Increase Office Privacy and Productivity with Sound Masking
The purpose of Sound Masking is to reduce speech intelligibility, thereby, increasing personal privacy in an environment where this would be otherwise difficult to achieve. In practice it involves the introduction of an electronically generated broadband sound into the area of concern which unobtrusively increases the ambient sound level, thus decreasing the intelligibility of speech sounds originating from neighbouring areas. Originally used in corridors outside interrogation rooms and areas deemed ‘highly confidential’, its greatest use now is in commercial and professional buildings particularly where ‘Open Landscape (a.k.a. ‘Open Plan’) Office Designs’ are involved.
Open Plan Office Environments have evolved as an architectural response to market demands to maximize floor-space usage. The designs offer flexibility, uncomplicated movement of systems and furnishings, and easy re-grouping of employees. Most importantly they allow for the creation of more densely populated floor-plates. However, through a ‘modern’, cost effective approach, to building and renovating, these designs bring with them inherent privacy problems. Furnishings, absorptive partitions and acoustical ceiling tiles are all designed to reduce reverberative sound, while the heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems are typically silenced to minimize offensive noise. Unfortunately, speech tends to travel long distances when such quiet ambient backgrounds are achieved. It is imperative that the design includes a good acoustical environment to compliment the higher density. The associated costs of a flexible, well designed Sound Masking System should be in the original budgets.
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Features of Top Performing Systems
The following are features that are standard in top performing sound masking systems and are all standard with Vibra-Sonic Control Sound Masking Systems. These features allow the system to achieve the specified frequency spectrum in order to effectively cover speech sounds and distractions, while producing a soft homogeneously distributed sound.
Allowing for adjustment of the sound spectrum within the given space, is a necessity. Building elements such as the ceiling tile can attenuate some frequencies while leaving other generated frequencies unaffected. The space itself will also affect how the sound behaves, depending on its size, configuration and finishes. A system that includes a 1/3 octave equalizer offers the ability to fine-tune the system in response to the effects of a specific environment on the original sound spectrum generated, so that the specified or national standard sound masking spectrum can be achieved.
Allows for independent spectrum development in each zone. Centralized Digital Systems are normally requested on large projects where one central control is required for the floors and there are various volume schedule requirements, or other parameters, that need to be addressed.
Speakers are installed above the ceiling tiles in the plenum space, facing the structural ceiling above. The sound generated by the speakers is dispersed and reflected downward through the acoustic tiles, into the space below, by the structural ceiling. This sound energy path results in a homogeneous distribution of the masking sound spectrum throughout the open or closed office environment.
Speakers are adaptable and offered in various models to accommodate open ceiling applications or unique spaces in which facing the speaker down is required. Additionally, the speakers have individual volume controls so that fine adjustments can be made in localized areas.
Speakers are installed in a grid pattern to ensure a consistent distribution of the masking sound throughout the area. It’s important that the speaker layout is designed by a Sound Masking Professional who will take into consideration all of the characteristics of the environment when establishing the layout. Sound Masking should be used in conjunction with high quality acoustic tiles, other absorptive elements and barrier components to maximize overall effectiveness.
Value Added Options:
Sound masking can be controlled by automated audio visual systems which are often installed in meeting rooms.
Masking and paging optimizers measure the ambient background level of a space, using microphones installed in the ceiling tile. When that zone is noisier due to higher occupancy at different times of the day, the masking and paging volume increase automatically.
Critical Issues & Considerations with Respect to Sound Making
- It must be unobtrusive to those working in the area. It should sound natural and ‘airy’, similar to typical ventilation noise (not too ‘hissy’ or ‘rumbly’).
- The shape of the sound spectrum generated should be consistent with the human ears response to sound. Typically an NC-38-40 curve is used as a criterion.
- The effectiveness of the Sound Masking is maximized when used in conjunction with appropriate barrier and absorptive elements within the space. Pre-planning pays dividends.
- Sound Masking is best introduced before people move into a workplace. Retrofitting an existing area requires slowly raising the sound level over a period of time so people do not have an immediate, negative response to any interference or ‘manipulation’ of their work area.
- It is important that the Sound Masking be as homogenous as possible throughout the sound masked area, yet be flexible enough to be locally adjustable to address individual preferences. This local volume control is also important in terms of responding to localized building elements that might otherwise increase or decrease the sound level generated in the space