, ,

Reducing Office Noise With Soundproof Folding Room Dividers

Snip20170714_1

From homes to businesses, there are often times when a little quiet is necessary within a room or rooms. Soundproofing materials are fantastic at helping to absorb sound and reduce noise, but what happens when you only need soundproofing sometimes or when your needs change according to location? When your needs in soundproofing vary, soundproof folding room dividers may offer the solution you’re looking for.

Effective Sound Proofing

Snip20170714_2

There are many scenarios in homes and office buildings where soundproofing is required. From creating a study area to partitioning off places where private conversations are had, reducing and absorbing sound can be hugely beneficial to many people.

EchoPanel modular screen systems from Kerei offer flexible, versatile, and effective soundproofing solutions. Each panel, made from recycled plastic bottles, is designed to absorb the sounds in the area. The panels are pieced together with joints that allow you to customize the shape, size, and position of the panels to best meet your needs.

So, whether you need to quickly partition off a seating area to have a private conversation with a client, you want to set up a quiet study area in the midst of a busy room, the dividers can give you the results you need in just minutes.

Why Room Dividers

Snip20170714_3

Soundproofing materials are available in a wide range of different styles and options. From tiles to panels that you can use to build furniture, you have more options today in soundproofing your home, office, or school than ever before.

Soundproof folding room dividers offer a flexibility that adds another layer of usefulness, however. With a folding room divider, you have the ability to move the screen where you need it at the time. For open spaces and offices that have a more flexible layout, this is invaluable as it allows people to work and converse when and where they want to. Rather than adding soundproofing material to every inch of the room, the dividers let you move and set up the area you intend for use. They have the ability to screen you from view, as well as to help reduce the sound. So, you can get a more private area that’s useful for confidential conversations as well as for studying and concentration.

Room dividers also allow you to create semi-permanent work areas that can be changed at any time with little issue. For example, putting a divider between two desks gives you two private spaces that can be turned back into one by simply folding the divider away. As more offices begin to turn toward an open layout with emphasis being put on communal spaces and more socialization within the workplace, having the ability to create a temporary private area is sometimes necessary.

Room dividers that are also soundproof let you create the ultimate in privacy. And because they can fold flat when not in use, they’re easily stored until they next time they’re needed.

Versatile Options

Snip20170714_4

Soundproof room dividers come in a several shapes, sizes, and colors, which enable you to customize their use to your needs. Whether you intend to leave them out on a semi-permanent basis and need something that will complement your office décor, or you plan on moving and setting them up on a case by case basis, you can easily find a set of panels that work with your needs.

By selecting a “kit” of different parts, you can reconfigure your dividers again and again. Set up a three-way seating area to allow multiple users to have their own private space in one small area, or enclose a larger space within an open room to allow for quiet conversation.

Depending on how you intend to use the panels, you can purchase a set, leave them joined and merely take them out or fold them flat as needed, or configure a new set up each time you use them by manually joining the panels together. Either option is possible with the same soundproofing materials, so you can trust that the area you are enclosing or dividing will remain private and quiet for as long as you need it to be.

Get Customized Soundproofing that Works for You

As a greater emphasis is placed on flexibility within home and building layouts, a greater emphasis also needs to be placed on the materials necessary to make these areas work to the best of their ability. Soundproof folding room dividers give you that flexibility, while ensuring that you have the soundproofing and privacy necessary for study, conversation, or sensitive work. Whether you use them as a semi-permanent divider between two spaces, you continuously break them down and set them up in new ways, soundproof panels are a great investment in flexibility and function. Get the best of both worlds for your home or office space with soundproof folding room dividers to see what’s possible within a more quiet environment.

10 Beautiful Acoustic Products You Won’t Want to Hide

You are already likely well aware of the benefits of incorporating beautiful acoustic products in your interior design. Doing so allows certain rooms and areas to maintain a sense of privacy, and the right acoustics can also minimize distractions and allow employees to work more productively.

Some acoustic products can be hidden in walls or incorporated in ways that hide them from plain sight. Just think of things like insulation, ceiling tiles and floor underlayment.

Others, however, are just so cool that it makes sense to show them off. This post is dedicated to these types of acoustic products, the ones that help add to a room’s overall ambiance. Here’s a look at 10 of the coolest acoustic products that are just way too beautiful and innovative to hide:

10 Visually-Stunning Acoustic Products

1.Sound-Absorbing Panels

Sound-absorbing panels muffle sound to make a facility more comfortable from a noise standpoint, and they also permit interior designers and consumers to flex their creative muscle with how they position such products. In other words, if you’re using panels to absorb sound, you can get either as fancy or as simple as you prefer when it comes to the install. What’s more is that many types of these panels are sustainable, made from recycled plastic. So you are not just doing good for a facility, you are also doing good by the environment. These panels integrate with walls and can also be installed on ceilings.

Snip20170621_58

(Image source)

2. Headsets

These may look straight out of a science fiction movie, but more and more organizations are moving furniture that incorporates these types of headsets into their environments. Headset products provide a way for employees to break off from their typical office or cubicle and isolate themselves from distractions when it’s crunch time. They can also provide a much needed respite from the rigors of the working day.

27qu6rasdsq7o72b

(Image source)

3. Hanging Screens

Hanging screens offer privacy and also provide a stylish sound absorber (not to mention a decoration that also minimizes visual distractions). Screens come in all different shapes, sizes and patterns to cater to any consumer’s wishes.
ELUM-55-800x600

(Image source)

4. Tiles

If sound-absorbing panels aren’t for you, then tiles just may be. Tiles, such as Topo tiles, permit a bit more artistic creativity than panels do, which can be a really big help in creating unique lobbies, waiting rooms or meetings rooms. What’s more is that many types of these tiles also enable fast, easy DIY installation and come in a variety of different shapes and colors. 

Pixel- Topo-Tile-1Snip20170621_49

5. Hanging Ceiling Tiles

There are tiles for the floor and walls – then there are tiles for the ceiling. And it’s important not to ignore the ceilings when it comes to designing a space that’s ideal for acoustics. After all, the ceiling is one of the key places that sound can bounce off of, potentially creating distraction for consumers and employees.

Snip20170621_51

(Image source)

6. Wall Decor

It’s not a panel, partition or hanging screen, but a decoration that can add a lot of ambiance to any room in the office. Being that it can also serve as a sound deadening device, it looks cool and serves an additional purpose to better any room or area.

Snip20170621_52

(Image source)

7. Partitions

Another ideal alternative to sound-absorbing panels are partitions, these products come in all shapes and sizes and work well in office environments, particularly for separating cubicles and meeting areas. Many partitions can be purchased in kits, permitting consumers to get as creative as they’d like when it comes to organizing them. Most are also recycled products, made from plastic or bottles.

Snip20170621_54

(Image source)

8. Chairs/Sofas

It’s a fact that sound needs objects, products and/or materials to deaden it. That’s where furniture can come in handy in an office environment, especially one with an open workspace where sound has the potential to travel greater distances and create more distractions. Hence, the right type of furniture (i.e, high-back couches and chairs) can provide buildings with a stylish way of deadening sound.

Snip20170621_55

(Image source)

9. Curtains

Curtains are a popular window treatment for managing the amount of natural daylight a room or area receives during the daytime hours, and then helping to ensure privacy during the nighttime hours. Furthermore, the right types of curtains can serve as ideal assists in the overall acoustics of a room. While any object will absorb sound in a room – standard curtains included – look for this special type of drapery that’s made with sound absorbing materials to really add oomph to these efforts.

Snip20170621_56

(Image source)

10 Cork  Flooring

Cork  flooring look great first and foremost. But these materials also account for being among the best when it comes to sound absorbing. They are an ideal flooring style for the office or any traditional hard floor areas, like kitchens and/or bathrooms. To make the sound absorption even better in any given room with cork or bamboo flooring, consider adding an acoustical underlayment down before installing the floor.

Snip20170621_57

(Image source)

The acoustics of any facility need to be considered during the design process. But not all of these acoustic products need to be hidden in walls and ceilings. In fact, some are better left right out in the open.

 

 

,

Acoustic Design in Education: Creating the Perfect Learning Environment

Quiet please! A recent study has reported that many students have difficulty understanding nearly 30 percent of classroom speech due to excessive noise and sound reverberation. Proper acoustic design in education spaces is vital for successful learning environments for teachers and students alike.

So, how do you create the best learning environment?

In classrooms around the world, innovations in technology and access to learning resources are changing the way we’re educating students and have driven changes in classroom design. Space configuration, lighting, and building structure all play a role in shaping the learning experience.

Proper sound management in the classroom is a vital ingredient in the success of teachers and students alike, and classroom acoustic issues cannot be resolved without concentrated efforts on the parts of the architects and designers involved in casting the vision for these important education spaces.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 18.45.24

Teachers and students suffer from poor classroom acoustics

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), classrooms with poor acoustics interfere directly with teaching and learning. Students with hearing loss or  learning disabilities have the greatest difficulties.

Even teachers are adversely affected and are 32 times more likely to suffer from voice problems, just because of poor acoustics in the classroom.

To encourage beneficial acoustic design, let’s take a look at some of the ways schools and organizations are improving learning and teaching environments when it comes to sound quality.

Better Acoustic Design in Education Spaces Starts with Better Standards

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), along with the U.S. Access Board and Acoustical Society of America, created the Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools standard (or the ANSI S12.60-2002).

The standard developed by ANSI addresses the issues of both reverberation time and background noise in classrooms, and their effect on speech intelligibility. We’ll break down some of the numbers for you:

Maximum reverberation time:

  • in an unoccupied classroom with a volume under 10,000 cubic feet is 0.6 seconds
  • 0.7 seconds for a classroom between 10,000 and 20,000 cubic feet

Maximum level of background noise:

  • 35 decibels (dBA)

These requirements apply to the design of brand new classrooms or learning spaces of small-to-moderate size, and to renovated spaces.

When we look at the numbers, though, you’ll see that most classrooms have noise levels that more than exceed the recommended maximum level. Average noise levels in most classrooms can range between 66 decibels (dB) and 94dB, and one 2001 study found that average classroom noise levels were 72dB — similar to standing next to a busy intersection. (Source)

The ANSI standard is voluntary, unless otherwise specified by a school system or other regulations. Several schools across the US now voluntarily comply with the ANSI standards for noise in classroom settings.  Connecticut and Minnesota, as well as New York City public schools have adopted the ANSI standards across the board. Additionally, the New Hampshire Department of Education, the Ohio School Facility Commission, and the New Jersey School Construction Board have accepted the ANSI rule as their standard for acoustic design in classrooms.

Many school districts, including those in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. have developed their own directives for acoustic design standards.

Although these standards are currently voluntary, if you’re in the process of developing a design for educational spaces, we recommend you consider these as the minimum standard. How your project performs once it’s inhabited by students is just as important as the end visual result.

Architects and Acoustics: Improving Classrooms at the Design Phase

The State of Texas is pushing to improve acoustics in classrooms, starting at the architectural design phase.

In Texas, 64 architects focused on school design participated in a research study via the ASHA to explore how architects employ acoustic design in schools. The goal of the study was to find a way to include acoustic performance criteria for classrooms, which is omitted from the Architectural Barriers Act and is currently voluntary. From the survey of these architects, several key elements of design were highlighted to help create the perfect learning environment, including:

  • knowledge of acoustical performance criteria for learning environments
  • practices they, as architects, employed to address acoustics in their design
  • attitudes around the earlier published version of the ANSI standard

The survey found, however, that only one-third of the architects were actually aware of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard for hearing, despite the negative effects they perceived in learning environments where acoustics didn’t meet standards.

By educating architects and designers about these acoustic design standards, any architect would be better prepared to design a better, more acoustically sound learning environment.

Green Street Academy: Sustainably Built and Acoustically Sound

Architects looking for ways to improve acoustic design might also look to Baltimore, Maryland for an excellent case study of creating proper acoustic design in a historical building .

The Green Street Academy (GSA) is public charter school in Baltimore, Maryland providing an education for middle and high school students. The GSA has been certified as a LEED BD+C school since 2009, achieving LEED Platinum status in 2016. This is the highest possible ranking under the LEED stature, and the school has plenty to show for it.

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 18.45.33

In addition to being highly efficient with water, energy, and green materials, the school features acoustical performance in all classrooms and learning areas. To create an acoustic design, the renovation of the nearly 100-year-old building reused sustainable and recycled materials for the walls and flooring.

The Future of Education and Better Learning Environments

With schools like Green Street Academy setting the bar higher and continued advancements in acoustic materials and design, architects and building owners have the resources they need and standards to guide them towards better acoustic design.

By educating themselves about the standards established, architects are better prepared to design a better, more acoustically sound learning environment, to improve learning experiences for students and teachers alike.

 

,

5 Quick Design Fixes for Noise In Open Offices

The Noise Problem

Unnecessary noise sucks. If you’ve ever sat in an office, listening to Jill from Accounting complain incessantly about her boyfriend or Chad in Sales overshare his weekend escapades, you understand. And if you haven’t, you’re lucky. Researchers have found that in an office, overheard conversations of coworkers and noise in open offices can lead to serious distraction in productivity.

You can’t control how loud and how often coworkers talk. But you can make a quick acoustic design fix or two to help drown out the sound. Save your personal space and muffle the noise in open offices with these quick acoustic design fixes!

Add a rug to the room

quick-acoustic-design-fix-rug Chances are, if you have hardwood or concrete floors in your office, sound is getting bounced around a lot more than you realize. Consider adding a rug underneath your desk or chair.

If you already have carpet, think about adding a rug anyways. When it comes to noise in open offices, the more soft material in a space, the better.

Buy Soft Furniture

quick-acoustic-design-fix-soft-furnitureSpeaking of soft materials, another easy way to absorb sound in your space is to introduce soft furniture. If you have the ability to order furniture for your office, consider pieces with soft fabrics or leather.

If you are looking for something to put in an open space, look into comfy couches. Some desks and chairs now come with acoustic material hidden underneath the bottom of the piece so that sound bounced off the floor can be absorbed.

Introduce Sound-Absorbing Panels

© Bryce Vickmark. All rights reserved. www.vickmark.com 617.448.6758

© Bryce Vickmark. All rights reserved. www.vickmark.com 617.448.6758 | Architecture & Design: Claudio Martonffy Design | Client: 4G Clinical | Project: 4G Clinical Headquarters, Wellesley, MA

Probably the most effective way to control the noise (as well as a very quick acoustic design fix) is to install acoustic panels. These are typically installed on a wall or hung from the ceiling. (If you work in an office with ACT ceilings, there are even some options for adding better sound-absorbing material into the grid!)

Not only do they efficiently absorb sound, they also can come in design-friendly colors and shapes. Say goodbye to noise in open offices with some trendy, useful panels!

Pot Some Plants

quick-acoustic-design-fix-plants

ANS Group Global

Get your green thumb on! Plants have been proven to absorb sound as well as clean the air, so why not have them in your office?

If you have room and more time (along with the budget!) for a large-scale versions of this quick acoustic design fix, consider adding a living wall to your space! Not only do living walls add extreme visual appeal to your office space, they also (of course) absorb more sound than the average desk plants.

Throw on Some Headphones

quick-acoustic-design-fix-headphones

Probably the easiest fix for noise in open offices: Sound-cancelling headphones. With so many options on the market, including many cost-effective options, you’ll be able to block some of coworkers’ conversations by purchasing a pair.

Stopping the Noise In Open Offices

These suggestions above work better when used together and aren’t the end-all to permanently fixing noise in open offices. If you have a serious acoustic problem in your space, it’s best to contact an acoustic consultant.

Download our guide to Understanding Acoustics here to get an expert’s opinion on how to stop the sound in a variety of spaces. And reach out to us if you need help fixing your space!

 

,

Hotel Lobby Acoustics Checklist

Acoustic physics is not a simple science. But for hotels, public buildings, special event venues, and even offices, it is crucial to be able to control noise levels to the extent that visitors feel comfortable.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 4.44.18 PM

(Photo Credit)

Restaurants and expansive hotel lobbies can be often be very noisy when there’s a crowd, and individual voices are overly amplified if there is no background noise.


In a nightclub, lively background babble might be desirable, making a space feel inviting and full of energy. In a formal dining room, however, noise from the kitchen and overheard conversations are not in the least pleasant.


In a hotel lobby, there is a need to maintain privacy and confidentiality at the check-in desk, as well as the expectation of quiet conversations in other areas. It is vital to control ambient noise levels and create a warm, welcoming vibe. What follows are a few guidelines to keep in mind when designing for open areas like hotel lobbies, so that your guests and visitors are given as warm (and acoustically sound) welcome as possible.

Hotel Lobby Acoustic Design Principles 101

1. Think acoustics first – not last.  Proper sound control not only reduces unwanted sound transmission, but also improves sound quality. It should not be an afterthought, and modern sound control can be aesthetically pleasing as well.

A pleasant hotel guest experience relies heavily on you, the designer or architect, to incorporate acoustic planning into your early design discussions. If you don’t have the requisite knowledge yourself, work with a specialty consultant.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 4.49.34 PM

2. Calculate the effect of various lobby sounds – these include crowd and traffic noises, doors opening and closing, and group conversations. Concentrate your sound control efforts in the particular areas where they are needed:

  • Lower the ceiling over the reservation desk and check-in counter.
  • Create a calm and quiet “oasis” by wrapping the walls in acoustic covering or panels.
  • Use an acoustic underlayment throughout a space with tile or wood floors.
  • Mitigate the effects of ringing telephones and elevator bells, even the buzz of people talking in the bar with acoustic panels, artwork, carpet, and upholstered seating.

3. Break up a large expanse with a coffered ceiling – varying heights will help to break up sound waves. Add baffles or “wings,” as well as curved sections. Add a barrel vault for unique decor as well as sound control. The goal is to deflect those sound waves and prevent echoes that occur in large, high-ceilinged space.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 4.52.09 PM

Design by: VERDEGO DESIGN, LLC | Photography by: Augusta Quirk Photography

4. Install absorptive panels on a flat ceiling. Sheathe the ceiling with cork or bamboo; float panels of carpet or textured fabric in some areas; use banners or absorbent sheets hung vertically from the ceiling. Add stylish lighted sections to distinguish various functional areas below

5. Use sound-absorptive materials vs too many hard surfaces. Although any fabric is better than hard, slick surfaces, wool will absorb more noise than silk. Soft and thick is generally better than thin.

Recycled PET (plastic) is extremely effective, and is used for sound-suppressing panels that can attach to walls or serve as modular divider walls. Other materials commonly in use include fiberglass, foam and cotton.


Natural cork and sustainable bamboo are both naturally sound absorptive.

6. Break up floor areas with different surfaces. Take a page from airport terminal planning books: visually designate traffic lanes and service areas with hard flooring, substituting softer carpet in seating areas and lounges. Consider repeating the “pattern” on the ceiling as visual signage to direct traffic.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 4.55.18 PM

7. Remember that the wall surface represents the largest square footage of any room. Use sound-absorbing panels on at least 10 to 20 percent of the space. It can be artistic, colorful and textural. Freestanding acoustic partitions are a good way to break up space, add a novel touch, and address the “football field” feel of overly-large spaces.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 4.57.07 PM

8. Incorporate textures and fabric freely to “soak up” some of the noise. Use fabric art rather than mirrors and framed pieces with large areas of glass. Design wall niches to hold art and sculpture instead of allowing long expanses of wall on the same plane. Break up soaring expanses of window glass, no matter how spectacular the view, with columns, drapery panels or hanging decorative banners.

9. Get creative: Employ noise reduction panels or sound-absorbing materials as veneer at registration counters, near elevator banks, and along long hallways. Carpet the floors where possible; it will work wonders, both for interest and for quiet.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 4.58.53 PM

10. Consider modern “sound masking” or white noise systems. As counterintuitive as it might seem, the background “hubbub” can be soothing rather than distracting. It also helps people feel secure when sharing information at the desk or engaging in one-on-one conversation.

11. Don’t forget to check the NRC — Noise Reduction Coefficient — of materials you consider using. Rated between 0 and 1, a higher rating means that more sound is absorbed rather than being reflected back out into the room as noise. Look for ratings between .25 and .85.

12. Use sound isolation principles to create conversation nooks: this is a perfect way to use movable sound-insulated partitions. Reading Rooms and child-friendly areas might have plush carpeting, upholstered walls, visually stimulating but sound-absorbing screening, and a dropped ceiling. Soundproofing is especially important in a business center where both visual and audio distractions must be minimized.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 5.00.32 PM

13. Eco-friendly materials are in. Opt for low-impact, sustainable, and energy-efficient products whenever possible. The materials are readily available – many of the newer synthetics and recycled raw materials are LEED-certified. Remember the principles: soft to the touch, textured, with lots of small surfaces.

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 5.02.11 PM

Designer: SpectorGroup

14. Tailor your solutions to the clientele. A boutique hotel in South Beach might warrant a somewhat louder, livelier ambience than an inn in a resort location frequented by seniors. But you’ll still want to stifle those echoes! Remember that there are many choices in addition to traditional carpet, upholstery, and drapes. New age materials, even for ceilings, meet acoustic goals with great style.

15. Finally, employ similar sound-dampening methods not only in the lobby, but throughout the hotel: in restaurants and lounges, workout rooms and work centers, hallways and guest bedrooms. All you’ll hear will be the compliments and the approvals.

Sound principles (pun intended) are employed to tailor noise levels to specific needs; there are many modern ways to do just that.

Keep It Calm in Style

The science of sound control has advanced greatly over the years, but scientists today cannot say for sure whether the perfect acoustics at the site were by design or just a happy accident.

The science has, however, been able to explain how it works. Today it’s possible to select and specify the materials that effectively suppress low-frequency noise and improve audibility of higher-pitch human voices.

Sources
http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070319/full/news070319-16.html
http://cambridgesound.com/industries-page/hotels/
http://www.prairienet.org/op/labdesign/design-principles-space/acoustics/
http://kireiusa.com/about-us/
http://info.acoustiblok.com/acoustiblok-products
http://www.soundproofcow.com/product-category/sound-absorption-materials/
http://www.callboxinc.com/b2b-marketing-and-strategy/future-trends-in-hospitality-industry-millennials-and-social-media-rule/
http://www.acousticalsurfaces.com/blog/soundproofing/sound-proofing-vs-sound-absorbing-the-difference-between-blocking-and-absorbing/

 

,

A Learning Curve: Fixing Classroom Acoustics

If you can’t hear what the teacher is saying, it can be difficult to learn. Classrooms and lecture halls are often plagued by poor sound quality, as these vital rooms aren’t always a top design concern for the typical interior designer or architect. But they should be — especially the classroom acoustics, since good sound quality can be the difference between good or bad learning outcomes for students.  

classroom-2093743_1920
Luckily acoustic issues can be remedied, often with simple and subtle design changes that enhance the learning environment for students (without blowing the budget).

A few straightforward acoustic concepts can change the way you look at a space:

Reverberation

The main acoustic measurement that impacts classrooms is reverberation time, or how long it takes for sound to reach a destination from its source and other reflected paths.

The  real-life way to think about this is shouting into a canyon – the time it takes for your shouted “ECHO” to come back, is reverberation time. In smaller enclosed spaces this echo time can be difficult to discern, but it’s there and if there’s too much due to hard surfaces or large room volumes, getting it wrong can make or break a space.

EP-Panel-151-ceiling-installation-school-Intrinsic-4A listener has a hard time when multiple echos of the speakers’ voice reach their ear at varying times.  A better room has short reverberation time, so sounds reach the listener all at once and are therefore clearer.

If a lecture or lesson is being given in a space with poor acoustics, the sound of the lecturer’s voice can echoing around the room before reaching the listeners and the result is low speech intelligibility. (Think Charlie Brown’s teachers).

With long reverberation times, clarity and understanding can be diminished and learning impacted.

Speech Intelligibility

Although an invisible design issue in learning environments, many schools in the United States have classrooms with less than 75 percent speech intelligibility.

EP-Panel-362-542-500-444-wall-education-lab-school-UrbanKidz-photo-1

Design & Photo: Urbanikz i.d.s.

This means that, at best, only 75 percent of what is being said is actually being heard, creating an issue for the average student and an even bigger disadvantage for students already coping with a learning disability.

Speech intelligibility is measured by the Speech Transmission Index in noisy or reverberating locations. Various software is used to determine these calculations, as the method relies on a lot of different factors including speech level, background noise level, reverberation time, and echos.

Background Noise

Noise from nearby classrooms, students in the halls, or adjacent outside areas can introduce significant distraction as well. When unnecessary sound creeps into the classroom, students lose the ability to concentrate, which can affect their academic performance overall, and even in younger children, can affect their behavior in the classroom.

ep-dune-542-ceiling-school-desoto-career-center-4-800x600

Design: Studio DW Fabricator: Greater Texas Construction Services Photos: Gail McCleese + De Toledo

For this reason it is essential to soundproof classrooms from outside sound, to help students maintain focus. This is done by selecting the correct materials for walls, floors and ceilings and properly sealing windows and doors.

Solving The Noise Problem

It’s also crucial to realize that, because of the unique materials, products, and uses of various rooms in schools, there is no single correct answer to fix the acoustic issues.

There is no simple formula that reads “Seven acoustic baffles + three acoustic hanging screens + an acoustic panel = problem solved” — we wish that was the case, but it just is not true, which is why dealing with a professional right off the bat is your best bet.

Especially in the education world where resources are typically limited, there is a fear that designing a space with good acoustics is going to cost a lot of money — something that schools typically don’t have a constant abundance of.

classroom-2093745_1920However, taking acoustics into consideration before the physical building is standing or remodeled and students are running through the halls can be significantly less expensive than fixing a building after it exists.

If you have a preexisting structure to work with, there are many budget-conscious additions you can use in your space.

ACT ceilings or black fiberglass soundboard can be used. Acoustical deck is also a smart decision.

Placement of sound absorbent material should also be considered. Since sound echo, it would be best to install the sound absorbing material on the wall opposite of where a teacher or professor might typically stand in a room, and a wall adjacent to that “back” wall.

It’s important to also install the material between 3-7 feet above the finished floor, since that’s the typical range where sound is reflected.

Ask The Expert

Consult an acoustician (not as expensive as it sounds!) to get some perspective into what the acoustic issues will be in a space.

classroom-2093744_1920The consultants can help determine how you can fix classroom acoustics before anything is built, which will not only help schools keep costs down later on, but will also grant deserving students the ability to clearly hear and comprehend their lessons.

Need some more information about acoustics? Download our “Understanding Acoustic Design” PDF to learn valuable information from a professional acoustic consultant.

,

7 Restaurants with Great Acoustic Design

Your restaurant can be beautiful, with sleek decor, alluring smells great service and amazing food, but if guests are assaulted by a wall of noise they can be turned off, or worse, turned away.

The 2014 Zagat Boston Restaurants Survey found restaurant noise level to be the number-one irritant about dining out, more irksome than service and price, according to online survey results. Over 70 percent of those surveyed avoid restaurants that are too loud.

Complaints about restaurant noise levels are one of the top comments on popular online review sites. People no longer frequent certain restaurants because they can’t enjoy their time with friends and family members. Whether they find themselves shouting to be heard during their table conversations, or are the unwitting audience in other people’s conversations, acoustical balance matters.

Finding that perfect balance has forced designers and restaurant owners to find unique architectural solutions for their dining areas. Here are 7 restaurants who are tackling the acoustic problem head on.

Oliveto

oliveto1000
(Photo Credit)

At the Oliveto in Oakland, California, olive tree photogaphs adorn the walls, suggesting a comfortable, European-inspired atmosphere. The restaurant owners experienced an acoustical hurdle: they wanted to control the sound level at all times, no matter how many customers were seated at tables. During an overall renovation, the restaurant owners found a solution. They placed absorbent tiles to the ceiling to create a passive acoustic system. Acoustic image panels were installed, consisting of an iPad-controlled sound system. Multiple settings allow the restaurant to sound more lively during low occupancy shifts, and turn down sound levels when the restaurant is filled with guests.

COV Wayzata

COV-6125

(Photo Credit)

Restaurants with an open design, while stylish, can cause problems with competing noise, especially if the restaurant also features a bar and open kitchen. This was one of the issues facing COV Wayzata in Minnesota. So they tackled this problem from various angles. First, they raised the ceiling. The restaurant combined acoustic panels along with wooden slats to absorb as well as disperse the sound. They left the kitchen and bar areas as-is with an open design plan to use the sound generated in those spaces, creating a white noise in the room and balancing the distribution of sound activity.

Gage Lounge

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 8.35.41 AM

(Photo Credit)

The Gage Lounge in Houston, Texas features high industrial ceilings with modern furniture and accents. This large open space, while perfect for socializing and live events, proved to be very loud. Sound is an important factor in setting the mood at Gage, so EchoPanel Simple Baffles were installed over the bar to help cancel out some of the noise for servers, but allow the rest of the lounge to enjoy the atmosphere at full volume.

Bistro Boudin

home-large-2x

(Photo Credit)

The Fisherman’s Wharf in California combines ultimate dining in San Francisco with West Coast tradition – and great sourdough bread! The views of Alcatraz are breathtaking here, yet the noise levels in the main restaurant were less desirable. To deal with the amount of noise bouncing off the ceiling from guests, they took a different approach and changed the floor. The restaurant added a metal deck with sound absorbing properties, which allowed them to control the acoustic levels in the space.

Hakkasan

salter-11-0475_Hakkasan-Ling-Ling
(Photo Credit)

Offering glitz and a hip atmosphere, the Hakkasan offers Cantonese cuisine in a relaxing environment. The restaurant’s kitchen is featured at the forefront of the space, giving diners the feeling that their food is always hot, fresh, and carefully prepared. This poses an acoustical issue, with competing noise of the pots, pans, and kitchen staff echoing into the other spaces. To tackle this reverberation issue, the Hakkasan restaurant placed in sound-absorbing duct liner boards into the ceiling.

Comal

comal3
(Photo Credit)

The Comal in Berkeley, California provides modern interpretations of Mexican cuisine in the artistic district in East Bay. The welcoming, industrial atmosphere features wooden walls and concrete in a large open space. The height of the space and materials used caused acoustical problems, as the concrete has a reflective surface for sound that, making the space sound louder. They turned to using acoustical sound equipment to help layer music over the conversational noise, creating a better sound level in the space.

Boba Latte

Boba-Table-740x423

(Photo Credit)

The Boba Latte, a hot spot in Richardson, Texas had a problem controlling noise in a space predisposed to echoing. With a minimalistic, white-on-white design they needed a space that could support casual conversations, but also quiet enough to allow customers to relax and enjoy their time. Vee tiles from Kirei’s EchoPanel Acoustics collection were installed to an entire wall, transforming it from a usual white wall to a dramatic accent that doubled as a sound absorber.

It has long been a role of the design industry to come up with creative, but efficient, solutions to create the kind of restaurant experience people want to spend money on.

Finding acoustic balance in a busy environment like a restaurant is certainly a challenge, but we’re excited to see the kind of design that takes acoustics into consideration. You can check out a few of our other blogs on acoustic design solutions, in a variety of places, by clicking below:

Office Acoustics: The Definitive Guide to Addressing Workplace Noise Issues

23 Decorative Acoustic Ideas

 

,

Office Acoustics: The Definitive Guide to Addressing Workplace Noise Issues

office acoustics

Today’s offices are much more open and designed for ‘collaboration” than ever before, with studies emerging that say that an open office floor plan can help increase employee productivity, while reducing stress and improving energy efficiency at the same time.

While these types of open-floorplan setups may make it easier for employees to communicate and collaborate, they bring with them a new set of challenges, one of them being increased noise levels. More people in an open space means more echoes and more noise to contend with.

Many workspaces  are doing away with cubicles and closed-door-offices to create more open spaces, and others are beginning to convert spaces that are already open, such as old factories and industrial workplaces, into new, modern office buildings. The results can often be increased noise levels and acoustic distraction.

Employees may try to compensate for this increased noise by raising their voices when speaking to one another, which in turn raises the noise levels in the room even more. Add in the fact that many older, converted buildings tend to have high ceilings and lots of concrete and other hard surfaces that noise tends to bounce off, and you have a recipe for a noisy, communication-killing cave, instead of the open, efficient workplace you’re attempting to design.

Thankfully, there are many ways that you can help deaden sounds while still preserving the open layout and floorplan you’re after. The key is in sound absorption, which can be added to the room through many different methods, preserving the look and style of the room, while optimizing the sound quality.

Acoustical Panels

Office Acoustics 1

Sound is absorbed through softer materials, while it bounces off harder surfaces. So, to help absorb sound, consider using acoustical panels on walls, ceilings, and partitions between spaces. While you may think of acoustical panels as old fashioned ceiling tiles, new acoustical panels give you a lot of options for designing modern workspaces with custom looks that inspire creativity and collaboration.

Decorative panels can be used to build and cover existing furniture in your space like bookcases, the sides of desks and worktables, as well as the walls and ceilings of the room. Panels like the EchoPanel from Kirei, come in a wide range of colors and patterns, perfect for custom branding. Use them to create privacy screens around conference or meeting areas, or to absorb sound surrounding desk areas.

Because these acoustically absorbent panels come in several thicknesses, colors and decorative prints, they can be used anywhere you need to control the sound without sacrificing form, style or space.

Baffles and Clouds

Office Acoustics 2

If the layout of the open office plan you’re considering doesn’t have much in the way of surface space to install panels on, and the room has high ceilings, acoustic “baffles” or “clouds” can be a big help in controlling sound. Baffles extend downward from the ceiling, and can be combined with light fixtures or turned into decorative sculptures overhead to help absorb and control sound throughout the room without the addition of walls or panels.

Baffles can be sleek, suspended panels like the EchoSky, perfect for large spaces where you need to cover a lot of area without a lot of detail, or they can become part of the design of the room, such as EchoStar, which is a cloud that enhances the acoustics in targeted areas across the room, while adding to the style and substance of the space.

Baffles and clouds can be combined with other systems to help give you the level of sound control necessary for the space you are designing.

Screens

Office Acoustics 3

Most people associate acoustic panels with solid, dense partitions that close off the open office, defeating the purpose of your design. That’s what makes acoustic screens so attractive: an open design screen can help deaden sound and offer some semblance of privacy, but at the same time can help preserve the open feeling of the space. Screens are also decorative, and can become part of the style of the room, blending form and function together at once.

Acoustic Tiles

Office Acoustics 4

Need small areas of sound control, such as in an employee lounge area or meeting space? Consider adding some acoustic tiles to the walls just behind the seating or conversation areas.

Acoustic tiles come in a range of different geometric designs and colors. Create a unique, stylish wall with a customized amount of sound control right where you need it. Stay on brand with colors or custom shapes that reflect the company’s message and logo, or create a playful mixture of pattern play on the walls. Tiles will give you the sound absorption of panels, with infinitely more customization.

Modular Screens

Office Acoustics 5

One of the biggest benefits that an open office concept brings is the ability for employees, office workers, and guests to move around, working wherever meets their needs at any given time. Because many open floor plans don’t have fixed workstations, it can be difficult to anticipate employee needs for sound control. And while it is certainly possible to cover every inch of the office with acoustical paneling and baffles, sometimes this isn’t necessary or desirable.

For situations such as this, modular acoustical screens are the ideal solution. A modular screen can be set up in seconds around a conversation area, conference table, or anywhere that employees may need to get some instant privacy and sound control. The panels can be left in place or taken down again easily as well, and can stack discreetly out of sight when not in use. Now the room can be as open and fluid in design as you choose it to be, while still retaining a high amount of function and flexibility in use for the employees who need it.

Acoustical Furniture

Office Furniture

In the ultimate open concept office, there will be nothing impeding employees from moving about the space and setting up their workstations wherever they choose. This type of setup can make dealing with acoustical needs more challenging than some others, but not impossible.

With acoustical furniture, or furnishings that are made of acoustical materials and paneling, the sound absorption you need is right where you need it, with no interruption of flow through the office design. Chairs, desks, bookcases, shelving, carts, and other furnishings can all be built out of or modified to contain acoustical materials.

No matter how office workers ultimately group their furnishings or where they choose to work that day, the acoustics will be perfect and accommodating for their use. This type of setup is particularly ideal for rooms with hard concrete flooring and walls, and for spaces that want to keep their industrial style and vibe without adding to the walls or ceilings.

And for offices that will include things like partitions or cubicles inside the layout, acoustical furnishings can be combined with acoustically-wrapped panels for the cubicle walls for the ultimate in sound control and design.

Start Designing Smarter

As office designs continue to change, so do their needs, forcing designers and architects to adapt with them. Sound control is becoming an increasingly major part of office design; don’t leave it out of the offices you’re working on, expecting it to be added in later. Design the acoustics right into the layout of the room. Look for currently un- or underused areas to incorporate sound control, that will also enhance the design of the room. From ceiling baffles to sound absorbing furniture, it’s possible to get good acoustic control throughout any type of floor plan, while staying true to your vision. Look for acoustical solutions at every level and start designing smarter workspaces for all.

, , ,

4 Tips To Create More Productive Conference Rooms

img_3491-color-1000px-cropped

Acoustic materials don’t have to be boring!

Consider the conference room – home to your most vital meetings, but too often today’s conference room is more echochamber than productive space. The sleek modern look that’s all the rage results in hard surfaces that brutally reflect every sound, turning a conference call into cacophony. While these offices seem to radiate efficiency, they rarely create an environment that absorbs noise and keeps privacy top of mind.

So how do you solve these issues? Acoustically absorbent material to the rescue!

Tip #1: Use Acoustic Material to Soak Up Sound in Open Spaces

Nothing new to the design world, acoustically absorbent material is used in a variety of spaces. And in conference rooms, these materials really get to work their magic, reducing sound bouncing around a space and making speech sound clearer and more understandable.

To really ensure that sound is absorbed in a meeting room, the walls and ceilings are the main surfaces to address. (The floor typically is not something that can be fixed as easily, aside from installing carpet or laying down a large, soft rug.) Acoustic wall panels are typically the quickest fix.

ep-panel-442-conference-room-wall-arktura-2

You don’t always need floor to ceiling acoustic coverage to control the sound in your space.

Wall panels don’t have to completely cover an entire wall (like the design of the conference room above!). Imagine sound as a tennis ball in a room — constantly bouncing around and off of every surface it interacts with. When sound encounters a soft surface — like the acoustic panels — some of that sound is absorbed, so a smaller amount is bounced back into the room.

To avoid sound continuing to reverberate around the room, the more acoustic material introduced in the space, the better.

ep-panel-908-wall-conference-room-turner-duckworth-jensen-2

Love the white wall look? EchoPanel helps soothe both visually and acoustically.

The designer of the conference room pictured above wanted to make sure that the minimal, simple design of this space was kept, but acoustic control was also included. Enter white wall panels. These installed panels created the clean, white wall look and added vital sound absorption to this space intended to cater to large meetings.

Featuring even more acoustic material, this conference room below was clad almost entirely in acoustic panels. This space is used almost entirely for overseas teleconferencing, so sound absorption for clear speech was paramount.

commercial-office-design-11

For teleconferencing, reduced echo is essential for clear understandable calls. Cover the entire ceiling and walls in acoustic material for complete acoustic control in your conference room.

Carpet was also installed, which in turn absorbs even more sound since it’s a soft surface. If it’s possible for a space to incorporate this more acoustic material, privacy and speech intelligibility are at ideal levels.

Tip #2: Match Your Acoustic Solutions to Your Preferences and Uses of the Space

Everyone perceives sound differently and spaces have different uses.

Too much sound absorption can result in a “dead” room, so it’s key to tune the space to your desired sound levels and clarity. These acoustic material-heavy applications shown above aren’t always possible or even the desired design of a conference room (the CIA interrogation room look isn’t for everyone).

Sometimes clients are in search of something more simple, yet bright.

ep-panel-295-wall-conference-room-white-construction-2

Add some visual interest and sound control to your conference room with bright colored EchoPanel panels

The client who designed the conference room with the orange panels wanted to use acoustic material in their project, but didn’t have the desire or budget to install a large amount of panels. They chose instead to install some single panels with standoffs, so that an air gap was created behind the panels for increased acoustic performance.

ep-panel-295-wall-conference-room-white-construction-1-cropped

Adding an air gap behind your acoustic materials is an easy way to increase sound absorption!

When space is made behind acoustic materials, greater sound absorption occurs. For clients who don’t have a huge budget for acoustics or don’t want a lot of product installed to the walls or ceilings, this fix is a great way to ensure that sound is captured in a meeting room.

Don’t forget – It may be necessary to take other acoustic precautions as well to maintain privacy, like making sure windows and doors are sealed properly and eliminating speech transmission over plenums or through HVAC.

Tip #3: Cover the Critical Areas of the Walls

These orange panels above were installed in the critical area between 3’ and 7’ above the floor – this is where we speak either seated or standing, so that’s where sound is generated and should be absorbed for best effect.

In addition, make sure to cover adjacent walls to capture sound bouncing back and forth between parallel walls.  If 2 adjacent walls are covered, then there are now no parallel walls to bounce sound waves back and forth. This will result in increased sound clarity and reduced reverberation.

Another way to fix sound in a room by using decorative acoustically absorbent material, like these thermoformed tiles made of soft material, like PET fibers.

commercial-office-design-1

Add easy-to-install acoustic tiles to the walls of your space for visual appeal and better acoustics.

The client who designed this room chose to install EchoPanel Dune Tiles on one wall of this smaller conference room and, because of the air gap, more sound control (not to mention visual interest) were introduced into the room.

Tip#4: Don’t forget the ceiling!

Ceilings can receive treatment too! By hanging clouds or baffles, or just covering ceiling’s hard surfaces with acoustic panels, significant echo reduction can be achieved. The conference room pictured below is a perfect example of installing interesting, sound-absorbing material to a space that might not have much wall room to work with.

EP_EchoStar_500_442_office_conference_room_Cable_Labs_1

No more boring ceilings! Do something more unique with interesting acoustic configurations, like EchoPanel EchoStars.

This client chose to look up instead and hang this visually dynamic ceiling system from their exposed ceiling. These clusters of EchoStars hanging ceiling clouds are made with sound-absorbing EchoPanel in shapes that help deflect and help absorb sound that is carried up from those using the space.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-stop fix-all solution to addressing conference room noise. But the applications described in this article will definitely help you mitigate noise issues and reintroduce privacy back into your conference rooms.

cta-1

Understanding Acoustic Design: Part 3

Investing in Acoustics

In the previous parts of this series, acoustic consultant James Black takes a look at the common issues with acoustics and what specifically can be done to avoid these problems. In this final article, James explains the value in considering sound control before it’s too late, and debunks the theory that acoustics are too expensive to take into consideration. (Want to see the whole article? Download the PDF here!)

Keeping Cost in Mind
Many projects – specifically education spaces like schools, libraries and museums – are on tight budgets. And when this is the case, acoustics often fall to the wayside. However, even with less money to spend, effective sound absorption can still take place. Even coverage of sound absorption on the ceiling is typically what is needed most.

“If the budget is minimal, ACT or black fiberglass sound board could be used, depending on the look the client is trying to achieve. Acoustical deck could be a good choice too. If it is a lecture hall or conference room, the back wall and at least one adjacent side wall should receive some treatment as well, from approximately 3 to 7 feet above finished floor.”

“Besides attenuating reverberation, these wall treatments mitigate annoying echoes off the back wall and flutter echoes. Sometimes diffusion panels or wall shaping can break up these echoes as well.” These are basic fixes and are mostly recommended for spaces on a budget.

Hanging Light Fixture Acoustic Panels

Sound Investments
It’s also important to consider noise when choosing and installing building equipment systems. “Using low-noise fan-array air handling units with remote chillers may seem more expensive up front. However, in the big picture, once you consider the cost of upgraded roofs, sound isolation ceilings, silencers, etc., that are needed to mitigate noise from less-expensive packaged units, you may be paying as much or even more for an inferior result.

“In any case, do not locate the loud equipment directly over the noise-sensitive spaces. It seems obvious, but unfortunately this happens all the time.”

tokyo-office-echo-panel-01

Acoustic Consultants Can Help – Save You Money!
Working with an acoustic consultant early on can also help avoid easy mistakes. “But acoustic consultants are expensive!” you cry. This is a common misconception, as a good acoustic consultant brings value. Timely input from an acoustical consultant can prevent more expensive mistakes, such as wasted materials, post-construction changes and unsatisfied clients.

Sure, it’s possible to run up a significant bill for a full acoustic analysis of a space, but many acoustic consultants can take a look at drawings or photos and come up with quick and easy solutions for hundreds, not thousands of dollars. Taking advantage of this early in a project can save a lot of money later versus the cost of retrofitting to cover up unforeseen acoustic issues.

Need Some Help with Your Space?
We’ve got you covered! Kirei is dedicated to providing you with high-quality acoustic materials, made for all sorts of spaces and applications. From tiles, panels, partitions and more, our products can help reduce the noise in your open spaces. Give us a call at 619.236.9924 or email us at info@kireiusa.com! And download this whole article here! Remember, sharing is caring, so feel free to pass along this PDF to anyone you think may need some acoustics issues answered!


James Black has a Master of Science degree in Acoustical Engineering. He has worked professionally as an acoustical consultant for more than 11 years. Most recently, he was a senior consultant in one of the leading and international acoustical consulting firms, working on world-class projects. He now lectures at Montana State University and continues to provide acoustical consulting services. He can be reached at (858) 342-0986 or jblack@jbacoustics.com.