using an electronic speech privacy system that introduces an
acceptable amount of specifically tuned background noise
into the space to increase speech privacy. “Sound masking
is a good option,” says Hutmacher, “but it requires a certain
reverberation in time and space. I have visited many spaces
where sound masking was introduced into a loud and rever-
berant space, and it actually made things worse.”
Vibrations from external sources like rooftop mechani-
cal equipment may require more extensive measures. “In
general, with vibrations down from the roof, you can install
a 2-inch static deflection spring isolation system, and you
will probably need seismic controls in place to stay within
seismic codes,” says Spencer.
4) Survey for Satisfaction. The problem isn’t solved until the complaints stop rolling in. “Facility managers should
conduct a post-remediation survey of the occupants in the
affected areas. This can bring the project to a successful
close,” says Madaras.
Keep Your Ear to the Ground
Stay up to date on trends and emerging options through
research and visiting websites for acoustical consultants and
“The best thing I can recommend is for people to educate
themselves on acoustics. Read articles, talk to people who
have done it before, reach out to facility managers who have
tackled similar projects, and seek out experts for advice,”
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, and don’t settle
for a compromise if you have a unique vision for your space.
“There are many interesting products out there beyond
acoustical ceiling panels,” says Pieleanu. For example, you
can use an acoustical plaster treatment which looks like
drywall but is sound absorptive. There are micro-perforated
wood systems, and many forms and flavors of clouds – there
are options out there.” B
Jenna M. Aker is a contributing editor for BUILDINGS.
spaces that have been repurposed from their intended use
can provoke noise complaints, as can noisy mechanical
systems. A professional can help you figure out the exact
acoustical issue you are facing. Once the problem is pinpointed, you can take appropriate steps toward remediation. (See “Pinpoint the Cause of the Complaint” on page
24 for examples of root causes.)
3) Treat the Problem. Evaluate your retrofit options
to solve acoustic problem areas. “Acoustic ceiling panels
are often the first line of defense,” says Marshall. “When
seeking to control the transmission of sound from one space
to another, a high level of sound containment, or Ceiling
Attenuation Class (CAC), is required.”
Also check the NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) rating
of existing panels. Older panels could have low NRC ratings
of only 0.50 to 0.70. Gary Madaras, Acoustics Specialist at
ROCKFON, says buildings in the U.S. require that open of-
fice areas have acoustic ceilings with a minimum NRC value
of 0.90 over 100% of the area.
If an open plenum is the visual preference or it is necessary to avoid interference with lighting, air distribution or
fire suppression, the solution may be clouds, baffles or islands. “Ceiling clouds are a great way to concentrate absorption in areas where it is most needed,” says Hutmacher.
If your problem is less about sound absorption and more
about sound blocking, you will face complaints about
speech privacy. “All walls and ceilings need to be sealed up
tight,” says Ingersoll. “As little as a 1% opening can let in
50% of outside noise. You also need to make sure there is
sufficient mass in the walls and ceilings to effectively block
noise transfer, as well as look out for flanking paths where
sound can escape,” he says.
Mass loaded vinyl products can be added to walls instead of
drywall to help increase speech privacy. It would also be wise
to reconsider the office layout and limit any sound pathways
between workstations with strategically placed partitions.
A quieter space isn’t always the solution because it can
lead to conversations being overheard. Marshall suggests
HANGING LAMPS WITH ACOUSTIC INSULATED SHADES offer speech privacy while reducing external noise. Acoustic wall panels
have alternating depths to absorb sound at varying wavelengths.