The open space office rethinking is underway due to the new rules imposed by the corona virus emergency. People are decreasing, but plexiglass barriers are growing… How does the acoustic design approach change in this new scenario?
We talked about it with Ezio Rendina, acoustic engineer and founder of V.I.V.A Consulting, who declares: solutions exist and the new need for physical distancing is stimulating researches.
A new type of screen with high acoustic performances is being implemented and will soon be patented … for now it is top secret!
Do you remember the noises that bother us when we are in the workplace? Conversations, rowdy laughter, hum of printers, air conditioning, heavy footsteps, creaking furniture, munching on snacks …
The visionary Kids Creative Agency (claim “The future is Human”) thought that during lock down period you could miss it and created the interactive video I miss the office that reproduces the noises usually make us nervous and stressed.
A little irony doesn’t hurt, but we will return to a different office and its noises will probably be different, too.
We know that human voice is the main source of disturbance in open plan offices.
Will the lower worker density imposed by corona virus emergency solve the problem of noise from phone calls and conversations?
What effect will the massive introduction of plexiglass barriers have from the point of view of acoustic comfort?
Will we need new approaches for the post pandemic workplace acoustic project?
It is expected that the occupation of open plan offices will be reduced by more than 50%: this means that high density offices could have a better comfort and also acoustic comfort. However, the advantage could be canceled by the introduction of barriers and screens for physical distancing made of plexiglass or other reflective materials.
Ezio Rendina has no doubts “These two factors cannot be balanced. Despite the fewer people present, the presence of plexiglass or glass panels on the desk top – where noise is generated – greatly increases sound reverberation.
The most effective acoustic solution absorbs the noise at the source, before the sound wave propagates and reverberates in the air.
So does covid-19 ask us to choose between the transparency and lightness of plexiglass or the return to the claustrophobic cubicle?
Actually flexibility and multifunctionality are always winning concepts. New screens well integrated in the furniture systems have recently been launched, alternating glazed and blind parts or partitions integrating both the function of sound absorption and physical separation.
“The choice of materials for partitions must consider the acoustic performance and also the hygiene” continues Rendina.
Ing Rendina reveals he is designing a particular type of screen with very high acoustic performances, studied on the specific frequency of the human voice (differentiating male and female voices): thanks to these performances the screen can have a very small size and allow the integration of a superior transparent element, without canceling the sound-absorbing effect; also the surfaces will be in self-disinfecting material …
But for more information we will have to wait for this special barrier to be patented …
Although it is always possible to find solutions to improve acoustic comfort, Rendina once again underlines that optimal results can only be obtained if the acoustic project is truly integrated into the architectural project.
And now, click I miss the office, close your eyes and image you are in the office…