Although originally human beings existed in the open, at present we spend over 90 percent of our time indoor. Our sense of hearing was shaped accordingly. The singing of birds has been replaced by the sound of a computer, the buzzing of the ventilation and vibrating mobile phones – and all of that multiplied and resonating from the walls and ceilings. Even though human sense of hearing has already adjusted to the specificity of closed rooms we still need to pay attention to acoustic conditions optimal for work, especially in an office.
No for noise
Noise, the sound of a mower outside, a telephone ringing, talks in the corridor, the Xerox machine rattling... The acoustic environment of a workplace has particularly great influence on the effectiveness and efficiency of the employees. It decreases motivation and creates stressful situations. Returning to the task which was disrupted by strenuous noise, trying to focus, especially when creativity is our main “force” and “tool”, takes a lot of time. We need to eliminate all “additional” sounds which unhinge us, disturb at work, i.e. limit the range of the sound and stop it from spreading.
Architects who design the interiors of a modern office space should take into consideration all the factors which create the acoustic environment of a given place. It is necessary to divide the space into different, specific fragments related to given tasks and purposes, such as the reception room, conference rooms, quiet work rooms, cell offices etc. The requirements of specific office rooms regarding the acoustics are different, just like the activities which will be performed there – explains Magda Szubert, Concept Developer Ecophon. Thanks to well-selected sound-absorbing materials – proper ceilings, dividing screens and wall panels – we can change the acoustics of a room, make unwanted sounds quieter and the needed ones more prominent.
Open offices are a challenge for designers – as it is when work stations are separated with cubicles. Open room architecture usually needs glazing – window and facade systems, and frequently also transparent dividing walls highlighting functional divisions. It must be noted that glass surfaces reflect sounds and increase their reach. Still, even in such rooms it is possible to create a possibility for the members of one working group to communicate without disturbing the others. Studies show that noise which carries some information is most disturbing for employees – says Magda Szubert. If we reduce the range of the sound, if we mute it so that the words were understood only within a specified distance we will achieve acoustic comfort. An office is then completely functional, facilitating work and promoting effectiveness. We need to remember that other surfaces (screens, furniture, ceilings) should also be sound-absorbing.
Depending on the architecture of an office, the way sounds spread and the effect we want to achieve, we can use sound absorbing acoustic panels made of glass wool both on walls and ceilings. Investors who want to build energy-efficient facilities surely should be interested in the fact that glass wool is made in 70% of processed household glass, thus is recycled. The mounting structure of the acoustic panels is made of galvanized steel and is half-recycled.
In open offices, spacious rooms, places where there is no specific division between work stations, proper acoustic environment can be provided thanks to sound absorbing ceilings with high AC value (Articulation Class, a classification of ceilings depending on the level of the talks privacy they provide; in the case of ceilings in office space AC value should indicate at least 180). In cell offices, that is in separate rooms in which sounds resonate between the walls, we install sound absorbing panels on one of the walls. It prevents flutter-echoes. Installation of acoustic ceilings with high sound absorption value reduces reverberation time.
Both wall panels and acoustic ceilings are good solutions in the case of rooms which generate definitely higher levels of noise, as for example rooms with Xerox machines and printers. We need to say a couple of words about the acoustic adaptation of conference rooms and meeting rooms. The acoustics should support the speaker’s voice, with no effort and additional audio equipment. In the case of rooms which are at least 12 meters long we can use surfaces which reflect the speaker’s words and direct them to the listeners, for example acoustic ceilings. We frequently encounter the problem of the levels of sound reflection between walls which disturbs speech perception – the effect should be leveled by sound absorbing wall panels installed at the height of sitting people’s heads. Sound-insulation of walls is such rooms should indicate at least 45dB.
Perhaps acoustic ceiling islands?
The problem of designing an ergonomic office in terms of acoustics becomes more complicated in the case of energy-efficient buildings. Frequently installing traditional ceilings reaching from one wall to the other is impossible, leaving it with no insulation is also out of question, and then it is also necessary to hide the installations e.g. the wiring of mechanical installation as they have little aesthetic value. In such cases we can install wall panels and special acoustic islands, so called baffles. It is also, apart from the obvious functional reasons, a way to increase the aesthetics of an office interior. We should also note the free-hanging sound-absorbing ceiling panels which are available in various shapes and colors. They can be shaped as circles with various dimensions and hang from the ceiling at different distances (or directly on a wall). White modules are most popular, with neural walls, colorful elements will look unusual. Ceiling featuring great “dots” will surprise both potential clients and employees.