Why your workplace needs better acoustics
It’s so important for both our mental and physical wellbeing that noise is controlled in offices, education facilities, public spaces, and medical facilities. Given our ever-increasing urban lifestyle, it is critical that these spaces maintain decent acoustics. Inadequate acoustics can cause health issues, reduce productivity and increase stress.
Fact: All noise is sound, but not all sound is noise! Noise is unwanted sound that’s judged to be unpleasant, loud or disruptive to hearing.
Noise impacts all facets of our life, including how we work. Poor acoustics can impact on offices, education facilities, public spaces, retail and medical industries.
In this news post, we’ll talk about the definition of acoustics and the options available to improve the acoustics in your workspace through noise control solutions.
What is acoustics?
The properties or qualities of a room or building that determine how sound is transmitted in it is known as that space’s acoustics.
Decibel (dB) is a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound – or simply, how loud something is. For example, a whispered conversation is 20 dB, an office is 45-50 dB, and a plane taking off comes in at 120 dB.
Reverberation time (RT) is the time it takes for sound to die away. For more information on reverberation read our blog “what is reverberation?”
Why noise control is so important in offices
99% of people say their concentration is impaired by office noise, which greatly impacts productivity – in fact, studies show it takes 20 minutes for office workers to regain their concentration after a distraction. This small delay, repeated many times, causes countless lost hours over the working day, week, and year.
There are many sources of office distraction: conversations, phone calls, coughing, ringtones, snacking, whistling, tapping, slamming doors, background noise and headphone noise. For example, as I write this I can hear typing, a squeaking chair, and voices from the boardroom – all of which are vying for my attention and impacting my productivity.
If each of these distractions takes me up to 20 minutes to regain my focus, and this happens say 4 times a day, that’s 80 minutes per day of lost hours – or 7 hours per week and 28 hours lost in the month! This creates an annual cost to the business of $10,000-$15,000 just for me – imagine the expense of distraction to multiple employees.
The reason people get distracted by external stimuli is due to our ‘fight or flight’ response to certain sounds. Our ancestors linked loud, distinguishable noises with high-stress events that signalled danger. Today, we get the same fight or flight urges from office sounds such as loud conversations, ringtones, music, and snacks. Not only do these sounds contribute to fight or flight urges but people becoming distracted and frustrated while at work.
Left unchecked, these normal, day-to-day sounds can cause staff to become unhappy and productivity to decrease.
The importance of noise control in education
Acoustically poor teaching spaces can make hearing and understanding speech very difficult. And poor acoustics has negative impacts on students and teachers.
Traditionally, classrooms were set up to facilitate teacher-driven learning: the teacher standing at the front of the classroom dictating the lesson through the use of slides and other visuals. Today, with our advancing technologies, teaching styles have changed. The goals of supporting more collaboration, using group work, and undertaking complex problem solving have required good acoustic design to promote concentration and speech communication.
Acoustically poor teaching spaces can make hearing and understanding speech very difficult for children – which is why such spaces are unsuitable for learning situations.
Students, in particular young children, require good listening conditions. The teacher’s voice needs to be loud and clear above the background noise, which may include traffic, other school-related activities, or general classroom noise. Teachers in class should be able to use a teaching voice, free from vocal stress to minimise long term strain and damage.
Insufficient acoustics can lead to disengagement from learning by students and damage to a teacher’s voice, leading to sick leave.
Public spaces noise control
Poor acoustics can impact the way we taste our food. It’s true!
Think back to the last time you were at a restaurant. Was it busy? Or were there only a few people in the space? If there were only a few patrons and you still had to raise your voice to speak to your wait staff, it’s a good sign that poor acoustics were present. Ordinary acoustics can impact the way we taste our food – science proves that significant levels of background noise reduce a person’s ability to detect sweet and salty foods!
Have you ever left a restaurant early because of noise? 80% of participants in a recent poll said they have left a restaurant early due to noise levels, and 43% said they prefer takeaway to the din of a restaurant. While many of us accept this noise as the new norm, we still expect respect – to have the ability to converse easily and enjoy ourselves when in a public space.
Public spaces require acoustic treatments that restore a neutral sound balance; that is, interfering with the path of sound to control the sound energy. Restoring the neutral sound balance will make for more pleasant user experience and potentially increase visitors to a restaurant, library, sporting facility or recreation centre.
Noise control for retail spaces
In recent years, there has been exponential growth in the use of open floor plans, bare walls, an abundance of glass and minimalist design in retail spaces. But while these design cues may be visually appealing, they do not facilitate good acoustics. A space that is too noisy can seem hostile, unsafe, overcrowded and uncomfortable, and create a stressful experience for the shopper.
Research shows many people judge a store by its noise and some avoid a store or leave before they progress too fair inside the doorway. The good news? Studies also show that by altering a retail space to make it acoustically comfortable, stores can increase sales by 3-10%. This can be done through the installation of acoustic wall or ceiling coverings, along with the addition of carpeted floors and soft furnishings.
The application of acoustic panels does not have to impact the aesthetics of your shop – in fact, Avenue Interior Systems can colour match the panels to your shop’s colour scheme, or you can choose images to be printed directly on the panel to make it a feature.
The importance of noise control for medical facilities
Hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, and aged care facilities that lack acoustics can have detrimental impacts on staff and patients. That’s why good acoustics in the medical industry is crucial.
Noisy hospitals do not solely impact patients; too much noise can result in an adverse effect on the team. Due to the noise, hospital staff:
- Can develop an annoyance response (irritation due to noise)
- Need to exert more energy causing more fatigue, and
- Have increased stress levels.
Part of the trust between the patient care team (PCT) and their patient involves an assurance that the conversations held in the examination room are private. If by chance you heard a previous patient’s concerns while waiting for your appointment, you are less likely to confide in your doctor, leading to potential misdiagnosis and taking longer to return to good health.
What’s more, if communication with the PCT is audible outside the examination room, this can be a breach of privacy – and the doctor can be liable.
Supporting safety, health, healing and wellbeing with excellent acoustics will reduce medical errors by promoting open conversation among patients, families and the PCT. Good acoustics give the perception of privacy, comfort, safety and security for patients and their families, whereas poor acoustics has the opposite effect, increasing misdiagnosis and the chance of readmission to care facilities.
Noise control for nursing homes
Excess noise in care facilities causes confusion and agitation for dementia patients, causing them to wander, fall or develop behaviour problems such as anxiety and agitation. That’s why it’s essential that nursing homes and hospitals maintain appropriate noise levels for people living with dementia.
The benefits of a quiet environment for people with dementia are:
- They will respond more, since they have more time to process information and require less effort to concentrate
- Appropriate sound levels can improve communication, as the person can focus on one interaction
- A quiet environment can minimise confusion and help patients to concentrate and rest, and
- More peaceful spaces achieve more dignified care for people suffering from dementia.
Solutions to poor workplace acoustics
Success in achieving effective sound insulation or attenuation in the workspace relies on the usage of the space, the building structure, the type of ceilings and partitions and attention to detail.
If your workspace is too noisy, consider whether you can:
- Stop or remove noise
- Cover 25% of the available wall space with a Class A absorbent material – a really simple way to improve the acoustic comfort of any space
- Use acoustic wall panels, carpets and ceiling tiles to soak up excess sound
- Install solid barriers, partitions and walls to help stop the sound
- Use sound masking to help cover up or ‘soothe’ the sound
- Install sound insulation, which slows or stops the sound waves by physically blocking their travel from one room to another
AcousTech: professional acoustic modelling
Engaging an AcousTech acoustic engineer will give you the information you need to design an acoustically sound space. The acoustic engineer will work with an acoustic provider such as Avenue Interior Systems to deliver you an outstanding result.
Some of the data gathering methods they may use include:
- Acoustic measurements of equivalent continuous sound level and daily exposure levels
- Acoustic modelling of your building and processes using CadnaA state-of-the-art acoustic predictor software
- Measurements of sound reverberation time inside buildings
- Sound measurements
- Noise surveys: different acoustic descriptors will be used (LAEq, LA90, daily exposure, frequency spectrum, airborne or impact noise testing, reverberation time calculation, etc.)
- Modelling: spreadsheet or 3D computer-based
- Assessment: Industrial impact noise, noise reduction
- Reporting including noise mappings and management plans
- Acoustic commissioning, testing and certification
Talk to Avenue about custom noise control for your space
Good acoustics improve the health and attitudes of people frequenting/living in a space. In office spaces and retail environments, it can even increase profits by improving staff productivity and increase the number of people visiting a store.
Contact the team today on 1300 827 177 or get in touch with us online.