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What is all this noise about Room Acoustics?

In an open-plan office environment, people collaborate and concentrate in the same space, exposing them to an elevated level of stimuli, including everything from a co-worker’s conversation to the neighborhood espresso machine. Overwhelmed and unable to control the sound they experience; people are becoming increasingly distracted and stressed at work.

So, how can organizations provide high-performing work environments that leverage the open plan’s real benefits while simultaneously addressing its drawbacks? Room acoustics are the key.

What is Room Acoustics?

Room Acoustics is the field of acoustics that describes how sound propagates in a closed or semi-closed space. Each space has its own sound ‘fingerprint,’ which affects sound quality, whether speech, music, or any noise.

Let’s break down standard definitions of acoustics.

Sound can be measured.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB), a unit that expresses magnitudes of difference. The decibel scale accurately represents the large and dynamic range humans hear—from the rustle of a leaf at 10 dB to the roar of a jet engine at 120 dB.

Low and high sound waves move differently.
High-pitched sounds produce shorter sound waves compared to low-pitched sounds. Lower sounds (longer waves) will likely pass through thin materials, curve around barriers, and bend through gaps and apertures. High sounds (short waves) are more directional, making them likely to bend less around barriers.

Sound propagation at work.
Sound propagation is related to spatial decay. The farther away from the source of the sound, the more the sound level decreases. This is a challenge in open-plan offices where workers are expected to communicate and concentrate in the same space, and it contributes to two of the main noise complaints: distraction by speech and lack of speech privacy.

Reverberated sound waves impact speech clarity.
When a sound wave reflects off a surface, it bounces back. A combination of reflections inside an enclosed space creates reverberation. Naturally, direct sound waves, which go directly from the source to what receives the sound, and reflected sound waves, which hit at least one surface while traveling, do not arrive at the ear simultaneously. Humans are great at filtering for this effect. If direct and reflected sounds are heard less than 50–80 milliseconds apart, they are typically perceived as a single sound.

If sound waves arrive at the ear after 80 milliseconds, they can be perceived as a new sound — an echo. Environments full of reflective materials like windows, concrete, and brick — often seen in modern offices — reflect more sound, as less of it tends to be absorbed. If there is too much reverberation, speech clarity decreases, making you expend more mental energy to listen or physical energy to raise your voice to be heard.

Sencomm saw a need in our customers for acoustics solutions. So, we are partnering with Origin Acoustics to provide acoustic room treatments.

Dividers

Desk dividers are designed to create a sense of visual and acoustic privacy in a shared open-plan office while adding to the overall acoustic quality.

Suspended Panels

Control the acoustics of your office space with this range of suspended acoustic absorbers.

Acoustic Wallpaper

The acoustic wallpaper line is made entirely from recycled PET and designed for wall-to-wall coverage. It elegantly mimics materials with a high-definition printed finish.

Our favorite offering is Acoustic Tiles.

We offer Altay and Myriad designs in different colors, shapes, fabrics, and textures. Our clients also love that we can create branded Acoustic Tiles with company logos. These tiles can absorb sound on call center walls, office spaces, and confinement rooms. Check out our custom tile picture.

Download our Sencomm Acoustic cheat sheet to learn more about the benefits of acoustic room treatments.

Contact us for a custom quote at onesales@sencomm on how we can design the perfect acoustic solution for your office workplace. We can share before-and-after case studies with you to show you how our customers are using this sound technology today.