Flexible working models - how to create silence ?

About Acoustics

Open-plan offices, flexible workplaces, unrestricted view, one department, short paths of communication - all these are slogans that characterize the new, flexible working models

When we work in a reverberant room and a colleague two meters away from us talks on the phone, we hear him or her almost as loud as you hear our self, which can be very disturbing. Due to the short distance between the source of sound and the person that is (involuntarily) listening, a short reverberation time is not sufficient make sure that employees can work in peace and the benefits of flexible working models are preserved. To achieve this, sound needs to be blocked, which is done by placing sound screens in between the different work stations.

At a screen height of 150 cm, the view of the employees on each other is severely affected, but at a screen height of 110 to 130 the view remains practically unrestricted. To meet the minimum requirements regarding noise disturbance at work caused by speech noise, sound usually needs to be reduced by 10dB (this corresponds roughly to doubling the distance in the open, where there are no acoustics).
As a result, the noise in the office is only about half as loud.

As sound reflections add up within a room and thus the noise pollution for the colleagues that sit behind someone, it is necessary that sound insulation screens not only absorb, but also block sound.

But as sound absorbing material alone can’t block noise, mass needs to be added and we need to take reflection areas in the direct environment of the work place into consideration, such as side walls and the ceiling (these direct sound “detours“ also need to be covered with absorption material).