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5 Design Tips to Minimise Acoustic Issues in Offices


19 Dec , 2016  

You have a spacious, open-plan, collaboration-oriented office. It’s chic, trendy, and even better yet, ergonomically-designed. The issue? Ahmed can hear Hiba speaking to her husband on the phone every day. He doesn’t care about what they consume for dinner, but knows tonight they’ve succumbed to the humdrum choice of pizza. Ahmed needs some acoustical aid, as do many people trying to maintain focus in the offices of today, so here are five design tips to minimise acoustic issues in offices.

1. Living Green Walls

The various surfaces and textures of plants are excellent in absorbing unwanted sound. Done right, they are not only appealing to the eye but also provide health benefits for your employees by helping to detoxify and oxygenate the air. They can also increase the humidity, and keep air temperatures down. A study conducted by the University of Queensland in Australia found that office landscaping improved employee productivity by 15 percent. These living sound barriers can be done in various sizes, shapes, and patterns.

2. Acoustically Absorptive Tiles/Panels on Walls

Sound waves can bounce easily off of hard surfaces. By placing softer, absorptive materials on the walls, sounds can be reduced while the walls look stunning. Decorative tile designs can give your office walls warmth, texture, and
introduce bold colours into your views. They come in a large variety of shapes and colour pallets for you to choose from.

3. Movable or Permanent Sound-Absorbing Barriers

Placing barriers in the form of floating panels or movable walls is a sleek and stylish way to break up sound, while maintaining the open-plan feel of your office. Similar to the tiles we mentioned above, the panels are composed of absorptive materials. Before choosing your barrier material, be sure that the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) rating is high – 1 being 100% absorptive, and .5 being 50% absorptive (which is the rating of an average acoustical ceiling tile). Having barriers that can move on tracks or wheels brings these sound absorbing barriers to a whole different level of functional design. Imagine the potential of being able to manipulate barriers to meet your daily needs.

4. Acoustical Ceiling Panels

Utilising ceiling real estate for minimising acoustics in the office has been done for years, but it can be easily overlooked as an area to incorporate powerfully creative designs. The landscape for ceiling panels is often a far greater uninterrupted space than most others, so these forms of acoustic panelling can come with a hefty price tag. This is also where you will get the “biggest bang for your buck”. Many open plan offices have ceilings filled with hard, metallic, and/or flat surfaces allowing sound waves to bounce around freely, echoing Hiba’s dinner plans all the way to Ahmed’s desk. Softening the ceiling space will drastically improve office acoustics, and while doing so, why not do it with flare.

5. Designated Quiet (or Loud) Spaces

Constructing a variety of designated spaces for your employees to work in, gives them destinations to go to in order to escape from sound, or engage in creating it. “Quiet rooms” can serve the purpose of keeping loud noises out for those who wish to concentrate, or can keep loud conversations contained within them.

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Designing a work environment that is both collaboration-friendly and not acoustically-challenged can be a daunting task, but start with these five designs and your office acoustic issues will dissipate in no time. The only way Ahmed would be able to tell what Hiba is going to have for dinner each day is if she started shouting on the phone to her husband, which would require a lot more sound-proofing, possibly some marriage counselling and a whole different blog post that we won’t be going into now.

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