Beyond Felt: Five Facts You Need to Know About Acoustics in the Workplace

The vaccines are here, and that means many more employees will be heading back to the office. One thing that hasn’t changed since the pandemic sent them home is the need for quiet zones to do heads-down work. A University of California at Berkeley study released before COVID found that 72 percent of workers were dissatisfied with their speech privacy. And, according to research by BOSTI, 59 percent of employee time was spent trying to do quiet work in one’s own workspace.

All materials absorb some sound; however, most materials in today’s workplace reflect more sound than they absorb. Human speech frequencies are the source of the vast majority of the problem related to excess noise in the built environment. It’s the reason why focusing on a project while colleagues are using speaker phone or having impromptu meetings is frustrating. It also impacts productivity. Even in a less densely populated hybrid workplace, employees will continue to be sensitive to this quality-of-life issue. The marketplace has responded with many new products to help with acoustics. Before you specify a solution for your project, there are five facts to keep in mind.

1 Total Silence is Not the End Goal. The true objective is to reduce unwanted reverberation. This is the key to creating the most acoustically comfortable environments. Snowsound  acoustic technology improves sound by absorbing echoes and reverberation without eliminating all sound. Snowsound panels act as acoustic equalizers and close the gaps between the different frequencies in a space, which leaves necessary sound without the feeling of noise.

2   Sound Masking Does Not Always Improve Acoustics. Sound masking or “white noise” is frequently used for speech privacy in open plan offices. White noise creates a “cover” over the chatter and helps mask conversations. However, sound masking does not help within closed rooms because here speech clarity is needed. In closed rooms sound masking adds more noise to the space. Even in open floor plans, if the space has reflective materials such as an exposed ceiling, hard floors or windows, sound masking alone is not a solution. Absorptive materials should be used together with sound masking for open areas, and in addition to high-rated STC products for smaller closed spaces.

3 Snowsound is Not Felt. Snowsound is available in panels and fiber textiles that set the standard for sound absorbing acoustic performance. Snowsound’s variable-density construction is engineered to reduce reverberation and echo in a space by selectively absorbing sound from all frequencies. In fact, they are the only acoustic panels that selectively absorb low, medium, and high frequencies. Snowsound is more effective than felt or PET, because Snowsound panels absorb 100% of sound waves that hit them. The panels offer a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) of 1.0 . NRC is an average rating of how much sound an acoustic product can absorb. The rating system is measured from 0 to 1.0 with 1.0 meaning the product absorbs all sound.

4 Frequency is Not a Key Indicator. Some manufacturers boast that their acoustic panels are most absorptive at higher frequencies. But the focus actually needs to be on the mid-range frequencies (the higher frequencies are already being absorbed by objects and people in the room). If a concert hall is being fitted with acoustic panels, it would be a mistake to use ordinary panels that are most absorptive at the highest frequencies. This would drown out the sound of the high-pitched instruments like the violin and create an imbalanced acoustic performance. It’s the same in the workplace where current acoustic panels typically absorb more of the high frequencies. Snowsound technology, on the other hand, is entirely unique because the panels provide up to 94% of mid-range absorption which includes those speech frequencies that create distractions and lower productivity. Only Snowsound maintains the acoustic balance of spaces at three distinct frequencies—high-range, mid-range, and low-range absorption—for the most comfortable acoustic workplace environments.

5 You Can Calculate Your Acoustic Needs. Snowsound has developed an award-winning calculation software to quickly estimate the necessary amount of Snowsound material needed to achieve acoustic comfort in a space. A powerful sound algorithm allows the sound of a room to be heard before and after the treatment with Snowsound products.  Snowsound is preparing to launch technology that will allow you to hear simulations of your space before and after Snowsound is installed.

Acoustics are critical to create spaces where we can work more effectively. Snowsound technology offers the highest possible NRC and absorbs 94% of human speech frequencies which are the source of most of the problem noise in the workplace.  For a free acoustic analysis and quote click here to fill out Snowsound’s online data form.  A Snowsound rep will analyze your space and contact you to discuss your needs and possible solutions.

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