Work peace with the right sound environment
The sound environment in the office affects both how we feel and perform. Everyone has probably been in a situation where disturbing ambient noise made it difficult to concentrate. A poor acoustic environment not only leads to frustration but can also affect productivity and general well-being at the workplace. So investing in good acoustics is an important part of the whole when designing office interiors, regardless of the layout or type of office. Workplaces with a balanced noise level promote well-being and success. It's a matter of knowing how noise works and how it affects us.
The best prospects for a good acoustic environment are achieved by focusing on room acoustics at an early stage of the planning phase. Equipping the premises with acoustic ceilings and sound-absorbing flooring is always a worthwhile investment. You can further enhance the acoustic environment with upholstered furniture, sound absorbers, curtains, rugs, sound-absorbing tabletops and furniture with castors. Choosing soft materials also helps to ensure a cosy feel and promotes calm behaviour.
In rooms with hard surfaces, the sound bounces back and forth, with a long reverberation time. Reverberation time is a measure of the echo in a room and can be measured by, for example, clapping your hands loudly and then measuring how long it takes for the sound to fade away. People talking are the main cause of high noise levels and depending on what a room is used for and how it is designed, different reverberation times are recommended. A reverberation time of 0.4–0.6 is a good benchmark. Generally speaking, the more important it is to understand speech, the shorter the reverberation time should be.
Many office spaces should be able to function for different types of activities, both solo and collaborative work. This means that you need to be able to customise the interior design to maintain a good acoustic environment for all activities. It’s also important to divide the office into zones for different degrees of focus, with clear rules on how to use these different areas. Open spaces can be divided into smaller zones using screen walls, storage solutions, furniture with high backs or textiles to limit the propagation of sound.
Different ways to influence sound
A poor acoustic environment can be caused by several factors. Noise from inside the building, such as talking and bustle from surrounding areas, scraping noise from furniture, or cupboards opening and closing. Other distracting noises can be the humming of fans, technology and lights, or the sound of lifts. Disturbing external noises may include traffic noise.
Fragment and change the direction of the sound waves. By using bookshelves, plants, screen walls or storage solutions with irregular shapes.
Reduce or block out noise. By using sound-absorbing tabletops, rugs, curtains, castors on furniture, screen walls and soft-closing drawers.
Decrease noise. Sound absorption is an important concept in room acoustics. Sound absorbers, such as upholstered furniture, as well as wall, ceiling, table and partition screens, are used to prevent noise spreading further in the room. This shortens the reverberation time in a room, which helps to ensure a better acoustic environment. When the energy in asound wave is absorbed due to heat losses, the sound is muted. In order to absorb human speech, a sound absorber needs to be at least 40 mm thick.
Block sound from going from one location to another. Through walls in a room or walls blocking traffic noise from outside.
Good acoustics in the workplace are not about creating an absolutely silent office, but rather about balancing noise levels and finding suitable sound environments for all types of activities.