At OBEX, we specialize in minimizing noise transmission in the space between desks. But this is just one part of the noise abatement puzzle. If you’ve ever worked in a building that has tile flooring or glass walls, you know that every surface in the office has an impact on how loud the environment seems. Ceilings are another critical component in sound control. Here’s an overview of how ceilings affect sound and some exciting solutions in this space.
Why the Wrong Ceilings Make Noise Worse
First, it’s important to understand a little about how sound reverberating and reflecting off of ceilings can impact the experience of workers. In areas that have exposed ceilings instead of dropped ceilings, sound waves bounce off the ceiling and are redirected back down into the workspace. The smaller the room, the more of a problem the direct reflection of sound tends to be. Noises such as phones ringing, coworkers talking, or foot traffic passing can quickly become a distraction. With a high, hard ceiling, the sound reverberates even more. People raise their voices to be heard—even though that just makes the problem worse.
Hidden Costs Abound with Sound
The loss of productivity is just one challenge posed by bad ceiling acoustics. Lynn Proctor Windle at Facilities.net offers another great insight into the hidden costs of this problem. She points out that phone equipment is often erroneously blamed when phone conversations are muddled and difficult to understand. In fact, if voice clarity degrades significantly in conference calls vs. individual calls, this is almost always caused by ambient noise being detected by the microphones in the teleconferencing equipment. The human ear doesn’t usually notice this sound until it is picked up and fed directly through the speakers.
Noise Abatement Solutions Don’t Have to Be Expensive
If a space is renovated and the ceiling is left open for a modern “industrial” look, it can be pretty expensive to install a complete suspended acoustical tile ceiling. However it’s possible to install panels instead that can be arranged around existing lights, HVAC, and sprinklers. You can check out an example of these “ceiling clouds” at SMG or Pinta-Acoustic. We like the innovative retrofitting approach. It reminds us a lot of our own panels. Easy to install, cheaper than tearing out what you have and rebuilding, and very attractive!