Noise, workplace acoustics and not having somewhere private to make calls or to concentrate are two of the most common issues we encounter when discussing office design with workers.
Designing a workplace with acoustics at its core and that strives for an optimum sound level is fundamentally important, and in this piece, our team look at how workplace acoustics can have an impact and critically how they can be improved.
Prominent architects, Gensler found in a recent study that 53% of workers were regularly distracted by others when trying to focus. Many workers feel that the work environment is too noisy and they can’t concentrate, and in today’s increasingly open-plan workplace, this recurring problem needs to be addressed.
Over recent years, one of the most prevalent office design trends has been the introduction of a variety of workspaces within the office where staff can choose to work away from their desk. This has provided workers with the choice to work in a quieter space when they need to concentrate or to take a private call away from the open plan and to collaborate as a team in a dedicated space where they aren’t distracting colleagues. This has certainly helped matters but there is much work to do, and while there are industry norms for optimum temperature, lighting etc…, we wondered what was the optimum sound or noise level?
Workplace Acoustics | What is the optimum sound level?
Sound levels are measured by a unit called decibels (dB) and according to a recent presentation from Acoustics by Design that we were lucky enough to attend, the ideal dB level is 35-40 dBA. The image below provides some idea of how loud this actually is, especially when you consider that a loud radio is approx. 80 dBA and a rock concert would be approx. 110 dBA.
This noise level is equivalent to the average home noise or a normal tone conversation between two individuals. However, the workplace is home to many more people so the question remains, how can office design help to create the optimum sound level?
Workplace Acoustics | How Office Design can help create the optimum sound level
While we have mentioned introducing a variety of spaces so workers can work away from their desks, removing themselves from the noisy open plan, much more needs to be considered. Sound paths, location of potentially high-traffic or noisy areas i.e. breakout space or toilets, and critically the finishes, surfaces and textures used throughout the space can all have a major impact.
The ABC of workplace acoustics centres around these 3 principles:
- Absorb noise close to the source
- Block the direct path of sound
- Cover – mask unwanted sounds
Let’s take a look at each of these in detail and how office design can employ each.
Absorbing sound at source | Workplace Acoustics
Absorbing sound at the source is particularly pertinent in the open plan and busy breakout spaces and there are now numerous products available from suppliers like Buzzispace, which can be installed on walls, from the ceiling and even applied to furniture to absorb sound.