If your workplace uses acoustic treatments, but occupants can still hear conversations and a slew of other unwanted noises, you might conclude that those treatments have failed. However, there can be many reasons behind this facility malfunction:
Let’s add absorption!
Many believe that only one or two treatments will provide the desired conditions. But no technique is a silver bullet. Rather, each part of the acoustical design contributes differently to the overall performance of your space. So, while any given element might be doing its job perfectly, without all of the required pieces in place, occupants continue to be disrupted by noise and dissatisfied with their level of privacy.
For example, absorptive materials might have been added to the ceiling, walls and floor. Yes, this technique was needed to reduce the volume of noises reflected off their surfaces back into your space, but you still need physical barriers and sound masking. In fact, if all three techniques—absorb, block and cover—are considered during a project’s design phase, you can take full advantage of the ways they complement each other, reducing costs while improving the outcome.
If this description matches your facility, download The Recipe for Great Acoustics.
Close rooms are enough!
Perhaps you’re relying on closed rooms—for example, meeting rooms or phonebooth-like spaces to provide privacy for open-plan occupants who need to make a telephone call or focus on a project. Unfortunately, they tend to get booked up, leaving many in the lurch. In any case, closed rooms don’t always provide the expected level of privacy. If the background sound level outside the room is lower than the residual signal penetrating the wall, conversations will still be heard.
If this describes your space, sound masking is the missing link.
Let’s make it really quiet!
If you thought having a loud office was bad, imagine having a mostly silent one. Working in ‘pin-drop’ or ‘library-like’ conditions is awkward. You feel uncomfortable talking because you know everyone can hear you and you’re distracted by any little noise. This condition usually occurs when only absorption and blocking are used. These strategies aren’t failing—they just can’t meet the need to control the background sound level, which is handled by a sound masking system.
Add more sound!
While most people are familiar with the concepts of absorbing and blocking noise, fewer are aware of the role that sound itself plays in achieving effective acoustics.
Sound masking technology distributes a comfortable background sound that most people compare to softly blowing air. Though adding more sound appears to contradict the goal of controlling noise, it’s a necessary step. It covers up conversations and noise occurring at a distance and also reduces the intelligibility and disruptive impact of those happening closer to you, making them less distracting.
However, simply installing a sound masking system doesn’t ensure success. The sound has to be professionally tuned so that it meets the desired spectrum—a ‘curve’ specifically engineered to balance effective acoustic control and comfort—throughout your space.
A masking system can’t achieve this goal out of the box. After it’s installed, the sound has to be adjusted by a qualified technician, who uses a sound level meter to measure and correct it as needed until the curve is consistently met. So, it’s important to ask your vendor for a tuning report.
Today, it’s easy to prioritize other goals and lose sight of what’s really important to workplace occupants. If your space isn’t currently performing as it should, take the time to read the resources offered in this post. Speech privacy and noise control rank very highly when it comes to job perks! By prioritizing acoustics, employees won’t only be happier about coming to work, but also be more productive and less stressed.