“Optimizing” is a buzzword I’ve heard often from my customers in recent years when I ask what their overall goals are. From the largest organizations to the single employee operation, “optimizing” is another way to say “to become more efficient,” so that they can be more effective. 

Interestingly enough—and kind of funny to us at Acoustical Solutions—purchasing products to make your acoustics better is a form of optimization, and we’ve been doing it long before it was trendy. 

Just like optimizing your physical space for a better workflow, or optimizing your finances for savings, employing soundproofing and sound control products is a way to optimize the sound and noise pollution in offices.

In fact, sound control is often something that was not on my customer’s minds when they purchased office space for their business. The obvious needs were: enough square footage, electricity, internet, and the associated devices to continue their business and achieve growth. But once they got everything up and running, they started to notice imperfections that caused inefficiencies, such as noise pollution. 

One customer of mine got their new office up and running and then realized quickly that the noise from the HVAC equipment above the drop ceiling was loud. She mentioned they hadn’t noticed it when touring the space, again more focused on other seemingly more important aspects of business. Once they got going, the noise was loud and invasive, which annoyed her and her team. At that point, she realized that she needed to optimize the office soundscape in order to further optimize workplace efficiency. I helped her employ soundproofing ceiling tiles and light hood covers that dramatically reduced the HVAC sound by instantly turning the office atmosphere into what she envisioned, rather than what had come to feel like a low-end, factory-like experience.

When it comes to improving acoustics, optimizing the space is the whole point. Sometimes we need to eliminate sound via soundproofing, and almost always we could improve (optimize) sound via sound absorption techniques, like acoustic panels. In this article, I’ll take you through my go-to list of ways to reduce noise pollution in the office so your atmosphere is ready for you to continue your businesses success and growth.

What’s The Big Deal With Noise Pollution in Offices Anyway?

Agati Furniture - Open office plan using red AlphaSorb® panels and Sonex® Whisperwave® Clouds in ceiling.

Agati Furniture – Open office plan using red AlphaSorb® panels and Sonex® Whisperwave® Clouds in ceiling.

Modern business is smart and understands that optimizing for a positive psychological experience for employees can lead to an increase in efficiency, which of course leads to a more successful company. Such offerings as “wellness” bonuses and/or benefits, some part of the work week taken at home, days off to volunteer or build camaraderie, are all employed to cultivate a sense of positivity and unity. Even atmosphere and architecture help in this cause, with businesses looking for more open office spaces that utilize natural light and biophilic, creative design to make the workplace somewhere that employees are happy to go to, rather than reticent, and that brings us to sound.

The soundscape of an office is just as important as how it looks, and I would say even more so. After all, an office is meant for work, and in between all of the positive additions to promote wellness, companies need their employees to perform. 

What many of my customers have voiced to me is the negativity associated with the noise in the office that permeates the workplace. There’s something grating about an HVAC system that’s too loud or rattles, or how the floor creaks and groans when people walk by when others are hard at work. 

(Try having an important meeting in a conference room when you can hear the dull sounds of chatter and keystrokes from adjacent rooms, or water running in plumbing above ceiling tiles.)

Optimizing a space’s acoustics with soundproofing and sound control techniques falls right in line with the rest of modern office optimizations and can absolutely create the foundation for a positive, vibrant workforce.

Let’s explore how it’s done.

How To Deal With Noise Pollution in Offices: Soundproofing And Sound Control

Recessed Round tiles in Raven Black and Tegular tiles in Smokey Grey installed in an open office

Recessed Round tiles in Raven Black and Tegular tiles in Smokey Grey installed in an open office

When it comes to optimizing the acoustics of an office, there are two often confused but separate techniques that we need to tackle: soundproofing and sound control. I can and do love to get into the science of sound waves, but let’s keep it simple:

Soundproofing is blocking sound from entering a space from adjacent rooms.

Sound control is optimizing the sound within a room to sound clean by removing unwanted echo and reverb.

A conference room should be a haven, the physical space where the brain of the operation performs the highest of tasks. Not only do you not want distracting noise entering from the walls, doors, and windows, but you also may not want what is said in that room to be heard by others outside of it. This is a great example of a need for soundproofing, otherwise known as blocking sound.

On the other side of the conference room, there may be a large open area (chosen to optimize for office well-being and cohesiveness) where the bulk of the workforce is performing their duties. Their many voices are echoing and reverberating around the large room with tall ceilings, which adds up into a cacophony of unintended background noise. In this situation, we want to employ sound control by utilizing specific materials placed in key locations in order to soak up the echo and reverb to allow for clean and clear sound that doesn’t distract.

Employing these two different but complementary acoustic techniques is how we optimize an office efficiently. Let’s look at some of my favorite techniques and products to get it done. 

Soundproofing Techniques And Products

As mentioned, soundproofing is how we block sounds from entering and leaving a space. This involves all aspects of a room: windows, doors, walls, ceilings, and floors.

Soundproofing Walls

AudioSeal® Mass Loaded Vinyl Sound Barrier

AudioSeal® Mass Loaded Vinyl Sound Barrier

When it comes to soundproofing walls, the best way to achieve great results is to renovate the walls by removing the drywall and then adding in the combination of these three products:

When used together, they provide a powerful complex of soundproofing material that guarantees privacy. If you are hesitant to do this office-wide for budgetary concerns, I would suggest focusing on the most important rooms, like the conference rooms.

If renovation is too time-consuming and/or isn’t part of the budget, there’s another option: AlphaSorb® Barrier Acoustic Panels. With these panels, you’ll gain the added bonus of sound control capabilities (more on this below) as well as good soundproofing performance. Note that if you are utilizing them to truly soundproof a room, you will need to have them line the entire wall.

Ceilings

PrivacyShield® Light Hood Installed along with Ceiling Tile Barrier

PrivacyShield® Light Hood Installed along with Ceiling Tile Barrier

You may or may not have issues with sounds coming from the ceilings, depending on if there are multiple levels in your office. Most commercial buildings utilize concrete for floors/ceilings, which is an excellent soundproofing material as is. That said, most offices have drop ceilings that utilize ceiling tiles to conceal HVAC equipment and plumbing. Basic ceiling tiles do a poor job of blocking the noises that come from this type of equipment, but there is an excellent fix to this problem. A combination of our PrivacyShield® Ceiling Tile Barriers and PrivacyShield® Light Hoods are quick to install and will turn your ceiling tile drop ceiling into a formidable soundproofing assembly, easily capable of blocking unwanted noise from the equipment overhead. 

Doors And Windows

Acoustic Door Seal Kit Door Bottom Installation

Acoustic Door Seal Kit Door Bottom Installation

There are many doors in an office, and that means there are many cracks and potentially poor seals from where sound can escape. This is an easy fix utilizing our PrivacyShield® Soundproofing Door Seal Kits. With jamb seals, a threshold seal, and an automatic door bottom, simply add these to existing doors and you’ll have an excellent acoustic seal. Some doors are made with flimsy materials, so you may want to solve that by replacing with solid doors entirely. Our PrivacyShield® Soundproof Door comes in either wood or metal.

When it comes to windows, we’ve also got a quick fix for great soundproofing: our PrivacyShield® Window Seal Kit. Simply add to existing windows to achieve soundproofing without having to replace them.

Sound Control Techniques And Products

PremiumBeat Open Office Plan - The fabric wrapped acoustical baffles installed in the ceiling help to lower the reverberation time to increase speech intelligibility.

PremiumBeat Open Office Plan – The fabric wrapped acoustical baffles installed in the ceiling help to lower the reverberation time to increase speech intelligibility.

Once the office is soundproofed, the foundation has been set for great acoustics. Now our mission is to make sure the sound in the office is clean, and for that we rely on sound control.

Perhaps the most commonly understood acoustic products are acoustic panels. You see them hanging in movie theaters, gymnasiums, churches, restaurants, and music studios. They don’t entirely cover the walls, but rather hang similar to artwork. Their purpose is to absorb the echo and reverberations from sound as it bounces around the room, removing echo so it sounds as best as it can. The bigger the room, the more echo and reverb is a problem (think about caves and how they echo), so the more they need to be treated with sound control solutions. If you have large rooms in your office, sound control is a must to tamp down all of the noise and voices being heard to make it a welcoming, optimized environment for work.

Unlike soundproofing, sound control is also fun because it also gives designers aesthetic control. Our AlphaSorb® Fabric Wrapped Acoustic Panels, for example, offer outstanding sound control while also giving designers a huge array of aesthetic options via acoustic fabric. These acoustic panels are a great choice for adding to walls, such as in conference rooms, to control sound better.

When it comes to the more open areas, suspending acoustic ceiling clouds is a fantastic solution to achieve great sound control without overly complicated installs, as well as offering even more aesthetic options to choose from.

End Office Noise Pollution And Optimize Your Workplace With Acoustical Solutions

The office is a place of hard work where employees spend significant portions of their lives. I understand the need to optimize them, to make a fantastic environment where people feel comfortable and happy to perform at their best. There is no better way to ensure this than to optimize for acoustics through both soundproofing and sound control techniques. 

Give me a call today and we can discuss your current situation and acoustic issues and we’ll draw up an action plan on how to optimize your office acoustics and get your business firing on all cylinders!


To learn more about how Acoustical Solutions can solve your noise control problems, use our contact form, call one of our Acoustical Sales Consultants at (800) 782-5742, or visit us on the web at acousticalsolutions.com.