Did you know that every year, 8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments. Whether by errant plastic bags or plastic straws winding their way into gutters or large amounts of mismanaged plastic waste streaming from rapidly growing economies, that’s equivalent to emptying a refuse truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day for an entire year!
But did you also know that noise pollution is the primary cause of reduction in productivity and can contribute to stress and illness which can also contribute to absenteeism and continuous turnover of staff?
The typical noise level in an open plan office is 65 dB and shockingly that’s only 30 dB less than a lawnmower! And background noise, even at low levels, has been found to increase stress levels and undermine short-term memory, reading comprehension and willingness to engage with others.
But what does this have to do with ocean pollution? Well, Soundtect is one acoustic supplier who has devised a solution to tackle both, by using post-consumer recycled plastic to create a wide range of acoustic solutions to reduce noise pollution in the commercial workplace. Soundtect offers three ranges of solutions, comprising of their iconic 3D wall panels, the Class range of ceiling baffles, rafts and circles and Freestyle which is a semi rigid felt, and is a designers dream as it can be used for anything from ceiling baffles to wall features, hanging screens and bespoke ceiling features.
So why are acoustics so important? The working world currently seems to have a love hate relationship with open plan offices, most of which centres around noise, but the open plan office concept is highly successful for several reasons. It is cost effective, allows room for expansion and changing team dynamics, creates more working collaboration, reducing the need for separate meetings. It creates a ‘buzzy atmosphere’ enhancing the office culture and enjoyment at work. Every business wants more happy workers as they influence an organisation’s success and performance.
So, here’s the conundrum - the open plan concept is the right solution for increasing engagement and creating happier more productive employees, but the noise by-product can seriously affect individuals, increasing stress, reducing productivity by up to 60% some tests have shown and even leading to illness and a higher turnover of staff.
The great news is that acoustics have come a long way in the last 10 years and are generally no longer an afterthought or boring and hidden. Nowadays, they’re stylish, colourful and are used in a variety of applications; meeting pods, partitions, and decorative forms such as wall panels and ceiling enhancements, Reverberation and noise control can be tailored to be as funky or discreet as you like and whilst the addition of acoustic solutions is primarily to counteract the noise travelling around a building, the extra dimension these products can bring to the overall design of a project is limitless.
And it’s not only the open plan buildings that suffer from noise issues. The surge in glass partitioned meeting rooms is another trend which is as prevalent as ever, and yet, as brilliant as these are for creating private areas and retaining light filled commercial and educational spaces which retain the flow and light of a building, the addition of glass will compound the issue of noise, especially in small rooms, or those with large windows, which invariably already have little or no soft surfaces, so an acoustic treatment to counteract this inevitable reverberation, is vital.
Keeping minds working productively and calmly however at the moment includes keeping safe, and that means at a distance, which isn’t always possible especially in busy offices. To address this, acoustic hanging screens which have been widely used to create quiet spots and mini meeting areas in open plan offices previously, are more popular than ever as they can act as pathways or creating separate areas to assist those in vulnerable positions.
Recently Soundtect went one further and launched a new printed wood finish for their Freestyle® range. This lightweight, semi-rigid sound absorbing panel has revolutionised the acoustic market and although there many other manufacturers with a similar product, Soundtect are the pioneers of all sides being printed, and the results are very believable. No more need for heavy wooden ceiling baffles or hard to install rustic wooden surfaces to create the organic and natural feel that is popular right now and what’s more, saving our trees is as essential as ever for the future of our planet, so this application in another tick to sustainable design.
So, the solution is straight-forward; to balance the boom, restore the calm, and improve the cognitive performance of your team in a hard surfaced, open plan or high ceilinged building, more consideration needs to be given to noise dynamics and how you can reduce them with effective acoustic solutions, and if you also buy into the sustainable solutions offered by Soundtect, you are also lessening environmental pollution at the same time.