The office that sounds as peaceful as it looks

With good acoustics, open-plan offices become pleasant places to work

NA, Don Tyson Center for Agricultural Sciences, University of Arkansas, laboratory, classroom, 1200, suspension system, grid, Sonar, SLT, 2x2, panels, reveal

We experience a room with all our senses. So shouldn’t architects spend as much time on how a space sounds as they do on how it looks? Office acoustics are the second most important physical feature affecting workplace productivity (after light). As we shift towards a ‘knowledge economy’ where success depends increasingly on human productivity and satisfaction, office noise is becoming a pressing issue for businesses.

Acoustics have become particularly problematic in the open offices that many companies now use. As Søren Peter Lund, a senior researcher at the Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment explains:

"The lack of privacy in an open office makes workers feel like they are constantly being watched, and the noises around them might be perceived as a threat and an intrusion. Especially when people are talking around you it becomes very difficult to concentrate. The acoustic quality of a room is one of the main factors to take into account when designing spaces that are used for both communicative and cognitive tasks".