Open Plan offices are designed for collaboration and to maximise the functunality of the space. 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

Ambiance Rafts - Hexagon

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 Echo Panel from The Acoustics Company, 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.

Acoustic Rafts & Baffles

Acoustic ceiling baffles

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 Alpha Baffle, 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 Ambiance Rafts, 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.

Acoustic Screens

Acoustic Screens

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

Acoustics Panels

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.

Making Acoustic Specification Easy

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.

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