Office acoustics

Efficient sound insulation

There is a close relationship between noise levels and work performance. That doesn’t just apply to medically harmful noise in workshops and factories – it’s also true of distracting sounds in the office and at screen-based workstations. Noise makes it harder for employees to concentrate and makes errors more likely. In offices, noise minimisation is not just about lowering the noise level, as even quiet sounds can be perceived as distracting – and hence as “noise” – in this environment.

Acoustic consulting and needs analyses as well as creating mathematical forecasts of the space’s reverberation time

Acoustic measurements by sworn surveyor

Planning of acoustic measures in line with calculated forecasts or measurement results

Product sampling, budgeting and implementation of all acoustics measures

Noise is subjective

When it comes to categorisation, subjective factors are also crucial along with objective acoustic actors such as the volume or intensity of the sounds. The roar of a waterfall at 80db is not perceived in the same way as a busy motorway of the same volume. There are three key principles when it comes to comfortable acoustics in offices:

  1. Human voices and work noises from other workspaces should not be carried through the space in a way that distracts others.
  2. It should be possible to have confidential conversations or phone calls – quietly – at an employee’s own workstation without any major difficulties.
  3. Sounds from outside the office space or from technical equipment within the office should not be a source of distraction.

Many aspects of acoustic measures need to be coordinated

The larger an acoustically effective space is, the more sound energy can be absorbed. Floors, walls and ceilings are particularly suitable for acoustic measures. But it is not possible to install a carpeted floor or perforated ceiling system for noise damping. Canvas ceiling panels or acoustic elements mounted on ceilings and walls are a suitable alternative in such cases. Acoustic walls on each desk can reduce sound transmission between workstations. Their effect is particularly strong at higher frequencies. To absorb the sound of lower frequencies, the absorbing material must be thicker. One option is the use of acoustically effective, perforated cabinet doors and wall units or special acoustic elements. The key thing is that the individual measures are coordinated with each other and can usefully complement each other.

Effectiveness of sound absorption

Sound absorption is most effective when the material thickness is at least one quarter of the wavelength. High tones have short wavelengths, and partition walls can absorb them very effectively.

Example: 1.000 Hz (= 34 cm wave lengths) are absorbed by 8-cm partition wall (34 cm ÷ 4 = 8.5 cm).

Lower tones have longer wavelengths and can be absorbed by cabinets or special absorbers. A mix of several measures can ensure good acoustics.

Example: 250 Hz (= 140 cm wavelenghts) need to be absorbed by a 40-cm partition wall (140 cm ÷ 4 = 35 cm).

Taking acoustics into consideration as early as the planning phase

Efficient noise minimisation begins at the source. Quiet equipment and placing printers, photocopiers or fax machines in separate rooms prevents unnecessary noise pollution. If workstations require very high levels of acoustic separation, they also need to be separated from each other in spatial terms, such as by sound-damping glass partition walls. This means that acoustic concerns and requirements need to be taken into account as early as the layout design phase.