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Quality Sound: Office Acoustics Done Right

Comfortable ambient sound should be maintained throughout the spaces, says Kristen Salenger, senior associate in acoustics at Shen, Milsom, & Wilke. For facility managers, an important step in planning for good acoustics is understanding the underlying anatomy of open office acoustics, the way that the physical elements of a space affect the transmission of sound. Because conference rooms, as well as private offices, are frequently used to discuss sensitive, proprietary, or confidential material, having sound “Leak” into adjacent space is unacceptable. “Ceiling tiles with higher CAC ratings do a better job of blocking sound transmission from space to space and thus improve privacy between those two spaces,” says Todd Berger, manager of field sales engineers in North America for Biamp Systems. Because sound is most commonly transmitted through the plenum between adjoining spaces, partial height walls will inherently allow for more sound transmission than walls that continue from floor to deck. This is measured via a sound transmission class metric, which provides a single-number rating of sound blocking. This is an important consideration because perforations in the wall – say, for an electrical outlet or the space beneath a door sweep – allow for sound flanking paths – paths that permit the passage of sound and erode privacy.

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