The acoustics in offices and workspaces have a big impact on employee wellbeing and productivity. For this reason, it is necessary to follow some basic rules when planning and designing offices.
The room acoustics, i.e. the audibility in a room, are significantly influenced by the employed surfaces. To obtain pleasant acoustics in a room, the used materials need to be equipped with sound absorption. The ability to absorb sound or the conversion of incident sound energy into other forms of energy is referred to as sound absorption. It can be achieved, for example, by using sound baffles, perforated plates with mats, foams, or acoustic plasters.
An acoustic parameter which must be taken into consideration in spatial design is reverberation time, which indicates the length of time it takes for a sound event to become inaudible. The optimum reverberation time of a room is specified in the recommendations of DIN 18041 (https://www.beuth.de/de/norm/din-18041/245356770 ). In order to generate optimum reverberation times in offices, it is necessary to use sound-absorbing materials. A descriptive characteristic of the material is the sound absorption coefficient ɑ - i.e. the ability to convert incident sound into other forms of energy such as motion or heat, thus absorbing it. The sound absorption coefficient, however, mainly depends on the frequency – or the number of sound pressure changes per second. In general, it can be said that lower sound absorbers dampen high frequencies, while large or high sound absorbers are suitable for dampening deep frequencies.
The following principles provide a general overview of the operation of sound absorbers:
• The reverberation time in a room decreases as the sound absorption coefficient of a material increases
• Only the use of a specific area enables a highly absorbing sound absorber to produce the desired result in the room
• Even a relatively weakly absorbing sound absorber can achieve the intended effect – its area only needs to be appropriately sized
• One sound absorber or a combination of different sound absorbers can be used as desired to dampen sound in a room accordingly.1
There are many possible ways to create pleasant acoustics in offices and workspaces. Innovative acoustically effective solutions such as workstation dividers, stand-up walls, board wall elements, ceiling panels, or furniture can be used to prevent noise pollution in the work environment. Disruptions, nervousness, tension, or loss of concentration can be reduced, and employee performance can be increased by preventative office design.
In addition, acoustically effective elements which are harmoniously integrated in the furnishing styles of the respective workspaces can increase the level of comfort in the room. Sound absorbers with printed textile fabrics help to create the desired room atmosphere, while optical elements can also be used as decorations. With the C+P SonicWall product range, we offer different acoustic solutions for noise absorption in the work environment.
Especially open office landscapes require an integrated acoustics concept. Primarily sound level and speech intelligibility in the workspaces play a very important role. Depending on the activity, the sound level is related to the sound intensity in a room. High speech intelligibility is necessary, for example, in meeting rooms, while quiet workplaces that promote concentration are required in the team space. To create pleasant acoustics in offices and workspaces, it is necessary to combine measures such as organization, shielding/insulation, absorption, and masking appropriately.
An element for optimizing acoustics in open space offices is the integration of sound masking in water or climate walls, for example. Soft background sounds like pleasant rustling or babbling noises which are perceived unconsciously can increase the level of comfort in open workspaces. They do not disturb communication or concentration in the workplace, which is why they are readily accepted by employees.2
1 Hilge, Dr. C.; Nocke, Dr. C.; Büro-Forum, Raumakustik, Akustische Bedingungen am Arbeitsplatz
2 Klaffke M. (2016), Arbeitsplatz der Zukunft, Gestaltungsansätze und Good-Practice- Beispiele