Photo credit: Soundsticks by Offecct
By David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Casja Carlson, writing for online architecture and design magazine, Dezeen, tells us about designer Andrea Ruggiero’s noise-reducing Soundsticks, which she says are a “free-standing alternative to acoustic panels, made from leftover materials for Swedish furniture manufacturer Offecct.” Carlson says that this new product has been lab-tested, but I couldn’t find any lab reports to verify the claims about reducing office noise. Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to see European designers actually tackling the office noise problem—it’s considered an important problem in the EU.
Basically, the most important way to reduce office noise is to add absorptive surface materials, starting with the ceiling. Yes, the ceiling is the most important surface, not the floor. But dividers—including acoustical curtains—can play an important role too.
What most architects and interior designers do not know is that it’s quite easy to calculate how much sound absorptive material to add, and where to add it. But they might need to hire an acoustics engineer to run those calculations for them. It’s definitely not a guessing game—it’s completely predictable. So a designer can actually consider a wide range of solutions that are available now, including Soundsticks, to get to a level of acoustical comfort that is suitable to the kind of work being done in an office space.
My point is this: There’s a growing range of options available to designers to achieve acoustical comfort, so there’s no excuse anymore for continuing to ignore the problem of noise in open offices. It’s not a mystery, it can be fixed. And people are more productive and happier in spaces where acoustical comfort has been consciously designed in.
David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.