Open plan workspaces are on the rise and there is an ongoing debate around the benefits it actually brings. One of the main issues with open concept offices is the poor acoustic experience. In an environment where people need to concentrate but collaborate, have conversations but stay focused there is a challenge to find a workable compromise to control disruptive noise.
One of the main ways to overcome this hurdle is by integrating acoustic planning when when designing a space. Acoustics can often be treated as an afterthought, but the following four reasons demonstrate exactly why it’s so crucial to consider it early in the planning stages.
One of the arguments against open plan workspaces is that it harms productivity. Environmental distractions are endless, from face to face conversations, phone or video conferencing, chairs moving, the coffee machine, the list continues. More and more offices are moving towards Activity Based Working (ABW) which means that people are less likely to be stationary at one desk all day long and instead, will move between different areas in a space to do the work. Acoustics play a critical role in this instance where noise levels can be controlled in certain areas where more insulation is required. For example, this can be achieved by selecting sound-absorbing materials for walls, doors and flooring.
Although open plan workspaces are designed to promote transparency and egalitarian work cultures, there is still a need for enclosed rooms to have confidential meetings and discussions. Acoustics are very important to consider when designing for offices and meeting rooms, to maintain the appropriate level of privacy for very open offices.
On top of regular work stress, excessive noise levels can contribute to increased overall stress for some individuals. This could contribute to absenteeism and reduced productivity in a workplace.
Acoustics are just as important in learning spaces as they are in workspaces, as discussed by Dr. Terry Byers, a research fellow at Melbourne University. In a recent article featured in Architecture and Design, his argument against large open plan classrooms points to a direct correlation between learning and teaching outcomes and the physical performance of a classroom.
Depending on the needs and the purpose of the space and the occasions it may be used in, knowing the acoustic ratings of doors and partitions will aid in determining which ones to use. Acoustics in large venue spaces, for example, where multiple rooms or sections may be in use at any given point in time, need to be carefully planned in order to serve its purpose.
These factors all have a major impact on performance outcomes for individuals and teams alike, whether they are working in an office, learning in a classroom or using the space for a special event. It is therefore imperative to apply accurate and up to date acoustic knowledge when designing spaces.
The acoustic ratings Criterion’s partition, sliding and door suites were obtained through extensive testing of the following variables:
Learn more about the specifications by downloading our acoustic report.
Feature image: Hub Southern Cross. Image supplied by Hub Australia.