Office Noise and Acoustic Comfort

Maintaining acoustic comfort in the office is more than just reducing loud office noises. The acoustic environment in the office comprises all the sounds that occur throughout the day. Some of these sounds are welcome and essential in some form, such as a telephone ring. However, when sounds annoy and distract your office occupants, they are perceived as noise and will hinder your office productivity.

It is often the case in office buildings that noise from the conversations of others is a major irritant for workers, especially in open-plan offices. A large survey of North American offices found that 54% of office workers were often bothered by noise: ringing phones and conversations were most disruptive.  Generally it is the information content, predictability, necessity, and controllability that determine the noise annoyance.

It is important to note that only sound levels can be measured, noise is a subjective parameter.  Noise perceptions and its effect on occupants are best assessed via occupant satisfaction surveys. CETEC regularly conduct acoustic comfort measurements in workplaces, and occupant satisfaction surveys to assess occupant perceptions of a workplace. These surveys can be conducted to assess all elements of indoor environment quality, including acoustic comfort.

To achieve occupant acoustic satisfaction in your office it requires speech privacy and comfortable sound levels. For acceptable speech privacy your people need to be unable to understand conversations overheard from other areas/cubicles. This is a function of the ratio of sound energy from speech and other ambient sounds. If your office is quiet with little background noise, overheard speech can be perfectly intelligible and therefore more annoying because of its information content, unpredictability, and uncontrollability.

A moderate level of ambient sound will cover intermittent noise such as speech sounds, and thereby, reduce annoyance. Balanced sound levels provide privacy and prevent annoyance.

The best way to control and therefore minimise unwanted noise sources is via office design.  The acoustic properties of the office can significantly reduce sound travel by blocking sound transmission and by absorbing reflected sound.

Contact us to discuss your sound management and other indoor environment quality needs.

Measuring Noise levels in the office

Recent research suggests acoustics can have a large impact on occupant performance and productivity is often the major complaint of building occupants in open plan office environments. In an office building AS2107 recommends sound levels be between 30 and 65dB(A) and reverberation times between 0.1 and 1seconds depending on the use of the space (e.g. open plan office, breakout area, meeting room, undercover carpark etc). For open plan offices the recommended levels are 40-45dB(A) and 0.4-0.6 seconds. 

As well as assessing noise levels in offices, CETEC is able to conduct testing in a broad range of industrial environments and other facilities.

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Indoor Environment Quality