Acoustic design is set out to control sound as it travels through a space, in order to meet the needs of the individuals impacted in the environment and interior spaces.
Sound travels through the air as a series of waves, and depending on the acoustic properties of the surfaces, the positioning of the walls, and objects in the space, the sound behaves in a different manner.
Sounds in all work environments are inevitable, such as the conversations in an office or the sounds of a printer next to workspaces. That is why unwanted noise is one of the most common workplace complaints and therefore, managing the sound in an indoor environment is very important.
It is not only about addressing the source, but it is also about adjusting and changing how the sound moves once it has been transmitted in order to provide a pleasant environment to be in. When positioning acoustic products, the highest priority should always be that the noise, or sound in the technical vocabulary, is stopped as close as possible to the source.
When analyzing an indoor space, and looking at ways to manipulate sound and manage acoustic problems, there are four approaches that can be utilized: Absorb, Block, Cover and/or Diffuse.
Absorption is a way to control sound by capturing it with porous materials. This approach reduces the amount of reflection that occurs in a space. These porous materials can be used on surfaces in the space and in addition, they can be utilized on other objects like furnishings. Depending on the specific kind of environment, an analysis of the space is required in order to implement the optimal amount of absorption material and objects needed for the ideal reverberation time.
Blocking is a way to control sound by stopping it from travelling through barriers between the source and the listeners who would be affected by it. A blocker can be a wall, a glass wall, a partition, an extra layer of drywall, or even a large piece of furniture. The main purpose of sound blocking is to stop sound from entering or leaving a room. Therefore it is essential when rooms are constructed that gaps between doors, windows and even open spaces are properly sealed so that there are no openings for sound to pass through.
In addition to controlling sound waves in a space by implementing room acoustics products, covering allows for concentration in an environment, even when complex noises are constantly present. The purpose is to mask unwanted noise by introducing an additional noise into a room. This makes it more difficult for the brain to detect pieces of conversation or familiar sounds, ensuring that the individual remains focused. Covering can either come from a natural or an artificial source. A natural source could be a fountain or a fan, and an artificial source can involve the use of a loudspeaker to incorporate sounds to mimic the sounds of natural environments, like the ocean, or other covering sounds at very low frequencies. These artificial sounds at low frequencies can play the most imperceptible electronic and synthetic sounds that can mask conversations, allowing no distractions for our brain and help mask the unwanted sound.
Diffusion is a way to scatter sound in multiple directions by adding textured objects and materials. The purpose of diffusion is to reflect the sound in a way that spreads it more evenly throughout a space to improve the overall quality of sound. Diffusers can be utilized to reduce distracting sound impulses, or to revitalize a space that is dull. A diffuser can come in a variety of forms, such as curved panels, lined up cubicles or rectangular diffusers. Based on the analysis of an indoor space, different properties of diffusers may be required to optimize the environment.
Therefore, understanding how sound behaves and how to manipulate it in an effective way, is a critical step towards improving different spaces for the people who use them. The use of these four approaches may vary depending on the specific environment, but nevertheless they can work in combination to manipulate sound, manage acoustic problems and improve overall room acoustics.
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