20 interiors+sources september2018 interiorsandsources.com
is important when discussing matters of finance. The combination of a small
air volume and large amounts of surface area covered by materials with good
acoustical properties make for fewer echoes and less reverberation. The only
caveat of the space is privacy. The only private office is the manager’s desk.
All the tellers and staff are in one room, relatively close to each other. There are
no boundaries or walls to prevent a person at one teller hearing every detail of
the next person’s transaction. Again, this is easily solved by creating dividers
between teller desks, or by having moveable dividers to create flexible privacy
on demand – which is not the best circumstance, but a compromise that gives
off the feeling of an open space with a slight degree of more privacy as needed.
This institution’s rudimentary use of materials with acoustical properties helps
make it a warm, inviting, and quiet place to get advice on one’s finances and do
This widely utilized, multi-faceted health care system has many offices in the city
that serve thousands of patients daily. Thick wood entry doors with dark tan and
beige painted walls line a medium-sized lobby/waiting room. Eight- to 10-foot-high
ceilings with acoustical tiles work together with carpeted floors and large wooden
chairs with soft cushions, all of which add up to a better acoustical signature.
While the overall aesthetic feels dated, the ability to understand conversation
and spoken word is very high. People can speak quietly and be easily heard.
Confidential patient conversations with nurses at the reception window are
kept localized and private from other patients. Overall, this doctor’s office is
an above-average acoustical environment whose characteristics can easily be
adopted to more modern, futuristic lobbies to achieve the same performance.
Only now are people realizing the business and personal impact of having a
great deal of auditory fatigue and zero privacy. Besides the obvious psychological
stress of being in a loud echoic environment for 40 hours a week, many sensitive business contracts have been undermined due to everyone being able to
overhear private information within a space.
There is a reason for privacy. There is a reason why good offices are quiet.
The human toll during the industrial era and a plethora of studies on the
impact of factory labor on human health show us what noise and fatigue do to
humans. Yet we continue to design and build loud, noisy, and stressful environments, which acoustically resemble industrial factories more than office lobbies.
Education, knowledge, and innovation are the keys to creating positive change
to make the world a better sounding place.
Thankfully, the basics of acoustics are very straightforward. In fact, acoustics
follows some very clear rules, which are simple to remember:
• Hard surfaces create reflections
• Reflections cause issues (including echoes, reverberation, resonances,
and comb filtering)
• These issues cause low intelligibility, poor clarity, and minimal phase accuracy
• Therefore, hard surfaces make things sound bad and hard to understand
All these examples of office lobbies are part of what we call the acoustic
signature of a space. It is the subjective feel of how a room sounds to a person
or group of people. The other part is acoustic isolation. This is how sound is
kept in or out of a space using a specific building envelope design. Most of
acoustics falls within these two fields of study. The moral of our tale of four
lobbies is to integrate acoustics into the design process at the conceptual
stages, and utilize dual-purpose materials to create warm, comfortable, quiet
spaces, which invite people to walk in and engage with your business.
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