Hotels should have thicker walls

How often have you stayed in a hotel when you can clearly hear your near neighbours as they talk or move around?

I don’t mean the neighbours who argue, fight, party or are otherwise just a general nuisance; I’m referring to the neighbours who just go about their normal day-to-day business, without raising their voices, yet can still be heard in your room.

There are many sounds which emanate from hotels, many of which occur because of the design of hotels as mass accommodation venues. For instance, bathrooms are usually built next to each other and on top and below each other, because it makes sense to run all of the plumbing together. Yet, because of this, it doesn’t matter how stylish or luxurious your hotel, you can often tell when your neighbours, even those who are several floors above you, are performing their ablutions.

Then there are the normal sounds you can hear through the room door. Guests chatting as they walk by; room service being delivered nearby; the opening and closing of doors on nearby rooms; the sound of the luggage trolley being wheeled past your door; and housekeeping vacuuming the rooms.

In fact, your hotel room can often buzz with unwanted sounds, particularly late at night when guests start arriving back at the hotel after a night out on the town. You’ll be trying to get to sleep in a strange bed when some extraneous noise, be it a door closing, toilet flushing, or someone turning on their TV too laud, wakes you from your restless slumber and makes you worried that you may miss that 5am flight.

One solution would be for hotels to build their rooms in the shape of anechoic chambers. These are many-sided rooms that are filled with baffles so that noise can’t be reflected from walls, floor or ceiling. The noise has nowhere to go, because it just gets absorbed by the baffles, and just seems to escape the room.

There is one slight problem with anechoic chambers; because they are soundproof (you often can’t even hear yourself speak), they also tend to be unfriendly and disorientating, so would not be popular with guests. Even if you could build a cosy anechoic chamber, the bathroom would still need to have tiles and other surfaces which cope easily with water, so that the one room you do want to be quiet would be the only room that wasn’t quiet.

The other solution would for hotels to build their rooms with slightly thicker walls. Not too much, but an extra centimetre or two would make a lot of difference. It’s all about guest comfort, after all, and even if hotels added accoutrements such as drapes to walls it would cut down the amount of noise that is able to reverberate around the room, resulting in happier customers and better business.

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