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A brick that cures sick, noisy buildings


A breakthrough in sustainable office and house design – invented in Sydney.

“Silenceair looks like a transparent brick but it’s a high-tech solution to one of the biggest problems of city living,” says Dr Chris Field, one of 16 early-career innovators who have presented their work to the Australian public and media as part of Fresh Innovators. The winner will win a study tour to the UK courtesy of British Council.

“Cities are noisy. When we block the noise from our offices and homes, we usually reduce the ventilation or use noisy air conditioners to circulate fresh air – the result is sick buildings and people.”

Silenceair uses patented passive technology to allow fresh air into buildings while leaving 85% of the noise behind.
Chris developed the concept during his doctoral research at the University of Sydney.

His work has taken him across the globe to present his work in Prague at the world’s largest noise control conference.

Inter-Noise 2004 is one of the largest international gatherings of experts in noise control. It ran from 22-25 August at the Czech Technical University. "Urban life involves a compromise between convenience and proximity to noise," says Chris. "Part of that compromise is deciding whether to have the window open or shut. Research on sick-building syndrome highlights the issues of working in buildings that rely on closed windows and mechanical ventilation."

Silenceair is a brick that can be inserted into buildings to allow the natural passage of air while reducing the noise from the outside by up to 85%. The device is environmentally friendly because it uses no power – just a patented configuration of passive resonators. It can even be made transparent to allow natural illumination. "With the increasing awareness of “sick building syndrome” there is mounting demand for naturally ventilated buildings,” says Chris. “But open windows also bring in outside noise, which becomes unacceptable in noisy urban areas where most people work.”

“A device that allows natural ventilation without compromising noise attenuation represents a breakthrough in sustainable office design,” says Tristram Carfrae, Principal of Arup Australasia, the engineering firm who employs Chris as a senior consultant and who have been very supportive of his work.

Arup Australasia is recognised as a world leader in sustainable design and undertook the structural design of the Sydney Opera House.

Silenceair has been well received by the public and industry alike. “Silenceair has received a lot of interest in overseas markets, particularly in Europe and the US. It will be great to see 10 years of research turn into a manufactured product soon.”

Chris is now heading to London to meet with other key innovators within Arup UK, to attend media appointments, and negotiate contracts with possible UK distributors.

Niall Byrne | alfa
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