Privacy in the Workplace - “A Guide to Office Soundproofing”
“Soundproofing an existing office or conference room can be a daunting task, especially if you have no idea where to start.”
Office privacy has become essential in today’s workplace. Protecting private health information, client and employee confidentiality, and intellectual property should be top of mind for all organizations. Potential lawsuits can be avoided by soundproofing offices and conference rooms so that sensitive conversations stay behind closed doors. This is especially true in Law Offices, Healthcare Facilities, Financial Institutions, and C-Level Executive Offices.
Most offices are poorly constructed and soundproofing was likely never taken into consideration during the build-out phase. Typically doors are not sealed properly, return air ducts are wide open, common walls are constructed using drywall (with little or no insulation), drop ceilings are the norm, and chances are the drywall was only erected to the drop ceiling grid. All of these areas need to be taken into consideration when mapping out an effective soundproofing strategy.
Let’s look at common walls first. Gypsum board has a very poor (STC) rating and noise energy easily travels through a wall that has no insulation or mass. A good example of this is sitting in your living room, drinking your morning coffee, then Jim Bob decides he wants to drive down the street blaring his new car stereo with 15” woofers. Can you hear it? Sure you can! The cause of this is low frequency sound waves traveling through the drywall and cracks in windows/doors. The only way to stop this noise is mass, typically in the form of some sort of barrier material. Our recommendation would be introducing a layer of our BlokAll Soundproofing Barrier, QuietGlue Pro Damping Compound, then adding an additional 1/2” to 5/8” layer of drywall essentially creating a barrier between the spaces.
Looking at the drop ceiling area, as stated earlier, chances are that the drywall stops at the grid. If this is the case then noise flanking over the wall is going to be an issue. Going back to openings and gaps, a 1% opening will allow 50% of the noise energy to escape. Without mass blocking the noise it will easily transfer into the adjoining offices adjacent to the room. There are a couple of ways to mitigate noise transfer here. The first is a bit costly and that would be a drop in acoustical ceiling tile with both blocking (STC) and absorption (NRC) properties. These ceiling tiles are quite expensive and still do not address the gaps and openings created by the metal ceiling grid. The most cost effective solution would be our BlokAll Acoustic Ceiling Barrier. This unique product is constructed with a 1 psf layer of MLV sound barrier and a 1” thick fiberglass absorber material. The material is Class A fire rated, and is easily installed on top of the ceiling grid and existing ceiling tiles. Simply lay the material over the grid overlapping the existing wall perimeter by 2’-3’ and you have created a soundproof barrier to block noise flanking.
Let’s now look at the gaps in doors. There is typically a 1” – 2” gap at the bottom of every office door. This needs to be addressed by installing an automatic door seal at the bottom of the door so that noise does not escape. Perimeters of these doors also need to be addressed around the door jamb to make sure they are properly sealed. Noise Control Specialist sells Acoustical Door Seal Kits for most any doors.
Return air ducts can also be problematic, if there is no baffle or silencer installed, noise will again flank into adjoining areas.
We realize there is a lot of information here. Our goal was to try and educate those facing these challenges, or just wanted to learn more about some of the real world acoustical challenges you face in commercial offices.
Please let us know if we can ever be of assistance. The experts at Noise Control Specialist are well versed in the area of office soundproofing and can recommend solutions to any acoustical issue you may have.
Call Noise Control Specialist today for a free acoustical evaluation. We are here to help!