People are exposed to various sources of noise in buildings. These can be caused by external influences as well as everyday noises in interiors. Depending on the purpose of the room, the people in it and the tasks to be executed, measures must be taken to improve the room acoustics.
The focus of acoustic measures is therefore different in each room and is closely linked to the individual purpose of the room. Optimal room acoustics go much deeper than just ensuring audibility in rooms or reducing unwanted noise. Individual requirements, such as separating work groups from individual workplaces and treating them with different acoustic products as a result, are also important aspects. In this article, we have looked specifically at three examples: offices, schools and universities.
Noise in the office caused by loud office devices, telephone conversations or chats between employees can lead to distraction from the tasks at hand and to stress. This is especially the case in open-plan offices, but also in conference rooms, where interactions are often noisier than in the workplace. This is due to the large number of people in a smaller space, and more problems occur when video or telephone conferencing takes place.
For this reason, as in other workplaces, a high level of attention and concentration is demanded from employees - a distinction is made between different areas of activity that require different degrees of improvement in acoustics. This noise exposure should be enforced by the employer depending on the particular activity.
In general, the higher the proportion of cognitive work and concentrated work, the lower the noise exposure of employees should be.
The effects of excessive noise levels at the workplace are, for example, disturbances in well-being, nervousness, irritability or exhaustion. It can also have a negative effect on the communication behaviour of employees. Noise at the workplace can also have consequences for psychosomatic phenomena, which can result in tension, sleep disorders or a weakened immune system. (Source: VDI 2569 - Sound protection and acoustical design in offices)
Nine years are compulsory schooling in Austria - although multimedia forms of learning are becoming more and more popular due to the universally available Internet, school learning is mainly based on oral communication. This period forms the elementary basis for students' continuing education and paves the way for their further vocational training. Too much noise can cause students to lose interest in school and learning in general. This is why the topic of "classroom acoustics" is becoming increasingly important. And correctly so, as numerous studies have shown. (Noise in educational facilities - H. G. Schönwälder; Acoustic ergonomics of schools - M. Oberdörster; and many more).
Non-optimal listening conditions have an impact on the reception of the conveyed information - consequently, it may be misunderstood or not understood.
In addition, listening becomes more and more strenuous for the children over a longer period of time, because the children and adolescents have to spend more cognitive capacities to process the conveyed information. As a result, it becomes even more difficult to muster enough energy and concentration for the lessons as well as for the homework that follows. Foreign language classes or people whose language of instruction is not their native language exacerbate this problem and require significant acoustic adjustment of the premises.
The fundamental difference between universities and schools is that students consciously choose this type of education and thus have to concentrate on the content of the lecture out of their own motivation. Students have to put in an enormous amount of concentration in order to absorb, process and understand difficult material from lectures over a period of months leading up to the stressful weeks of exams and final papers. Thus, providing adequate equipment in classrooms is elementary to creating the best possible environment for students to take as much as possible directly from the lecture.
Libraries are a popular place to work on projects in groups or to study in a concentrated way for important exams. There, too, attention must be paid to the overall room acoustics and, in addition, places must be created for work groups where project members can separate themselves in order to work in peace without disturbing other students who prefer to study separately.
In summary, it can be said that each room must be treated individually. Not only in terms of its size and interior design, but also in terms of how it is used and the activities that are carried out there. It is important to have optimal room acoustics in order to provide children, teenagers and adults with optimal acoustics at the workplace in order to achieve optimal results.
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