The Sound of life: Balanced acoustics for a better life

The Sound of life: Balanced acoustics for a better life

When we think of modern interior architecture, we imagine large open spaces with high ceilings, concrete walls and glass partitions with little furniture. The open floor plan is still among the most popular designs, especially in workplaces, but it causes acoustic challenges. With fewer surfaces to absorb it, the sound echoes and reverberates around the office space uncontrolled. Architects are tasked with finding creative solutions because a poor acoustic design with limited sound absorption and reflection qualities can seriously affect employee focus and productivity. What are big beautiful spaces worth if they are impossible to work in?

Noise slows productivity

Closer and faster employee communication is one of the main reasons the open concept design is so prevalent in offices. No walls equal no restrictions to approach someone at any time of day or have a quick brainstorming session. Yet while collaboration among employees gets a boost, ability to focus can suffer, especially if the acoustic design of the building is lacking.

Noise is one of the most common acoustic distractions at work. 79% of office workers report that noise makes it hard to concentrate. People are chatting around, the air vents are humming, or the sales team is having a heated discussion in a poorly soundproofed conference room. Different irritating sounds can distract or overwhelm employees and make them unable to focus on their tasks resulting in reduced productivity.

How acoustics affect learning

Anyone can attest to how difficult it is to work or study in a place with poor acoustics. In schools, noise hinders students' learning and disrupts teachers' workflow. Contemporary education is discussion-based, full of interaction between teachers and students. The acoustic materials in the classrooms need to absorb, carry and reflect sound simultaneously, making the acoustic design even more complex.

Schools are considered noisy spaces, so the focus is naturally put towards powerful sound absorbers. All the children in the classroom must hear the teacher, no matter where they are seated. But if the room's acoustic design features a heavily-absorbing ceiling, the teacher will have to strain her voice to reach everyone. 

The best solution, in this case, would be to place absorbers with moderate absorption in the ceiling and add absorbers to the back wall to minimise reflections. Good acoustics are defined by our listening comfort and ability to understand the spoken word.