How we manage noise in a work place is critical to how staff and clients will interact and ultimately enjoy the experience. We can all relate to visiting a restaurant, and the background noise was so high we couldn’t hear the people at our own table. Or receiving a telemarketing call and you could hear about 100 other calls proceeding in the background. What impression did it leave with you about these businesses? Not good.

Hearing is one of your five senses. It has a massive impact on how you interpret any environment and a workplace is no different. Good designers and architects always carefully consider the implications of noise levels from every angle to ensure the finished project meets the required criteria.

Poorly managed noise transmission can result in the following negative outcomes for any workplace:

  • Clients feeling uncomfortable with noise levels and not returning
  • Lack of confidentiality resulting in clients and/or staff trust issues.
  • Complaint from neighbouring businesses or residents.

Below is an outline of common issues we see in the industry and how these can be addressed in the design stage (which is ideal) or after construction if required. Engaging a suitable designer or architect in the design stage should pre-empt these issues however it would be wise to discuss any issues you foresee with your project at your initial meetings. You may also need to speak with a specialist acoustic consultant to assist on your particular issues.

Common sound issues found in offices, medical practices or childcare centres:

Problem #1: Too much background noise

A prime example of this is a childcare centre. You have 50 children in a confined space – the noise becomes unbearable. This is not only unpleasant inside – it also has the potential to spill out and create issues with neighbours.

Another example is a call centre -50 staff doing outbound calls. The noise distracts staff and can be heard by customers over the phone.

Solutions to background noise

In these types of situations, we need to focus on absorbing sound. Sound reflects off some surfaces and is absorbed by other surfaces. Hard shiny surfaces typically reflect sound and soft surfaces typically absorb sound. While this is a generalisation, the following solutions should be considered initially:

  • Use an acoustic ceiling solution. These are designed to absorb noises rather than reflect them. They will reduce sound bouncing off the ceiling and are available in different ratings. Check the NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient ) of the products – the higher this is, the more effective the product will be. Acoustic panels of the mineral fibre type are most common and cost effective. Perforated plasterboard and timber panelling are other suitable options here. Hanging acoustic features – which look great and absorb sound – are also available.
  • Use a floor covering with a higher NRC. Carpet is generally going to be a lot more effective at absorbing sound than vinyl, and ceramic tiles or polished concrete are going to be less effective . Careful consideration needs to go into the floor covering choice as it still needs to be fit for purpose. If your childcare centre requires an easy to clean surface you may not be able to use carpet in your problem area – however you could source a vinyl with higher NRC to help address your problem. Carpets also vary a lot in their sound absorption abilities. With cheaper/less dense carpets not performing so well.
  • Fabric curtains, as dividing screens or installed to cover windows will assist. The heavier and denser the fabric, the more effective they will be.
  • Acoustic panels can be mounted on walls or used as dividing screens – these are available in a wide variety of options – such as polyspun fibres, timber panelling and custom printed fibreglass fabric with polyester backing.
  • Typically to reach the required outcome you will need to look at range of complimenting solutions.

In every one of these options there are opportunities to also ensure your fitout looks fantastic  -whether your fitout is for a Veterinary or Medical Practice, Corporate office or Childcare Centre. We strongly recommend speaking to your design manager to ensure the outcome looks and performs well.

Problem #2: Noise transfer between areas causing confidentiality issues, embarrassment and annoyance.

This is another problem a lot of businesses have. Noise in one area causes issues in other area. Some examples we have encountered include:

You are waiting at the local Veterinary for an appointment. Out the back there is someone’s beloved pet dog who has just had an operation and is in recovery section – slowly coming round and howling loudly in the process. Your dog doesn’t like it, you don’t like it, and the other clients don’t like it. If there’s loud unpleasant noises going around the walls should be stopping them.

A Doctor has just purchased and moved in to new Medical Centre with multiple consulting rooms. After a few days, he has noticed that if you listen carefully you can hear what people are discussing in the next room. What’s more, everyone in the waiting room can hear the toilet flush. It’s not confidential and it’s leaving patients and staff feeling uncomfortable.

Solutions for noise transfer issues in office, medical practices and childcare centres 

The issues in these situations and many others like this, is that sound needs to be blocked more effectively. Requirements will vary depending on your project, however the following needs to be considering carefully.

  • The walls need to be specified and built correctly. Different types of wall block different amounts of noise. While masonry wall are generally very good at blocking sound, a lightweight wall can also be constructed to block sound very effectively. Basic Glazing doesn’t offer a very high level of confidentiality, however it is acceptable for many office situations. Glazing can be upgraded to high specification glass or utilising double glazing can actually give you the best of both worlds. Walls can be upgraded in place with minimum disruption to your workplace if required.
  • Sound may also be leaking around or over the wall, through ceilings, air-conditioning vents and door-ways. If this is the case, the issues can be addressed and rectified. Often one of these points is the main cause of the problem.
  • You should also look at ways of absorbing sound within the room where possible – in many situations this can make a significant difference.

Obviously, the best way to address these issues is by pre-empting them in the design stage. Where this has not been done, or they require improving, a good designer can assist you with this.

Cyclo Group can assist with managing sound issues in your Medical Centre, Veterinary Centre, Office or Childcare. We have working relationships with sound consultants and sound engineers to assist where required. The information here is only intended to be for general use and we strongly recommend speaking to a designer or qualified sound consultant to get the best solution for your business.

Where Cyclo Group are designing a project, acoustic issues are pre-empted and costed into the original design.