Absorbing unwanted noise with acoustic furniture

August 2017

It’s well documented that open plan offices now make up a large percentage of offices layouts, however a lack of walls and barriers in these spaces has invariably led to an increase in noise levels. There has been considerable research conducted regarding the best way to control sound and disturbances in the workplace and in particular, how this influences employee wellbeing and satisfaction. These studies have shown measured physical symptoms of stress and quantifiable loss of productivity when people are exposed to an uncomfortable acoustic working environment.

Acoustics

Previously when it came to solving sound problems and improving the working environment, the focus for businesses has been on trying to lower noise levels, however it was soon discovered that this alone was ineffective, reducing collaboration between employees and in many cases making the situation worse.

Acoustic furniture is now key to controlling acoustic levels within businesses & especially open plan spaces. Acoustics are essential in making surroundings enjoyable by minimising noise, controlling reverberations and general improving the quality of the acoustic environment in office, education and commercial interiors.

The technical bit!

Before discussing the different types of acoustic furniture that is available, let’s first understand the technicalities of noise and how sounds can travel in open spaces. Any conversation taking place in an area produces sound waves, and these sound waves spread out towards walls, ceilings, floors or any other items in the space. All materials have some sound absorbing qualities, but in spaces where all surfaces are hard and reflective, sound waves bounce around and reverberate, taking longer to dissipate.

Softer materials will absorb some of these soundwaves, preventing the transmission of sound from one space to another and this is sometimes referred to as 'Sound Attenuation'. Acoustic furniture and panels have a high sound attenuation and are solutions for the control of reverberation, reduction of speech level, and can even be used as a method of introducing ‘good’ sound into a space to reduce distractions.

The sound reduction of acoustic furniture depends on the thickness and density of the panels, protecting against the transmission of sound waves. The thicker the panel is, the lower the sound transmitted through it and the better the sound reduction ability. In buildings, the sound absorbing characteristic of a material is rated as the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) and this is measured at voice frequency.

Acoustic screens

Floor standing screens have been around for many years now and are generally regarded as a simple and cost effective method of separating parts of the office into teams and groups or creating semi-private workspaces. For even more privacy, the next generation of acoustic screens can help to create an ‘office within an office’ and be used as handy dividers for private meetings or quiet work.

Piano Screens, manufactured in the UK by Dams, are a simple way of creating quiet zones in open plan offices for different activities with excellent sound absorption. The folding screens panels are finished in high quality acoustic fabrics available in various colours. They are joined together with zips which allows for an unlimited number of screen additions, with designer feet to be placed at either end of the screen run for stability.

Wall panels

Walls are an ideal surface on which to apply acoustic products. Acoustic wall panels are designed to offer functionality as well as aesthetics, providing a sound buffer that looks good and enhances the interior. The unique and high tech innovative design of the acoustic wall tiles makes them ideal for designers with creative flair, whilst at the same time resolving any number of acoustic issues in any type of room, especially where ceiling space cannot be utilised.

Piano Wall Tiles are modular, acoustic panels and are the decorative solution to sound control needs in any office, education or retail environment. Available in square, triangular and rectangular shapes in a choice of colours and thicknesses, Piano tiles for walls can turn an empty wall space into a creative work of art which not only looks aesthetically pleasing but also provides excellent acoustic performance.

Suspended ceiling acoustics

Ceiling tiles with balanced acoustics provide the necessary combination of sound absorption and attenuation to control noise in interior environments, offering complete noise control and design flexibility for every space. These acoustic features provide open plan offices, call centres or breakout spaces with multiple levels of acoustic absorption, pertinent to the task at hand in each area. They can be positioned above the noisiest areas to help dissipate and absorb the sound, whilst providing a colourful and modern addition to the working environment.

Piano ceiling tiles can be suspended from the ceiling and hung at various heights to offer multiple levels of more focussed acoustic control, creating a unique feature that enhances spaces visually and acoustically with an unobtrusive addition to the working area. Good acoustics are also an essential element of productivity and creativity in workplaces with suspended ceilings and Dams also offer ceiling tiles which fit directly into 595mm x 595mm standard ceiling grid systems to dissipate sound.

The importance of good acoustics

The way we perceive sound depends on the physical nature of our surroundings and the acoustics are an aspect of interior design that often is neglected. Without acoustic furniture and panels, the lack of barriers between workers can lead to high noise levels and poor speech privacy which results in disgruntled employees. Acoustics are an essential element in making our surroundings enjoyable and minimising noise in the interior environment.

The best acoustic design approach is to create a good balance between the performances of the floor, the walls and the ceiling. Choosing the correct acoustic solution requires expertise however; it’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’ and it’s important to consider each environment with appropriate acoustics to their function. Companies need to understand that all offices, educational settings and commercial interiors are different and require unique solutions to provide the optimum level of noise reduction.

The different working styles of individuals must also be taken into account, as well as the tasks they are carrying out. The Dams Piano Acoustics range of screens, wall tiles, ceiling tiles, suspended panels and patterned dividers are a modern, decorative addition to enrich any space, designed with functionality in mind to reduce reverberated noise and minimise factors which drive employees to distraction.

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