Finnish company Lumir is using cellulose fibers to create sound-proofing materials that are not only healthier for people, but have a better acoustic profile too.
Sound proofing is one of those things that’s all around us, but that we don’t really think about. Day-care centers, office spaces, shopping malls and hospitals – these are just some of the many places we go where the ceilings and walls are covered in sound absorbent materials.
Unfortunately, those materials are not always friendly to the environment, or to our own health. Conventional sound absorbers are often made from fiber glass, and the binders that fix them to surfaces contain various chemicals – including formaldehyde – that may contaminate the air long after installation. They can also generate and harbor mold.
Finland’s Lumir is changing all this with a wood-based soundproofing material that can be sprayed onto ceilings and walls. The cellulose fibers in Lumir’s product are safe, sustainable and more pliable than traditional products. They also absorb sound much more efficiently.
Natural fibers, better acoustics
Lumir’s R&D Director, Tuomas Hänninen, says his team went back to the fundamentals of acoustics to create the product.
“We found that in the soundproofing business, nobody had actually questioned the basic equations of acoustics for a very long time. Everything was taken as a given,” he says. “But we’ve discovered that wood fibers can perform much better than synthetic ones, particularly at lower frequencies. So now we’re patenting some of these discoveries.”
Lumir recently finished installing 3,000 square meters of soundproofing in Finland’s Parliament House, a 1930s building that has undergone a complete renovation and was reopened this year. The absorbent material Lumir provides was easy for the construction teams to work with, and the end result is a healthier and more pleasant environment for the people who work in the building every day.
“With our product, you don’t need to do any preparative work, you just spray eight millimeters of the material onto the surfaces you want to soundproof. It’s super easy for the construction teams,” says Tuomas. “We toured the Parliament building last week, and our guide told us that all the on-site contractors and project owners are saying the acoustics are much better than they were before.”
Out with the old, in with the new
Lumir has also installed its product in the metro extension Helsinki opened last year, and the company is now working on the city’s new central library, as well as a planetarium in Finnish Lapland.
“This is not a niche market,” says Tuomas. “If you look at the ceilings in any public space, you’ll see these old sound absorbers that often look quite ugly, with holes all over them. We’re now replacing those with a seamless product that’s healthier for people, absorbs sound more efficiently and looks a lot better too!”
All Lumir’s development work is based on a circular economy model, using only sustainable materials like cellulose. Tuomas says the company has received a lot of help in this from Finnish pulp & paper giant Stora Enso.
“The cellulose fibers we’re using are not the most conventional ones. Stora Enso has been very helpful in listening to our needs, selecting the right fibers for us, and even helping us to develop new ones,” he says.
Lumir doubled its sales in 2017 and expects to do so again for 2018. The company is currently only working in Finland, but has now started to subcontract installation as a first step towards going abroad. From 2019, Lumir will be focusing on international growth too.