Shh, can you hear that?
If you’re sitting in Orfield Laboratory’s anechoic chamber, officially the quietest room in the world, the answer is probably a loud, crisp ‘yes.’
You’d also be hearing a number of other sounds, including the beat of your heart, the pulse of blood through your veins and arteries, and the operating buzz of your phone’s screen.
A room within a room, the chamber is protected by two large entry vaults. Anechoic chambers prevent sounds from bouncing and echoing off the chamber walls, reducing ambient noise to near perfect silence. In the case of Orfield’s lab, the decibel count is reduced to -9.4 dBA – well below the human hearing level of above 0 dBA.
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The lab is lined with 3.3-foot-thick fiberglass acoustic wedges, and suspended on I-beams and springs with two double-insulated steel inner walls and an outer shell of 12-inch-thick concrete. A mesh floor allows sound to penetrate through and absorb into the thick acoustic dampeners below.
The room eliminates over 99.99 percent of sound – enough to cause disorientation among visitors who stay longer than 30 minutes inside with the lights turned off. Because the body relies on acoustic cues for balance and equilibrium, extended periods inside the darkened chamber leads to disorientation and even auditory and visual hallucinations.
Orfield Labs uses the room for experimentation and research that aids their consulting services. Orfield’s Architectural Technology group aims to make buildings more comfortable and its occupants more productive with intelligent sound and lighting design.