Well, well, well – Office acoustics and wellbeing
For many years, the design of modern workplaces has been driven by sustainability. However, over the past few years, there has been a realisation that we create buildings for people, and the wellbeing of these people should be the priority. Good acoustics play a key part in creating environments that promote productivity and within offices, partition systems play a role in keeping noise out, as well as in, and in doing so contribute to occupier wellbeing.
It has been claimed that we spend over 90% of our time indoors and in an office environment, 90% of the cost is the people inside. As such, there is a clear need to create buildings that make the occupants feel better, and in turn, happier and more productive.
There are a number of industry standards that look at enhancing and measuring criteria that affect building interiors. This includes BREEAM – the international sustainability assessment method – and the WELL Building Standard, a standard that measures human health and wellness using evidence-based medical and scientific research to help inform better design of buildings.
Within both of these standards’ acoustic features, the reason is simple – one of the biggest workplace complaints is that of noise. Noise impacts people’s behaviour. It can distract them and it can cause stress. Create an environment that manages noise and you are instantly creating an environment that promotes wellbeing and in doing so, a happier and more productive workplace.
When looking at the design of office interiors, architects and designers need to put acoustics as a key criterion. Understanding acoustics can be complicated. Noise can be generated from a number of different surface types and sound transmission needs to be considered when looking at, amongst other elements, floor finishes, ceilings, furniture and partitioning.
As well as managing sound transmission across the workplace there is also the need to create areas that offer privacy. Most offices feature meeting rooms and boardrooms, and in many instances, there is a need for these spaces to be soundproof so that confidential discussions can be held. Therefore, it is a case of keeping noise out, as well as in. However, there is also the need for these spaces to feel open and airy rather than claustrophobic and closed in. This is where the acoustic performance of glazed partitions needs to be assessed.
The performance of a glazed partition is measured by the Sound Reduction Index (SRI) which measures the ability of the product to reduce the level of sound passing through it. To establish the SRI a product needs to be tested at a UKAS accredited acoustic laboratory in accordance with EN ISO 10140-1 and 2, the official measurement of sound insulation of building materials. The output is then presented in dB (Rw) – decibels and weighted sound reduction index – in accordance with EN ISO 717-1; the higher the figure, the better the performance.
This rating allows architects and designers to compare one system with another. For example, our LOFT100 can provide acoustics up to 54dB Rw in a double glazed format. When you compare this to an alternative manufacturer’s double glazed system which achieves 45dB Rw, the difference is clear. As well as the partition, consideration also needs to be given to the doors and drywall as they will all contribute to the overall performance of a system.
By understanding how to compare systems and how noise impacts workplace environments, we can go a long way to creating more comfortable interiors and in doing so, create environments that people want to work in. And this is the real payback: an environment that promotes happiness and wellbeing will enhance productivity, help to reduce staff churn and create a more efficient business. Well, isn’t that something we would all wish for?