Designers look for solutions as modern designs bring on a new set of acoustic challenges
Modern approaches to building design have our public and working spaces looking and feeling much different than in the past. Open concepts and the reduction of private rooms and offices are breaking down communication barriers and promoting collaboration. New designs are also allowing for more natural light and warmth by incorporating glass walls, high ceilings and low partitions.
The green building movement continues to gain momentum as well, with a focus on more sustainable building practices. This includes avoiding less eco-friendly materials in the design of new spaces – carpets, for example – and the increased use of clean, sound-reflective surfaces for walls and flooring.
When looking at how far building design has come, it’s easy to see the benefits. What is often less apparent is how these trends are actually impacting the occupant experience – in fact, you have to listen for it. Open spaces, bare floors and reflective surfaces common in modern design are also known for their ability to bounce or reflect sound. When left uncontrolled with outdated acoustic design approaches, noise created in these spaces has the opportunity to travel and disturb those trying to work, focus or even relax. Many of today's building's post occupancy surveys show dissatisfaction with both noise levels and sound privacy.
Despite going unseen, sound can be the most prominent characteristic in a room. It plays a major role in the true experience of design; ask anyone who has tried to concentrate in an open-concept office, or has had to call into a meeting being held in an overly echoic conference room. If not controlled properly, the sound of the apple crunchers, door slammers, toe tappers and constant gabbers can cause increased distractions and impede productivity. For those in healthcare environments, noise even has a negative impact on clinician accuracy and patient recovery.
With greater awareness than ever before of the impact noise has on our daily lives, it’s important to understand the old, compromised ways of controlling noise no longer work in today’s high-performing spaces. And it’s time to make a change.