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How to Control Noise in Your Work Space

Can you hear me now?

Acoustics, the science of sound and its effects within a space, are a serious matter in the interior design of your space – be it your office, a theater or your home.

Too much noise is distracting and makes us feel uncomfortable. This affects our well-being, our desired sense of calm, and our productivity. The study of acoustics helps us attain an optimal level of sound in a room so that you can easily focus on your work, decipher the spoken word or enjoy music.

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Acoustic wall panels absorb sound in your space. From Unika Vaev

Sounds or noises are essentially waves and vibrations in the air. These waves enter our ear, manipulate the inner mechanisms, and are then interpreted by the brain. Different intensities and frequencies may either annoy us or enthrall us. There are restaurants that are so loud you can’t even carry on a conversation at a small table. If everyone attempts to speak louder, the overall volume of noise is augmented. If you pay attention, you can actually feel the crescendo and fall of voices clamoring for attention and then subsiding over and over again. It may be more subtle in your home or apartment yet still uncomfortable.

You can address these issues with the interior design of your space. Here are just a few solutions to improve your personal acoustics.

Solutions to Noises from the Outside

A neighbor’s argument, a baby’s screams or the morning traffic may encroach upon your space. High heels click or work boots thump from above and we all know when the plow truck finally comes by. These are noises that come from the outside and need to be intercepted or insulated from your space.

  • Sound attenuation blankets much like insulation material can be installed in the cavity of the wall.
  • Openings need to be addressed and closed as much as possible as you would when insulating against the cold. Sound waves can go under doors and through openings in the electrical outlets or through your heating ducts.
  • The double and even triple pane windows available are not only extremely effective in keeping your conditioned air inside but also in preventing noise transmission into the home. Sound waves can vibrate single pane glass windows passing outdoor noises into your home or office.
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Acoustical tiles on walls and ceiling can absorb and diffuse sound. From Unika Vaev

Sound waves can sneak up above your ceiling if there are any openings in the hung ceiling or light fixtures and travel from room to room. This is why you may hear conversations from a doctor’s office in the adjacent treatment room, or from a conference room into the hallway, or from your living room television in an upstairs bedroom. They can come from all directions.

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Acoustic booths provide privacy for work in an open plan office. From Vitra

Solutions to Noises from Within

The noises from within may be your office’s printers, co-worker quarrels or your beautiful screaming baby. Hard surfaces such as tile or wood floors, hard walls and ceilings reflect the sound waves; this allows them to bounce around, augmenting the sounds and making us uncomfortable. These noises need to be absorbed in order for us to feel comfortable.

  • Soft surfaces such as carpets can absorb heavy footsteps while insulating the floor for those below. This is why apartment buildings require a minimum % of floor area to be carpeted.
  • Window treatments, upholstered furniture, acoustical wall and ceiling panels absorb or muffle sound to lessen the noise level within the space. These acoustical panels and partitions are placed strategically to catch the sound waves in such a fashion as to reduce the noise significantly.
  • Sound Masking is the introduction of an additional sound into a room so as to camouflage an unwanted sound to enhance privacy. This can be seen at a therapist’s office, in a restaurant bathroom, or even in the ubiquitous earbuds that have become the iconic symbol of today’s youth.
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An acoustic glass cover reduces sound reflection on glass walls without limiting light. From Unika Vaev

Various sounds must be treated differently. As an Interior Designer, I use this knowledge to enhance my designs invisibly with implementation of the various methods of treating, or more importantly, preventing the non-desirable sounds found in the everyday world. I strive to keep your conference room private and your rooms echoless. In specific instances, such as a soundproof room or a surround-sound home theater, I partner with an acoustical specialist to achieve optimal results. Noise can affect your productivity and be extremely disturbing to your well-being and ultimately the enjoyment of your space.

Let me assist you in solving your spaces’ acoustical phenomena. Call me at 201 233-4636 or e-mail me at pat@pvzdesign.com.

Pat Valentine Ziv, ASID, CID, is a NJ Certified Interior Designer and a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers. She holds an Architectural Design degree and possesses in-depth knowledge of buildings and their systems.


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