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Noise Transfer
19 October 2015

Controlling The Noise: Strategies for Noise Reduction by Minimising Noise Transfer

Every year, the International Facility Management Association produces a ranked list of workplace complaints, and every year privacy and noise complaints crack the top 10. The top two complaints—“workplace too hot” and “workplace too cold”—are easily addressed with a thermostat adjustment, but complaints about a lack of privacy or about a workplace that is too noisy demand more sophisticated noise reduction solutions. Whether it is keeping sound in, keeping sound out, or substantially reducing the volume (perceived or actual) in a shared workspace, an intelligent office fit out can solve acoustic issues with a mixture of construction techniques and materials. The result will be an office in which closed-door meetings are as private as they should be and shared workspaces (even busy ones) feel much quieter for those who use them each day.

The importance of acoustically intelligent office fitout and shopfitting

An acoustically intelligent office fitout can represent the difference between a workspace in which constant sonic disruptions drain productivity and a serene working environment, one that effortlessly lends itself to prolonged periods of intense concentration and powerful person-to-person communication. The same can be said for shopfitting that pays attention, not just to aesthetic considerations, but to acoustic ones as well. Sharp business owners are starting to see the many benefits of this attention to sonic detail. By adding Gyprock Soundcheck, a high-density gypsum plasterboard with increased noise absorption properties, to their office or retail fit out, business owners are able to cost-effectively minimise noise transfer. The resulting acoustically engineered environment features dramatically fewer sonic disruptions. This boosts office-wide productivity and general wellbeing while at the same time creating a more secure environment—one in which sensitive information is secure behind sound-dampening slab to slab partitioning and solid core doors.

A good construction company can tailor a solution to fit your noise transfer issue

There are two different kinds of sound (each with its own set of solutions) that the right blend of materials and construction techniques can combat. The first is airborne sound. This can include everything from human voices, music and traffic to birdcalls and the sounds produced by low-flying aircraft. The second is impact sound (also known as structure-borne sound). This includes footsteps, slamming doors, chairs being rolled or pushed along the floor and, in certain environments, the sound of heavy machinery—particularly the kind that produces a great deal of vibration. The most disruptive acoustic annoyances tend to be those that produce both airborne and structure-borne sound (heavy machinery or construction noises, especially when they are nearby, can make concentration or even communication close to impossible).

A first-rate fit out specialist will assess your environment and your needs and offer a balance of two strategies: sound insulation and sound absorption. Sound insulation will reduce the sound energy that is transmitted into adjoining air spaces. This usually involves partitions made of sound-resistant materials and the shoring up of sonic weak points like doors and windows. Sound absorption reduces the sound energy reflected by a given room’s many surfaces. While this doesn’t keep sound out as well as insulation does, it does help keep sound in, which dramatically increases an environment’s sound quality (particularly important in meeting spaces and shared workspaces). Since each business is faced with a unique set of acoustic problems, only a tailor-made solution will have the desired outcome.

Noise reduction solutions to consider when fitting out your office, shop front or warehouse

We turn now to some of the specific noise reduction solutions that today’s top construction companies and fit out specialists are finding particularly useful. Since specific business owner expectations and acoustic disruptions cover a broad spectrum, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, those with concerns related to their acoustic environment can be roughly grouped into four camps.

  1. Seeking assurance that what goes on behind closed doors stays there

  • Privacy is an important consideration in office environments. Quiet and functional acoustic environments have a way of assuring those who work in them that private information remains that way.

  • Slab to slab partitioning, which goes from the floor slab through the ceiling to the top slab is the most effective way of making sure that your board rooms or offices are secure zones in which sensitive information can be freely exchanged.

  • Dacron acoustic insulation, a high-performance acoustic solution, can be used inside walls and ceilings to further reduce sound transmission.

  • Solid core doors do a good deal to make the room’s entry points acoustically secure, but those seeking even more protection are combining solid core doors with acoustic door frames and door bottom seals designed for the gap between the door and the frame and the door and the floor.

  1. Seeking to improve the acoustic quality of a given environment

  • Sometimes, keeping sound out and keeping it in are not enough. For instance, in shared workspaces with little or no attention to acoustics, cascading waves of reflected sound can make concentration all but impossible.

  • Sound absorption is key here. If the amount of sound absorption in a room is doubled, the sound energy in a room is cut in half. Even if the sound level only drops a few decibels, the perceived sound level is much lower.

  • In shared workspaces, acoustic partitions on desks and workstations can reduce noise pollution by as much as 10 decibels. Concrete, timber and glass are all highly reflective. By adding surfaces like rugs, carpets, and acoustic walls and ceiling panels, a dull roar can quickly become a soft murmur.

  • In shared workspaces, acoustic partitions on desks and workstations can reduce noise pollution by as much as 10 decibels.

  1. Looking to keep traffic noise and other street-level disruptions to a minimum

  • To this camp belong those who operate shop fronts or offices in high-traffic areas. The key is not to create a completely silent environment (customers, clients, and employees can find silence unsettling); rather, the goal is to create an environment in which background noise remains in the background. For large, open areas including foyers and shopping centres, sound absorption can help to reduce the cacophonic effects of pedestrian traffic, music, and overlapping conversation. Gyprock Soundcheck is a high-density gypsum plasterboard with increased noise absorption properties that is ideal for commercial walls and ceilings.

  • Acoustic mounting systems, with plasterboard mounted to resilient mounts, are a proven way to reduce ambient noise levels.

  • Since doors are a particularly weak acoustic link, the use of solid core doors can help create quiet zones in otherwise high-decibel areas.

Concrete, timber and glass are all highly reflective. By adding surfaces like rugs, carpets, and acoustic walls and ceiling panels, a dull roar can quickly become a soft murmur.

  1. Looking for ways to prevent or limit noise transfer

  • For the most part, this is limited to those who want to curb the amount of noise transfer stemming from their use of heavy machinery. Even the loudest structure-borne sounds can be managed with the help of sound-dampening technology.

  • Wavebar (a lead-lined, flexible, mass-loaded, vinyl nose barrier) significantly reduces both impact and airborne sound and is perfectly suited to industrial fit outs and construction. It is also ideal for office partitions, meeting rooms, and any other space in which acoustic quality is paramount.

These camps are by no means exclusive: one might find himself at any of the number of points where they intersect. Before deciding which solution is right for your specific needs, be sure to talk to a fit out specialist who is well versed in noise reduction solutions.