The acoustics of any space have a major impact on the well-being and health of its occupants. Acoustics are quite important as they can enhance or hinder the functionality of spaces. Over the years, research has revealed the negative impacts of noise in closed environments and the benefits of designing an acoustically pleasant place.
People, who continuously get exposed to noise, exhibit irritability, sleep issues and increased stress levels. This in turn can result in low productivity and less focus, particularly if work spaces are not designed well acoustically. Therefore, it’s quite evident that there is a strong correlation between acoustics and absenteeism, productivity and workplace collaboration. In the United States, there is a growing concern regarding the need to reduce and contain noise for a healthier and more effective life.
Acoustics are also important in commercial buildings such as offices, educational institutions and hospitals because of the large number of people that are present in these spaces on a regular basis. Thoughtful design of commercial buildings can reduce the noise impact and improve the overall quality of commercial environments. Acoustic solutions should be employed in all stages of commercial building design.
We’ll highlight a few important design considerations that can reduce the noise impact and make the commercial environment acoustically pleasant.
Open Office Space
Open office spaces are trending in office design nowadays. In open offices, the density of occupants is higher and there is little separation between employees. This can result in increased noise levels that can affect employee productivity.
In order to make open spaces more acoustically pleasant, designers must implement greater absorption levels. Absorb, block and cover are there basic elements of acoustic design. If these three elements are met, the impact of noise can be reduced. By adding tiles/carpeting and sound blocking or absorbing partitions noise can be attenuated. Partitions can additionally help block noise propagation to reduce the impact of noise in the workplace.
Another option designers can use to reduce noise impact in the commercial environment is ceiling treatment. With the help of ceiling treatments, pseudo partitions can be created around a work area, desk space or retail space. These treatments may include horizontally hanging ceiling clouds, vertically hanging baffles or materials like panels wrapped in fabric and acoustical foam directly mounted to a room’s ceiling. In addition, wall panels can be installed to reduce the noise by removing wall reflections.
Another solution that can be used to make the commercial environment more acoustically pleasant is sound masking. In sound masking, a low level unobtrusive sound is engineered to reduce distractions and protect privacy and confidentiality. Electronic components are used to generate a sound that is comfortable for people. A network of speakers is used to distribute the sound throughout the building. Sound masking does not block, cancel or absorb noises; rather it interferes with the ability of an occupant to hear the noise.
Sound masking systems can only perform well when they are designed to be tunable. This means that a sound masking system should offer control zones to change the masking sound and adjust it according to workplace requirements. With control zones, the levels of masking sound can be changed according to the specific requirements of a particular room.