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Office Noise Solutions

Office Noise Solutions

Posted In // Design Tips

The open floor plan continues to be a compelling office design option. However, it brings with it the major challenge of acoustics. How can you reduce noise and keep your productivity strong?

The example of Building 20

The move toward the open office, often embraced as more cost-effective and geared toward interactivity, is perhaps best exemplified by Building 20 at Facebook headquarters. The new facility serves as the workplace of some 2800 people within 430,000 square feet.

Facebook, assisted by the architectural expertise of Frank Gehry, has essentially taken it to the extreme with the most sizable open floor plan ever created. This physical transparency is applied all the way to the top, with even Mark Zuckerberg at one of the uniform desks.

The dramatic embrace of the open office model by Facebook gives it substantial business credibility, but not everyone likes the idea of being out in the open – even though more than two-thirds of American offices are now designed that way.

“Although the trend has been growing for more than a decade,” notes The Washington Post, “studies have reported that some people find them noisy and distracting, even a drain on morale.”

The impact of noise on office success

It’s important to address the issue of sound, because an Australian study revealed that sound privacy is by far the biggest complaint of open office personnel. Additional research from the United States found that the average office worker loses 86 minutes per day to noise distraction.

What’s going on is that the human brain is capable of handling only 1.6 conversations at a time, so when our focus shifts to another conversation, our inner voice is incapable of proceeding, according to office noise specialist Julian Treasure.

Four tactics for a quieter office

Here are four ways to reduce noise in your office:

Sound masking – By increasing the background noise, irrelevant conversations are less jarring. This acoustic trick incorporates sound producers, equalizers and acoustic discs for sound-balancing.

Plant acoustics – Plants have been used to reduce noise along freeways for decades. In an office, they can do the same by cutting reverberation time. Line any hard-surfaced areas with plants, and they will absorb some of the sound.

Diversity of design – You want employees to have access to different types of settings depending on the type of work they need to complete. If you don’t diversity, you can compromise by putting in lower dividers to benefit from both partial privacy and sunlight.

Tapping expertise – Finally, when you get ready to plan a space, you want to work with a strong partner. At Beaux-Arts Group, we "understand" space; providing answers to complex workplace challenges such as ergonomics, technology, generational differences, corporate identity, and acoustics. Explore our services.
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