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The 3 Most Common Acoustic Mistakes in Office Design & How to Avoid Them

It happens all the time. You spent months with an architect designing an office that maximizes company productivity, presents a professional representation of your brand, and has a conference room big enough for Friday afternoon ping pong tournaments. Then, after all that work, you realize you’ve constructed an acoustic abomination where a single sneeze sends reverberating chills throughout each meticulously placed pseudo-cubicle.

Like I said: it happens.

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Designers and office owners often don’t consider how an abundance of noise – or even lack thereof – might affect the everyday work experience. This goes for any building type, but especially for office rebuilds or renovations where the primary goal is efficiency and visual effectiveness. Acoustics are reserved to an afterthought – if they are a thought at all – and problems are rarely identified until the paint has dried and the ribbon is cut.

If you’re working on an office design project, avoid the three common mistakes below.

1. Focusing On Aesthetics Over Function

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Appearance matters. Not only does the aesthetic design of your office space provide clients and new employees with a positive first impression, it can have a lasting effect on overall company morale. Working in beautiful, well-designed spaces inspires creativity, boosts productivity and improves company morale. There’s a reason no one wants to work in the basement of an old library and everyone wants to work at Facebook.

However, don’t let the vision of a beautiful space blind you from how those undulating stainless steel ‘flow’ sculptures might alter how sound is bouncing around. The biggest trend in modern office design is to create an open plan that promotes collaboration and communication. It’s a great direction on paper, but a lack of acoustic awareness can lead to a noisy work environment that might make it hard for people to concentrate. In large, open workspaces, employees often resort to using headphones to create their own working sanctuary, which can hinder collaboration in a space that was initially created with collaboration in mind.

The Solution

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The good news? You don’t always have to sacrifice appearance when building an acoustically sound office space. Invest in proven finished materials that modulate excessive noise and make even the most rambunctious open offices comfortable to be productive in.

Key improvements can be made by providing barriers between work areas. You can still keep an open office feel by using partitions or panels that provide enough coverage for privacy without completely isolating workers. Kirei’s EchoScreen room dividers are a great modular solution in open spaces.

Be sure to take a look at your ceilings, too! Implementing sound absorptive ceiling baffles, along with breaking up the direct path between work stations, will help to control acoustics in areas where you need it most.

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The Echopanel product line has several attractive options that work for you rather than against you. Keep in mind that a noise level around 10 decibels is optimal for interior comfort. Product specifications will provide technical information for the most efficient coverage of each panel system, so you can easily fine tune the design to fit your needs.

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Bonus Tip: For offices with unusually high ceilings, try dropping the ceiling in a few areas. Not only does this help manage noise and echo, it can work to organize different volumes of interior space similarly to the effect of partitions mentioned above.

2. When “Quiet” is Too Quiet

Believe it or not, it is possible to over-engineer the acoustic planning for your office space. You might find yourself going overboard with sound-dampening ceiling and wall tiles, or a conference room sealed up as tight as the Apollo moon lander. This results in an office that doesn’t feel busy enough, and can create an uncomfortable lack of background noise that feels misplaced in an environment that is supposed to scream ‘work.’

People prefer to live and work in places that feel alive. Over-use of acoustic materials in a space can create muffled, dead sounds that while they don’t echo, still sound unnatural and unnerving to building occupants.

Additionally, such quiet spaces can leave employees or clients feeling a distinct lack of privacy, which is especially evident in open concept office designs.

The Solution

Plan your acoustic design strategy based on an understanding of which spaces need segregated silence, and which spaces need to sound busy.

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For instance, an open collaboration area should be handled differently than a closed presentation or meeting space. You might want some areas of your office to be zoned off, using sound-absorbing partitions for more private work stations, or use sound masking to help with those eerily quiet spaces.

 

When you have this conceptual framework for the acoustic design, you’ll need to determine the appropriate noise level for the space, and will want to research solutions and materials.  The standards for not only pinpointing the proper noise level – but how to best implement the design – vary widely based on function, room shape, and acoustic properties of the materials used. If you’re suffering from eery silence in a room, removing  You might also consult an expert to help you fine tune the implementation of ceiling and wall tiles, or in-wall insulation. A certified consultant can help walk you through the more technical aspects of perfecting your acoustic design.

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Bonus Tip: A reasonable bit of white noise goes a long way to insulating the work experience from the incredible burden of complete silence. Also considering using an integrated speaker system for office-wide music playing. A bit of low background music can boost morale and prevent the office from becoming too sterile.

3. Forgetting to Modulate Individual or Small-Group Work Spaces

Another pitfall of the open concept office arrangement is the lack of segregated work spaces where a small group of people can gather and meet. In most cases, a large table or two are haphazardly placed in some leftover space in the office that have little or no acoustic or visual separation from the primary desk areas. What you end up with is an unorganized amoeba of a floor plan that lacks the intentionality that might lead to better work and less audibly congested meetings.

In most cases, the problem starts with forgetting to set up a hierarchy of spaces, their functions, and how they operate in conjunction with one another. It is the designer’s job to assess these issues from a wayfinding and workflow efficiency standpoint, but too often the way sound travels from space to space gets lost.

The Solution

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It starts with assessing the kinds of activities that might take place away from a person’s or people’s work station. This can range anywhere from client meetings to brainstorming sessions to conference calls. Once you understand the use of the space, and how it slots into overall workflow, you can start figuring out ways to construct these sub-stations to best protect them from the hustle and bustle of the office proper.

If you still want to maintain the flow of having an open concept office, you can design a system of movable wall panels that give you the flexibility to conjure up private gathering spaces on the fly. The Kirei Echopanel Wrap, Paling and Platoon partitions would be perfect for sectioning off space that is insulated from a majority of office noise, but not completely cut off from everything else.

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Bonus Tip: Invest in a few large storage units and put them on casters (big, sturdy wheels). They can be easily moved around to section off space, and be used as bookshelves, portfolio displays, or overflow storage.

 

Ultimately, the best way to avoid these traps is to catch them before they become a problem. Think first about how your office wants to operate and design around a few core concepts. Once you’ve established some rules, you can test every decision against them, and iron out the kinks on the front end. This goes for new construction or the renovation of an existing space. If you’re having trouble addressing the acoustic strategy for your office space, consider hiring a specialist to help you out along the way.

The better aligned the acoustic design is with the nature of your business, the more productive your workers will be and the more impressive your brand will become.

 

 

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7 Colorful Office Products to Boost Creativity

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Moo Office in London | From Mashable.com

The Power of Color

Color can seriously impact productivity. It seems obvious (especially if you are a designer or architect), but many people take the power of color for granted. The University of Texas actually conducted a study that found neutrals – think the typical white, gray, brown – negatively affected worker productivity and mood.

Unsurprisingly, bland, boring colors do little to spark creativity. But consistently, office desks, cubicles and partitions seem to rely heavily on these drab hues. So what can you do to spruce up your office vibes?

Whether you are designing a brand new office space or revamping your little corner in a sea of cubicles, we’ve got you covered. Below are some of our favorite eye-catching, colorful office products that are sure to help boost productivity!

Colorful Office Products

1) Area rug

Office rug

An area rug under a conference table or even your desk can tie a room together and adds some vibrancy to typically boring office floors. Remember, different colors evoke different emotions. Go moody with a deep red or calm the space down with some blue hues.

2) Wall tiles

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If you’ve got some white walls that can use a pop of color, there are some easy-to-install tiles that can seriously update the design game in your space. Tiles (like the new Topo Tiles) can come in a wide variety of colors to match your decor and can also help absorb sound (design-friendly & sound-friendly!)

Wave Tile - Eric Laignel Photography

Wave Tile – Eric Laignel Photography

 

3) Filing cabinet

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A small addition that can go a long way: switch up your filing cabinet for something bright and eye-catching! If your cabinet is attached to your desk, don’t worry: there are some great DIY instructions on how to cover your filing cabinet with wallpaper (yes: WALLPAPER!) Easy peasy (for the most part) and a budget-friendly way to add colorful office products to your space.

4) Flower pots

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Who can’t use a little green in their space? When a plant wall isn’t an option, look no further than bright pots to hold your indoor plants. There are many out there that are colorful, and some even are self-watering! Sounds like the perfect colorful office product to us!

5) Office chairs

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Similar to a filing cabinet, consider swapping out your boring black office chair for a bright colored (and still ergonomically friendly!) chair! Irene Turner makes unique colorful chair designed with your back and body in mind.

6) Partitions

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Throw up some “walls” with some bright colored partitions in an open office. This adds both color and privacy to the space (which are both very beneficial to creativity at times). So many partitions and systems come in a variety of colors, so matching decor and choosing inspiring colors shouldn’t be an issue.

7) Wall Prints & Pictures

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A very budget friendly option to add some color to your space: throw up some prints! Whether you get a huge piece to hang in a lobby or conference room or some small pictures to pin to your cubicle wall, this is an easy solution to spice up the office.

Spruce Up Your Space

Color can really affect you, so be sure you are using colors correctly! There are even some online color charts you can use to help you plan your office vibes (if you aren’t a professional interior designer or architect). Color isn’t the only factor in a space that can affect creativity and productivity. Noise can dampen those too. Check out these tips to help improve the sound in your office space!

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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

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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

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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!

 

The Three Bears of Office Acoustics: Too Loud, Too Quiet, and Just Right

Architecture & Design: Claudio Martonffy Design (linked to www.martonffy.com) Client: 4G Clinical Project: 4G Clinical Headquarters, Wellesley, MA

Architecture & Design: Claudio Martonffy Design
Client: 4G Clinical | Project: 4G Clinical Headquarters, Wellesley, MA

Let’s talk about office noise and more importantly, office acoustics.

Noise is everywhere — sometimes it’s welcome, sometimes it isn’t. You encounter sound and noise during nearly every typical workday, whether you work at an open office or have your own private corner of the building.  And sometimes it’s great stimulating, even.

But a lot of the time, office acoustics can be distracting. So let’s take a look at the different types of rooms you potentially encounter during your work day and what the ideal room looks (and sounds) like.

Too Loud

Follow along on popular Instagram interior design accounts or OfficeSnapshots, and all you’ll see are trendy, dramatic open offices for start-ups and well-established brands alike. And with good reason: these offices look great, and they reflect an “open” company culture. Something else these offices also reflect? Sound — which turns into noise, making for poor office acoustics.

A lot of these trendy office spaces are filled with hard surfaces (large desks, bare walls, hardwood or concrete floors). Sound bounces around a space, and if there are minimal absorbing surfaces in the area, the reverberation time is much longer. This leads to more noise in a space.

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

This type of noise problem (which can also affect smaller conference rooms and meeting spaces) can lead to confusion on conference calls, lack of concentration for employees, and an overall less-than-appealing work atmosphere.

Disruption in these environments is almost considered acceptable, and thanks to the lack of walls or partitions, it’s increasingly common. One study from the University of California, Irvine found that office workers only have about eleven minutes on average in between work interruptions.

Collaboration and breaking down barriers are amazing — but at what cost to the work force?

Too Quiet

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the silent office. One would assume these office acoustics would be ideal, but this is not always the case. Born also from the open office plan, this problem can affect company morale. After all, uncomfortable conversations or complaints about coworker’s headphone levels or loud chewing habits don’t typically boost peer collaboration. Neither does wondering if your coworkers are eavesdropping on your sales calls, adding more stress to important calls.

The lack of privacy is a major issue in these quiet offices. Without some personal space to breathe and some audio privacy, it’s hard to concentrate and not feel self-conscious while you go about working throughout your day.gallery-echopanel7

Too quiet of space can also kill the creativity that these open spaces are supposed to nurture. When every single noise is heard, brainstorming sessions and longer (potentially louder) conversations can feel like breaking the rules of the office. The lack of group dynamic can affect employee feedback on different ideas.

So how do you stop the silence?

Just Right

Spaces that emphasis both openness and privacy throughout the building or floor meet the range of employee needs. Creating available rooms for small groups or solo work without having to plug in headphones gives employees a place to concentrate and focus without distraction.

One way to ensure these rooms maintain their quietness is to introduce sound-absorbing material into the space. Sealing the doors properly also helps maintain sound levels.elum-64-1500px

Don’t have private office spaces in your building? Not a problem. Zoning off sections of the space by using sound-absorbing partitions can help create more private spaces for employees to work. Sound-masking systems can also be very helpful in creating ambiance background noise without introducing too much distraction. After all, no noise can be just as uncomfortable as too much noise.

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Collaboration spaces can still be the center of the space, but consider adding soft material, noise-friendly flooring (think rugs or carpet), acoustic panels and even plants to the space to help absorb sound. These additions can even align with the aesthetic of the space, and create spaces that are still lively but not loud.

Noisy offices can seem like an overwhelming problem to deal with. Typically it’s best for designers and architects to think about noise issues before designing a space. But that ideal situation doesn’t always pan out. Thankfully there are a lot of ways to address and fix the sound issues in open offices.

Looking for some help with your noisy conference room? Check out our fast fixes for those types of spaces here. And learn more about office acoustics from a real acoustic consultant here.

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Office Acoustics: The Definitive Guide to Addressing Workplace Noise Issues

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

19 Commercial Office Design Ideas to Steal From Kirei’s Image Gallery

 

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Commercial office buildings don’t need to be dull, boring, or industrial to be a great place to work. Far from it – it can seem like we are living in a renaissance of office design where anything goes – ping pong tables, upholstered “play areas,” living walls and all manner of spaces and forms designed to enhance the holy grail of “collaboration.”

Offices are now being designed around the way people work and interact rather than dictating to the occupant. This means the end of cubicles and corner offices, and the beginning of more playful, user-friendly, and fun working atmospheres. These 19 commercial office design ideas showcase just how easy it is to create a “statement” office environment that encourages workers to show up and thrive.

1. Multifunctional Conference Rooms

Today’s meetings go beyond a bunch of people simply sitting around a table and exchanging ideas. A plethora of different media types and individuals of differing backgrounds and abilities challenge long-held notions of what makes a space great. So give them a conference room that does more than act as a room for meetings to be held in. This highly functional space features screens, projectors, and insulating wall panels to keep meetings private no matter how loud they may get. The glass panels and large windows help to ensure a level of transparency for those working within that lets them stay connected to what’s going on outside.

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2.  Sound Control Solutions

Today’s offices often have large, wide open working spaces that let people intermingle and work with others as needed. With more room to move around and interact as you need to and fewer dividing walls, the more necessary it becomes to absorb sound.Wavy, textured acoustic tiles help to provide that sound absorption and sound deadening so that wide open spaces stay useful, while at the same time adding some style and interest to the rooms.

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3. Multiple Meeting Places

While some people work best at their desk, others work better in a more relaxed atmosphere. That’s why so many different offices are turning toward more open, playful designs. In this case, casual conversation areas encourage meetings and discussions between employees away from their desks. Boldly colored acoustic beams in the ceiling help ensure these conversations don’t overlap with one another.

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4. Workstations, Not Desks

In companies where employees wear multiple hats and perform multiple functions, it makes more sense to enable employees to float, rather than remain tethered to one fixed desk. This has led to the rise of flexible workstations in a more open office environment. Employees move where they are needed, which helps keep them stimulated and on task.

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5. Shared Spaces

Rather than isolating individuals through highwalls and mouse-maze-like space planning, more companies assign employees to shared spaces. This helps increase communication as well as cooperative work efforts. Sound absorbing screens and partitions can create a flexible shared working space that helps control noise levels and adds function to the space.

shared-spaces

6. Working Lounges

With laptops, cellphones, and tablets there are few reasons anymore for an employee to be tied to their desk. More large companies are beginning to incorporate working lounge areas where employees can go to get comfortable while they get their work done at the same time.

 

 

7. Open Offices

In addition to giving employees the chance to work where they choose, more companies are also beginning to do away with the concept of walls and closed in spaces as well. Open offices mean that everyone works and meets within one large space, sharing ideas, and collaborating more easily with one another.

 

 

8. Dynamic Designs

Without walls, offices become an entirely different type of place to work. This makes way for more dynamic designs, including company mission statements displayed prominently, as well as more interesting and textured designs, such as acoustic wall panels that help make open spaces more user friendly and stylish at the same time.

 

9. Innovative Furnishings

More corporations are also beginning to have furnishings built specifically for their uses, rather than relying on more standard workstations. In this case, acoustic paneling keeps the area private, while a long work surface ensures both multifunctional workspace and collaboration at once.

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10. Inspiring with Color

Color can have a powerful effect on people and their performance. Red in particular is said to be the “power” color, associated with energy, representation, and focus. Many companies are now introducing bold colors like this into their color schemes where once there was only white or gray.

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11. Completely Private Meeting Places

While open office plans have their place, there are also times when a completely private area is necessary for sensitive talks or meetings. A fully insulated, fully wired meeting room gives you the opportunity to talk, stream, work, and meet in complete silence and privacy if needed.

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12. Playful Designs

Outside of meeting areas, it’s becoming increasingly popular to add color, design, and playfulness to the office atmosphere. That includes using partitions and panels that not only offer privacy and sound absorption, but also a little visual stimulation as well.

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13. Pattern Play

As many companies begin to introduce a more playful vibe to their office atmosphere, bold patterns like this red panel begin to pop up everywhere. The stimulating color and design help workers feel more focused and alert than standard gray cubicle walls.

 

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14. Temporary Seclusion

While open offices have a lot of benefits, one drawback that they may have is the lack of privacy for certain types of meetings. Temporary partitions and sound-proof panels can make an instant, temporary meeting place that can offer privacy and sound absorption that folds up again in an instant when the meeting is over.

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15. Glass Walls

When you need more privacy and seclusion than an open floor plan office can give you, glass walls can offer many of the same benefits as an open plan, but with the security you require. Glass walls enable the feeling of the office to remain open, but give you more opportunities for privacy. Adding acoustic boxes to the ceiling helps to preserve the quiet of the room that glass may otherwise take away.

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16. Semi-Private Workstations

If your employees need more privacy than an open floor plan can offer, and glass-walled rooms take up more space than you have, semi-private workstations can be a nice compromise. The glass walls enable employees to look out and interact with one another more easily than enclosed cubicles, while still preserving some semblance of privacy.

commercial-office-design-16

 

17. Serious Noise Reduction

Often open offices and semi-private floor plans are best made in industrial-style office buildings with tall ceilings and concrete floors. Unfortunately, this can lead to echoes and difficulty with keeping conversations private. By hanging acoustic paneling, you can absorb sound and keep the echoes to a minimum no matter how large the room.

commercial-office-design-17

 

18. Urban Space Planning for Offices

Very large offices are beginning to make use of urban space planning in their layouts. This ensures that every inch of the office is utilized, and that every area has more than one purpose. So casual meeting areas may double as places for employees to collaborate and kitchens can become meeting rooms over coffee.

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19. Anti-Office Décor

Many offices are now moving away from traditional office décor as well as traditional layouts and desk models. Encouraging individuality and little touches of home, as well as uncovering a more playful side of the company can all lead to better productivity and workers who want to come to the office in the mornings.

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Update Your Commercial Office Design

Offices are changing rapidly to meet the needs and demands of today’s workers. Gone are the corner offices and the idea that people must be isolated constantly to get their best work done. With more emphasis being placed on spaces becoming multifunctional, it’s certain that the way people view productivity is soon to change as well. Update your office design to meet today’s changing needs and be ready for what the future holds.

EchoPanel is a great solution for today’s dynamic sound-conscious office design. visit www.echopanel.us to find design ideas for your next project.

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4 Tips To Create More Productive Conference Rooms

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Commercial Office Design: The Anatomy of Highly Productive Office Spaces

Commercial Office Design is not just an art, it’s also part science. Creating an optimal work environment is a delicate balance of space planning, light, sound, aesthetics and natural elements along with flow and function.  

Increase productivity by making your office space a happier place to be.

Healthy environments make happy employees

Personal health also plays a large part in productivity and creativity – using low VOC materials on surfaces and in furnishings reduces toxins in the indoor atmosphere and contributes to health and wellbeing of employees. Better air circulation can also help with better office productivity.

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“The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report suggesting that up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings may have excessive complaints about indoor air quality.”

Walking the Walk

As you work to make your office more environmentally friendly, you may also see employee engagement go up. Employees will be proud to work for a company committed to the environment

Increase sustainability to improve your employee’s health while also positively impacting the health of the planet. One simple way to make your office more sustainable without a costly and time consuming redesign or refit is to change the furniture for durable, adaptable and functional furniture that will stay with your office space as the company evolves.

Avoid petroleum based products and adhesives with high VOCs. A great material to work with when increasing sustainability is bamboo, a wood alternative that can lower your office’s carbon footprint.

 

Use Acoustic Materials to Keep it Quiet – But not too Quiet

Offices are often incredibly noisy with printers humming, phones ringing, and multiple conversations going at once. Reducing that noise can be instrumental in increasing productivity and morale while decreasing stress.

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Consider these noise reducing options:

  • Acoustic ceiling and wall panels: sound absorbing panels are incredibly effective, but not always aesthetically pleasing. Thankfully, there are more modern options on the market today.
  • Dedicated quiet spaces: especially in open offices, it can be beneficial for employees to find a retreat in a smaller, dedicated quiet space. An all glass enclosure can maintain the aesthetics of an open office.
  • Playing ambient noise: background noise played at a consistent volume can mask unwanted noise.
  • Noise reducing flooring: thoughtful flooring choices can also decrease noise in an office. Products such as carpet and vinyl flooring are traditionally quieter, but installing and resilient underlayer with bamboo on top can increase sustainability while also decreasing noise.

 

Natural Elements Make for Happier Workers

Employees who work in environments with natural elements reported a 13% higher level of well-being and are 8% more productive overall according to a report commissioned by Interface.

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Using natural materials, such as reclaimed wood or bamboo, in your decor and having low maintenance plants in the office are simple ways to integrate that insight. Use lighter colors to paint offices so you keep your indoor environments calm without being boring.

Incorporating nature in places like small waterfalls, fish tanks, atriums and outdoor grounds keeping all add up to a positive work environment that benefits workers and your business alike.

 

Use Privacy Panels for More Focused Work Spaces

Utilizing privacy panels in your office can increase productivity by giving employees privacy and decreasing noise levels in the office.

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A major benefit of modular panels lies in their flexibility. As employee needs change, teams are formed, or new projects are started the panels can be moved as needed. Lastly, some panels are designed with aesthetics in mind, such as open shelving and white boards.

 

Accent through Natural Light to Increase Productivity

68% of employees are unhappy about the lighting in their office, according to a study conducted by the American Society of Interior Design.screenshot-2016-10-17-11-53-21

Maximizing existing natural light is a fairly simple way to improve employee satisfaction while also increasing office sustainability (by decreasing the need for artificial lighting). But the benefits of natural lighting in an office go far beyond just putting employees in a better mood.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that participants with windows in their offices got 46 minutes more sleep per night and even reported exercised more after work than workers with no natural light in their workspaces.

 

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Understanding Acoustic Design: Part 2

Enduring Open Office

In the first part of this series, acoustic consultant James Black discussed the common acoustic design mistakes found in different types of spaces. This week, he takes a look at office spaces and how to fix the often-neglected acoustics in these vital work environments. Or download the entire article here!

Don’t Follow Trends Blindly
Today we see many of the same designs in offices across the globe. The trend of open seating plans, hard desks, high ceilings, and glass walls has become ubiquitous, and the acoustics can be borderline unbearable, with distractions and noise widespread. So what can be done when an office space is already designed, but there are very real acoustic issues?

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Acoustic Solutions
The biggest improvement can be made by providing barriers between work stations. The open office look and feel can be preserved by making the partitions partially visually transparent at the top. It is really important to break the direct path between work stations. This should be done in combination with a sound absorptive ceiling. However, if the barriers aren’t implemented, adding sound absorbing materials won’t be entirely effective.”

The Conference Room
On a smaller scale – think glass or drywall conference room – acoustics should also be addressed, especially since these types of rooms are often used for more confidential or critical meetings.

“When opening to a noisy space, such as a conference room on the perimeter of open office space, adequate sound isolation is what often gets overlooked. Provide good acoustical seals on the doors, including door bottoms. Avoid butt-joint glazing systems when possible, since it’s very difficult to get a good seal.”

Streamlined-Look Acoustic Panels

For particularly noise-sensitive and confidential spaces, there are other sound isolation improvements that may be needed, such as upgrading the glass, taking the walls full-height or eliminating cross-talk through the HVAC.”

Additionally, providing a sufficient amount of sound absorptive treatment and achieving favorable background noise levels is critical in conference spaces. “Often, conference rooms do not have enough sound absorption. These spaces commonly are intended to be higher profile and receive higher-end finishes. This can mean more acoustically reflective materials.”

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“However, conference rooms are the spaces that need more acoustical control. For example, teleconferences can be particularly challenging because the muddying reverberation in the remote participants’ spaces combine with that of the conference room, exacerbating the problem.”

“Similarly, noise from multiple occupants around the room can mask the desired speech, particularly if the teleconferencing system is not providing good coverage to every participant. For the same reason, it is critical that HVAC noise be attenuated to preferable levels in these spaces.”

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What About Sound Masking?
Another way to improve acoustics is to add a sound-masking system to the office. Sound-masking isn’t anything new, but with more open spacing needing sound solutions fast, many people are turning to sound-masking systems. And for the right application, these systems do work.

They can mask neighboring conversations and sounds that would otherwise be distracting. Similarly, it can help achieve speech privacy.” When paired with acoustic materials, they can definitely improve sound within a space.

Looking for some more reading about acoustics? Check out some more ways to deal with noise in your office and jump to the final part of the series here!


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.

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5 Ways to Manage Noise in Open Offices

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We’ve all seen (and maybe envied) the new prototype “millennial open office.” Edgy desks sprawl across the room, exposed brick and concrete surfaces serve as the ceilings, flooring, and walls. Sleek glass and drywall conference rooms line the space.  A lot of us probably work in open offices similar to this design in some capacity and deal with all the pros and cons of these shared work spaces.

While these open offices seem cool and ideal for collaborative work conversation, this open layout can actually be detrimental to productivity and concentration. (Just in case you haven’t seen the countless articles about the negative aspects of open offices, take a look here). Do you really want to hear about my trip to Cabo while you are coding the company website?

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Once you get over how awesome the office looks and feels on the surface, making a sales call, holding a meeting with people calling in, and even just emailing while combating constant audible distractions can actually be pretty difficult. There is a time and place to hear and be part of the latest work happenings; office culture remains and should be incredibly important in the workplace. But constant conversation and unintentional eavesdropping can definitely distract from the daily work on your plate. It’s no surprise then that this type of poor acoustic design is a huge factor in employee unhappiness within work environments.

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According to one study done by the World Green Building Council, due to distraction from background noise, there can be a 66% drop in productivity in the workplace. And in meetings where people are calling or joining in via Skype or phone, echo issues in drywall and glass conference rooms can also be hazardous to productivity, when concentration on the topic being discussed is mixed with concentrating on actually hearing the person on the other end of the microphone.

Sound reflects off of hard surfaces, even in carpeted offices. Mix in concrete walls, glass walls, and chatty coworkers, and you’ve got a total acoustical mess. So what can be done?

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  • Hang some acoustic baffles. Not a ton of wall space to install acoustic panels? Not a problem. Baffles can be hung in a variety of styles from all sorts of ceilings. And since baffles have two sides of acoustic material exposed in a room, more sound can be absorbed.
  • Use a sound-masking system. These systems are designed to introduce background noise into an office space, so that overheard conversations become unintelligible, increasing privacy and productivity all at once in open offices.
  • Install acoustic panels or partitions. A great addition to any office, acoustic panels can be used on walls or ceilings to help absorb sound and create an acoustically pleasant environment for employees. Partitions made out of softer material are also a flexible, movable solution. The ability to move and rearrange these systems allows for easy install and uninstall, based on the needs of an office space.
  • Buy some plant walls. A little outside of the norm, plants are actually great sound absorbers, which is why there are many companies offering plant walls. With air-cleaning qualities on top of sound absorption, who wouldn’t want some green in the office?
  • Plug in some noise-canceling headphones. If adding extra design elements to your space just isn’t an option, try to combat the noise right at your own ears. There are many noise-canceling headphones on the market, and for a relatively small cost, concentration is right at your fingertips.

Unfortunately there just isn’t one fix-all solution to loud offices, but using combining a few of these tricks in your work place can significantly reduce the noise bouncing around the room. You’ll be back to full-time concentration in no time.