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Acoustics

Acoustics is the branch of physics relating to the properties of sound and, in the workplace, we use the word to mean the properties of a room or building that affect how sound is transmitted within it.

 

To most of us, poor acoustics simply means too much unwanted noise. In particular, the rush to homeworking caused by the Covid pandemic has made many people realise how noisy their office was when they were working there full-time. The science is well established and research shows that unwanted noise can be distracting, reducing productivity and potentially affecting health and wellbeing. Unfortunately, most modern offices are full of surfaces such as glass, concrete and steel that reflect sound rather than absorb it.

 

With the move to hybrid working, employers are creating multi-functional offices with zones for different activities, each with different acoustic needs. Equally important, individuals each have their personal acoustic preferences. The need for effective management of acoustics is therefore more important than ever. This can be done in many different ways, both passive (mostly by absorption) and active (microphone and speaker systems to counteract noise issues).

 

The most common causes of acoustic problems are Reflection (sound bouncing off hard surfaces like walls and windows), Reverberation (multiple sounds bouncing off surfaces and intermixing) and Resonance (the ‘boomy’ sounds caused when a sound source is the same as the natural frequency of something else in the room, such as a window).

 

Having identified a need for action, the first process is to assess the problem. We can offer this service with a free initial inspection followed by proposals for action. For a simple project, such as a single room, we can often jump straight to a product proposal. For more complex needs, we will introduce a professional consultant to measure and analyse the requirements.

 

Once the technical requirements are clarified, the range of products available is extensive and can usually enhance the appearance of the location as well as solving the noise problems. Different levels of sound absorption can be achieved by providing the right surface coverings and/or internal material to wall coverings, ceiling tiles, hanging pictures, desk screens, pods, booths, soft seating and partitions. Judicious use of plants will also help to absorb noise, with the added biophilic advantage.

 

More complex installations will require active sound management which can be retrofitted and adapted over time with a series of microphones and loudspeakers to counteract and balance sound dynamically.

 

Further reading:

 

Hybrid Working – addressing the 4Cs

Using plants to deal with stress and noise

The future of workforce accommodation

 

Contact us for further information.

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