment as well.
So those are all wonderful suggestions. And thank you so much for joining us today on the American building podcast, Ryan, thank
[00:42:42] Ryan Graye: you so much. It’s such a pleasure.
[00:42:44] Atif Qadir: Absolutely. Thank you. And listeners, if you want to hear the behind the scenes stories of how iconic buildings in our country were designed and built subscribe to this podcast on Spotify, iTunes, Google, anchor, Stitcher, or wherever you like to listen or rate and review us on iTunes to help us reach a wider audience.
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