A step-by-step guide

Often, people only start thinking about acoustics once they experience an actual problem in the office—excessive background noise, too many distractions or lack of privacy. Therefore, acoustic solutions should be part of the design process of a space from the very beginning, requiring close collaboration across all teams involved to achieve the best result, from a design as well as acoustic perspective. When this isn’t the case, the good news is you still have a chance to improve the acoustics profoundly with the right solutions.

This step-by-step guide will help you solve acoustic problems in your existing office space.
Step 1:

Detect the source of the acoustic problem or noise

Step 2:

Define the type of acoustic problem

Step 3:

Choose a solution for the type of room

Step 1:

Detect the source of the acoustic problem or noise

Acoustic issues related to building acoustics

As the name implies, building acoustics has to do with the building and the transmission of sounds from outdoor to indoor and between structural elements of a building, e.g. floors and walls.

This is the case when:

  • Sound is transferred from outdoor to indoor, e.g. cars, trams, airplanes passing by
  • Sound is transferred between floors, e.g. footsteps from the floors above
  • Sound is transferred between adjacent rooms, e.g. an adjacent meeting room

Ideally, issues like these should be addressed by the architectural team through insulation of windows, walls, ceilings, and floors. Another option is to remedy the transmission of sounds, so they will not escape the room to begin with by bringing in acoustic panels and free-standing sound-absorbing elements.

Room acoustics: noise and sounds within a room or given space

Opposite to building acoustics, room acoustics pertain to noise and sounds within a room or any given space. Rather than focusing on insulation to remedying transmission of sounds, the key to room acoustics is absorption to prevent sound waves from bouncing back-and-forth in a room.

We’ve listed a few examples below that are often reported as the cause of complaints. Perhaps one of these are identical or similar to the issues you’re experiencing?

  • Disturbances from chatty colleagues
  • Air conditioning and heating
  • Disturbed by conversations from the other end of the room, e.g. from communal spaces
  • Difficult to concentrate with too many distractions
  • Visual distractions, for instance, if you’re sitting next to the entrance or reception
  • Need for privacy when people are overhearing your conversation
Step 2:

Define the type of acoustic problem you need to solve

The problems that often arise in relation to poor room acoustics are many, but we’ve grouped them to give you a better overview:

Reverb and echo

Reverb and echo are often confused, and with good reason as the terminology can be too complex. So, let’s try to make it clear.

Reverberation is the persistence of a sound after the original sound has stopped. The brain will recognize the sound as one extended event. So, when we talk about sound transfers in a room and noise traveling from one to another end of a space, the reverberation time is too high—or, in other words, it takes too long for the original sound to drop dead. Reverb sounds may originate from people talking, air conditioning or other mechanical devices such as copiers or printers.

Echo, on the other hand, transpires when a beat of sound can be heard twice or even more times. In this case, the brain will perceive the sound as separate events.

Possible solutions

Solving problems related to reverb and echo, we advise that you bring in

  • acoustic panels like BuzziBlox and
  • other freestanding acoustic elements likeBuzziTotem, made from soft, absorbent materials to reduce sound and noise transfers,

Background noise

Background noise—or noise pollution—is one of the most common causes for

  • lack of concentration,
  • disrupting productivity, and
  • impacting well-being and happiness in the workplace negatively.

Examples of background noises include

  • chatty colleagues,
  • ringing phones, and
  • mechanical devices, e.g. refrigerators, coffee machines, and printers.
Possible solutions

To remedy issues associated with background noise, you have a range of options—from room dividers like BuzziFalls Standing, to acoustic panels and sound absorbing lighting, like BuzziShade.


 

Lack of Privacy

When we talk about lack of privacy, we refer to it in its broadest sense, including both

  • Acoustic privacy (e.g. speech privacy)
  • Visual privacy (e.g. no visual distractions)

To think that problems related to lack of privacy are linked entirely to open plan offices is counterproductive. The reality is that even employees working in cubicles report dissatisfaction with speech privacy while visual privacy isn’t a problem.

Therefore, searching for a solution to remedy privacy complaints, remember to consider all aspects of privacy as one solution will not automatically resolve both problems.

Possible solutions

For a private call or meeting, opt for solutions that provide you with shelter, such as phone booths or privacy booths like BuzziBooth. You may also consider free-standing elements, e.g. room dividers or desk partitions like BuzziTripl Wrap Desk, to divide areas and mitigate sound transfer between specific zones.


 

Step 3:

Choose a solution for the type of room

Different activities require different solutions

You have narrowed down the problem you want to solve, but finding the most suitable solution to it also depends on the size of the room, the number of people typically in the room, and on the activity of the space whether it’s a cafeteria, meeting room, lobby, library, open office, auditorium, private office or a restaurant.

In an open office space consider adding desk partitions to existing desks and furnish with privacy booths to create both acoustic and visual privacy.

Delineate different zones with room dividers or create small imaginary islands with acoustic lighting.

Generally speaking, there is no one size fits all. Depending on the activity and your need to focus, meet or socialize, we offer a variety of solutions.

Contact us to help you find the right solution for you and your team.