Industry experts offer sound advice to reduce occupant complaints
FIX YOUR ACOUSTIC
PROBLEMS in 4 STEPS
Noise begets noise – the latter in the form of complaints. Occupant complaints about acoustics are one of the most frequently heard by FMs. The
Center for the Built Environment (CBE) at the University
of California reports that more than 50% of employees are
unhappy with speech privacy in their workspaces. CBE
also found that 60% of office workers in cubicles say that
acoustics directly interferes with their job performance.
Statistics like those are loud and clear: If you have
acoustical issues, you want to remedy them.
Assessing the Costs of Acoustical Problems
If you think addressing complaints about acoustics is a
poor use of resources, you are wrong. The productivity cost
of problems can be high.
According to Robert Marshall, Manager of Marketing
Technical Services at Certain Teed Ceilings, “Poor acoustics
in today’s open-plan office environments is a problem that
can ultimately cost employers thousands of dollars. A noisy
workplace can be distracting and frustrating for employees
and it can lead to decreased productivity.”
A recent study found that office productivity can drop as
much as 66% when employees who are trying to read or write
are disturbed by nearby conversations. “It can take up to 15
BY JENNA M. AKER
minutes for an office worker to regain concentration after
being distracted by noise. Studies show that employees are
almost twice as likely to attend to complex tasks in quiet
office environments than in noisy ones,” adds Marshall.
If employees take a job elsewhere due to unhappiness
with their current work environment, even higher costs
can be incurred by an organization. The costs of hiring and
training a replacement can run from 30% to 50% of the
annual salary for an entry-level employee to 150% of the
salary for a mid-level, Marshall says.
The noise level in office spaces averages 50 to 60
decibels. Exceeding that level is nothing to yawn at. Statistics link high levels of office noise to increased stress,
accidents and illness. “When noise hits 65 decibels,” says
Marshall, “the risk of heart attack increases.”
4 Steps to Fix Acoustical Problems
The following steps will help you discover and remedy
common noise complaints.
1) Design for Acoustics. Consulting an acoustical en-
gineer or expert during the design phase is the best way
to avoid future noise complaints.
“The number one way to eliminate these problems is
proper planning and zoning of office space for compatible
uses,” says Michael Spencer, President and Principal
“Ceiling clouds are a great way to concentrate absorption in areas where it is most needed.”