Sound minds are productive minds
People can easily get distracted by noise within the office environment. Interior noise from speech and equipment has been shown to hinder productivity, focus, memory retention and mental arithmetic, while exterior noise from traffic and construction can be equally problematic. What can you do to create a quieter and calmer office design for your team?
The impact of ‘Sound’ and acoustical comfort on workers’ well-being is one of the key office design concepts under the WELL Building Standard® v2. WELL seeks to create spaces that inspire; spaces that are inclusive; spaces that allow us to flourish; spaces that help us become happier and healthier people.
Version 2 builds upon WELL v1, offering more choice to building and office designers while enabling a single version of WELL that could evolve to meet the needs of any type of building in any part of the world. Evoke Projects examines the recommendations for Sound under WELL v2 with suggestions for your next office fit-out or office refurbishment.
Design your floor plan to optimise noise distribution
Cleverly designed workplaces have different zones for activity based working. WELL breaks these zones down into focus, collaboration, socialisation and learning spaces. Clearly, there will be a negative impact on a focus space if it is located next to a social space. Therefore, the floor layout in your office design should take zone noise into consideration during any planned office fit-out or office refurbishment.
WELL v2 recommends sound mapping, including projections of acoustical privacy and background noise as well as zone labels for:
- Loud zones: includes areas intended for appliances, mechanical equipment or amenities (e.g., kitchens, fitness rooms, social spaces, recreational rooms).
- Quiet zones: includes areas intended for focused work, wellness, rest, study and/or privacy.
- Mixed zones: includes areas intended for learning, collaboration and/or presentation.
The WELL standard also has recommended maximum noise levels for different zones within your office design.
Improve sound barriers and noise absorption during your next office fit-out
To improve acoustical privacy between rooms, ensure walls and doors have adequate speech privacy potential. Evoke Projects can advise you on recommended ratings for different wall and partition types. Doors should not be hollow and gaskets are recommended at the head and jambs, with an automatic drop seal or sweep at the base.
Echoes and sound reverberation can also be reduced with ceiling and wall acoustic treatments during an office refurbishment or fit-out.
Install a sound masking system
Sound masking helps to suppress noises from heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, speech or other distracting sounds by increasing the background noise level evenly throughout a given area. By increasing the ambient noise, you reduce the distraction of specific words or sounds.
Specifically, WELL v2 recommends that sound masking sound levels meet the following requirements when measured from the nearest workstation:
- Open offices, libraries, cafeterias, corridors/hallways: 45 – 48 dBA
- Enclosed offices, conference rooms, wellness rooms: 40 – 42 dBA
The sound emitted by a sound masking system should be a “combination of human speech and human hearing frequency content”.
Sound masking systems are often implemented during a complete office fit-out as part of a holistic approach towards sound reduction. However, they are also a good temporary fix during a smaller office refurbishment when it’s not possible to replace fixed, noisy equipment.
Office designs for wellness
The WELL Building Standard has more detail about office design best practice. Please visit their website for more information or talk to the team at Evoke Projects. WELL v1 is still open for registrations; the WELL v2 pilot aims to assess community uptake and feedback about the new office design concepts.
A new office fit-out or office refurbishment is a great opportunity to consider your company’s approach to total office wellness. Please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692 to find out about office designs that focus on wellness.