Interior architecture & design is like technology, a continually changing, continually developing & improving art. As each office or studio or school, theatre, home and public space is completed the standard and thought that goes into a project is bettered.
While the battle between open plan and more traditional office layouts seems to have been won over by open, the issues that expansive open spaces throw up continue to cause controversy.
While open plan can improve communication, maximise spatial usage, increase light efficiency and create aesthetically stunning scapes it undeniably also opens up the distance and volume that noise travels. Pair this with the contemporary trends of tile, wood, steel and glass and every telephone ringing and voice talking can create a cacophony of noise that most would find difficult to concentrate in.
But, if you can capture and manage the bouncing acoustics there is numerous evidence that stress levels and productivity can soar.
That’s not to say you must eliminate noise. In fact, some ambient noise can decrease distraction. In a silent environment a single voice can seem loud and be a big irritant.
Rosalind Lambert-Butler of acoustics consultants Forte Acoustics, discusses the difference between noise and sound and how this affects our concentration in the workplace. Lambert-Butler explains how sound helps us focus whereas noise distracts us.
“A completely silent office means every single noise is heard at a higher level, therefore conversation seems louder and irritating resulting in less productivity. In contrast, on an aeroplane there are loud background sounds yet we can still focus.”
Forte Acoustics suggest providing open plan offices with ‘speech privacy’ quiet zones to improve productivity.
Delineation is key – assigning space to concentrate silently, space to talk in small groups and space to work amongst ambient noise. This doesn’t mean building walls back up and losing the light and visual freedom gained in open plan spaces.
Use products – curtains, carpets, acoustic wall tiles, and space dividers – to absorb noise.