Acoustics in the workspace are essential for employee productivity, performance, and well-being. They’re so important in the design of a healthy, modern workspace. Having quality acoustics means employees can stop hiding behind their headphones and start enjoying their work environment more fully.
Finding the Perfect Balance
Finding the balance of acoustics in your workspace starts with listening to what bothers you and your peers. Start at the foundation of your design and focus on the areas that are not functioning very well. In open floor office spaces, employees might complain about excess noise, bad acoustics, and even their privacy.
The Science of Acoustics
Understanding the science behind acoustics and noise reduction can be complicated, but it’s important to have a grasp on how it all works. Basically, sound waves go through the air as vibrations and are then converted by your inner eye to electric signals which your brain translates to what we recognize as sound.
These sound waves are contrived of two different types—frequency and decibel.
Frequencies determine the tone of a sound, or its wavelength. Wavelengths are measured by sound vibrations and are expressed in Hertz. There are high tones, like cellphone ringtones; mid-tones, such a conversation between people; and low frequencies, like HVAC. The audible range for the human ear is from 20 to 20,000 Hz. The recommended frequency for workspaces is from 100 Hz to 5,000 Hz.
Decibels (dB) determine the intensity of sounds, otherwise known as volume; humans can hear between 0 dB and 140 dB. Frequencies have no correlation with decibels, meaning two sounds can share the same frequency, but have completely different volumes. Remember that every space has different background noise (i.e. air conditioning, printers, electronics, etc.)—and that’s important to remember when thinking about the acoustics of your workspace.
While noisy spaces can interfere with concentration and communication, a dead quiet office can also pose many problems. The ratio of background noise to other noises on the volume scale is important to consider. The recommended background noise for an office is around 45 dB.
Reverberation Time in the Workspace
Reverberation, or reverb, time is simply the amount of time it takes for a sound to dissipate. There are many factors that affect reverb time, such as the size of the space, the temperature, and the materials in the space, including people. It’s important to understand how reverb works within your workspace, as high reverberation can exacerbate existing sounds by causing them to reflect from hard surfaces, and in turn, make it more difficult for employees to concentrate or have simple conversations.
If you’re having a difficult time understanding reverb, it helps to think of it visually by replacing sound waves with light. If you point a flashlight towards a mirror or a reflective surface, the light reflects back. If you point the light onto a black wall, the light is unable to reflect back with the same intensity and even appears to not reflect back at all.
When dealing with sound waves, it’s important to have surfaces that allow sound to be absorbs. If given the opportunity, sound will continue to reverberate until its volume is so low that it’s inaudible. So, by understanding how reverb works, you will be able to properly equip your workspace with the necessary tools to create the perfect reverberation time.
Here are some recommended reverberation times from BuzziSpace:
Office Spaces: 0.75s
Conference Rooms: 0.60s
If you’re having trouble figuring out how to measure reverb time in your space, check out the BuzziSpace RT60 app for iPhone and then contact us here at BOS for help designing and installing your new acoustic setup.
Building Acoustics vs. Room Acoustics
There’s a big difference between building acoustics and room acoustics.
Building acoustics have to do with the construction of the space. How clearly can you hear outside sounds inside your space? If you have the opportunity, it’s extremely beneficial to work with the architect while building your space.
Room acoustics are just as important. Instead of worrying about the construction of the walls of the space, turn your focus to absorption materials.
The acoustic environment experts at BuzziSpace use three principles to create the best office acoustics:
Absorption: the sound waves are absorbed via soft material
Attenuation: reducing the effect of the sound waves
Diffusion: the sound waves are spread evenly throughout the space
Controlling the acoustics in your workspace is just as important as the layout and physical design of the space. While acoustics can seem hard to control, it’s actually much easier than you might think, especially when you have help from our team here at BOS!
Does your workspace have problems with sound? Connect with the industry’s most experienced team today to learn more.