Noise and Acoustics

Published on: 9th July 2018

Noise levels within the office can vary substantially from office to office depending on the industry. Both external and internal noise is one of the lead causes of dissatisfaction within the workplace, and is particularly problematic within open plan offices.

Noise distractions can not only impact productivity but can have a detrimental impact on employee health and stress levels. Finding the balance between background sound levels and distractions can be tricky with a recommendation of 45dBA for open plan offices and 40dBA for cellular offices.

A design solution that allows employees to find the balance between background noise and distractions is providing a range of different work spaces, each with different acoustic conditions, allowing staff to be flexible and decide what setting they work depending on they’re preferences.

You can continue browsing the positive and negative impacts of office design by using the links below.

Health and wellbeing in the office

For many of us, a large portion of our day is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so it’s no surprise our work environment can have a huge impact on our quality of life.

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For many of us, a large portion of our day is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so it’s no surprise our work environment can have a huge impact on our quality of life.

[fulltext] =>

Staff costs typically account for 90% of business operating costs, therefore an increase in employee health and productivity can have huge impact on the success of a business. A high-quality office can help motivate staff, improve productivity and communication, whereas a poorly designed office can have a negative effect, reducing productivity and even leading to Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). When designing any new office space, it is important to engage with the staff that will be working there through group discussions, interviews, or surveys, this will ensure that both the occupant and business needs are satisfied.

As well as staff engagement, there are several building design features that are known to have an effect on the health, wellbeing and productivity within the workplace. Some of these features include, air quality, thermal comfort, lighting, noise, layout and views. 

Read what architectural assistant, Lucy Gallagher feels are the main positive and negative impacts of key design features by clicking the links below.

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Indoor air quality and ventiliation

The quality of air within an office can have a significant impact on worker health, and in turn productivity. There are various health implications associated with poor indoor air quality including respiratory problems, infections and irritants. Research carried out by the World Green Building Council in 2003 recorded a 11% increase in productivity as a result of increased fresh air to the workstation and a reduction in pollutants, with the optimum ventilation rate of between 20 and 30 litres per second (higher than the minimum standard of 8-10 litres per second).

Read More....

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The quality of air within an office can have a significant impact on worker health, and in turn productivity.

There are various health implications associated with poor indoor air quality including respiratory problems, infections and irritants. Research carried out by the World Green Building Council in 2003 recorded a 11% increase in productivity as a result of increased fresh air to the workstation and a reduction in pollutants, with the optimum ventilation rate of between 20 and 30 litres per second (higher than the minimum standard of 8-10 litres per second).

[fulltext] =>

Studies suggest that using mixed mode ventilation of both natural and mechanical ventilation could be the best solution to improve air quality while maintaining HVAC energy savings. Other design features that can improve indoor air quality include, increasing floor to ceiling heights and using low and no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials and furnishings.

You can continue browsing the positive and negative impacts of office design by using the links below.

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Thermal Comfort

Unlike indoor air quality, the effects of poor thermal comfort are much harder to measure, as a person’s perception of thermal comfort can be influenced by several factors, including their metabolic rate, clothing and personal preference. Studies suggest that high temperatures in the office are less tolerated than low temperatures, with a 6% reduction in productivity in warmer temperatures and a 4% with cooler. The optimum temperature is thought to be between 21° and 23° with thermal comfort being a key factor influencing an employee’s workplace satisfaction.

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Unlike indoor air quality, the effects of poor thermal comfort are much harder to measure, as a person’s perception of thermal comfort can be influenced by several factors, including their metabolic rate, clothing and personal preference.

Studies suggest that high temperatures in the office are less tolerated than low temperatures, with a 6% reduction in productivity in warmer temperatures and a 4% with cooler. The optimum temperature is thought to be between 21° and 23° with thermal comfort being a key factor influencing an employee’s workplace satisfaction.

[fulltext] =>

User control is the key to maximising thermal comfort, allowing employees to adjust their environment, this can be problematic in open-plan office environments where everyone’s preference is different however some user control can be made available through user adjustable floor ventilation or task air systems that provide individual ventilation.

You can continue browsing the positive and negative impacts of office design by using the links below.

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Daylight and lighting

Lighting in the workplace must satisfy a variety of different needs, not only does lighting ensure we can carry out the task in front of us, it can also effect an employee’s mood, communication, and health.  Poor lighting and lack of control of the visual environment can influence employee productivity, whilst visual discomfort such as poor visibility, glare and flicker can lead to headaches and eyestrain.

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Lighting in the workplace must satisfy a variety of different needs, not only does lighting ensure we can carry out the task in front of us, it can also effect an employee’s mood, communication, and health. 

Poor lighting and lack of control of the visual environment can influence employee productivity, whilst visual discomfort such as poor visibility, glare and flicker can lead to headaches and eyestrain.

[fulltext] =>

Studies show that employees with access to a window, slept on average 46 minutes more per night, had a reduction in sick leave and had overall improved workplace satisfaction. Recommendations for task lighting levels in offices are between 300-500 lux, research suggests that this is achieved through a combination of daylighting and LED lighting, ensuring energy use remains low. Both interior and exterior shading devices should be in place to control glare, reduce solar gain and provide better visual comfort.

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Office Layout

Workspace density, tasked based spaces and breakout spaces are all things that needed to be considered when designing an office layout. The layout of an office can have an effect on concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity. Hot desking and shared workspaces are becoming increasingly common in modern working environments with the objective to increase workspace density and provide more efficient spaces.

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stdClass Object ( [state] => 1 [modified] => 2018-07-16 08:46:36 [id] => 1556 [asset_id] => 1923 [title] => Office Layout [alias] => office-layout-2 [introtext] =>

Workspace density, tasked based spaces and breakout spaces are all things that needed to be considered when designing an office layout.

The layout of an office can have an effect on concentration, collaboration, confidentiality and creativity. Hot desking and shared workspaces are becoming increasingly common in modern working environments with the objective to increase workspace density and provide more efficient spaces.

[fulltext] =>

When designing, considerations must be made to find the balance between workspace efficiency and ensuring the well-being of the occupant is not compromised, the British Council of offices suggests that workspace density should be between 8 – 13m². 

Several design considerations can be made to improve employee wellbeing, two key aspects being agile working and active design, agile working gives the employee flexibility, providing a variety of different work settings giving employees control over where, how, and when they work, while active design encourages movement both inside and outside the office.

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Office outlook

Views away from the office allow the eyes to adjust and refocus, reducing employee fatigue, headaches and eye strain. Ideally views should be aesthetically pleasing with views of the outdoors having the additional benefit of daylighting as discussed earlier.

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stdClass Object ( [state] => 1 [modified] => 2018-07-16 08:46:13 [id] => 1557 [asset_id] => 1924 [title] => Office outlook [alias] => office-outlook [introtext] =>

Views away from the office allow the eyes to adjust and refocus, reducing employee fatigue, headaches and eye strain. Ideally views should be aesthetically pleasing with views of the outdoors having the additional benefit of daylighting as discussed earlier.

[fulltext] =>

Studies show that introducing indoor planting to an office can improve productivity, concentration as well the indoor air quality. Adding indoor plants is not the only way to encourage a biophilic workspace, interiors and artwork can be designed to mimic shapes and forms found in nature and natural soundscapes can be used with the additional benefit of masking noise. Incorporating views of nature in urban environment can often be tricky, however creating courtyards, atriums and sky gardens can be a solution that should be considered when designing.

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