27 March 2023

Noisy phone calls, loud typing, disruptive cleaning, constant office gossip… there’s no end to the cacophony of sounds that can be a distraction at work.

Acoustic design is sometimes assumed to only be relevant to buildings with a clear audio/visual purpose, such as opera halls, cinemas and theatres. In truth, the right acoustic solutions in virtually any building can enhance the way people interact with each other. Done correctly, acoustic design will boost the mood, health, and well-being of occupants as they live, work or socialise within a building. Let’s take a closer look into how it works…
SonaSpray K-13 Special in white throughout 20 Water Street, London. Design and fit-out by Tétris Design x Build. Photo by Jonathan Banks.

Designing the workplace of the future 

Recent developments in flexible working, digital technology and employee behaviours have forever transformed how businesses have to think about workspaces. Offices are no longer mandatory settings that employees must attend full-time, which means architects designing modern offices should create plans that facilitate collaboration, innovation and connections between colleagues. 

A crucial part of this design process is accounting for sound. If offices are to serve as venues for both high-energy collaboration and quiet focus time, architects must use acoustic design to limit noise and unnecessary distractions. 

Working from home didn’t just change the way employees think about work, it also changed their feelings towards workplaces themselves. Employers need to consider employee’s expectations around flexibility, technology and especially sound – as many view a return to the office as a return to noisy distractions. Through acoustic design, you can help employees maintain the same level of focus in the office as they do at home.

How acoustic design impacts health and wellbeing 

Noise isn’t just a distraction – studies have shown that noise in work environments is a known risk factor for physiological and psychological health. Architects are accustomed to considering the aesthetics, usability and sustainability of their designs, but too few understand the value of acoustic design. 

In a world of people who have experienced the quiet of working from home, noise at work is a core grievance. In a study by Oscar Acoustics, 75% of people said excessive noise in the office prevents them from doing a good job.  

The results of the study have been compiled into a compelling whitepaper, ‘Noise annoys’, which you can download for free. This report takes a deep dive into the root causes of office noise and its detrimental effects on staff, exploring trends, insights and statistics. It also offers tips for designing noise-reducing solutions that improve productivity and boost well-being.

Download Oscar Acoustics’ Whitepaper – ‘Noise Annoys’ for trends, insights and statistics as well as noise-reducing solutions

What does good office design look like? 

Let’s take a broader look at what makes office design valuable and cast some light on why acoustics are so important. 

Good office design starts with employees, putting them at the core of design and recognising their needs. The changing face of work means employees have more flexible lives and demand that from their offices too. 

As a result, we must design as much reconfigurability and flexibility as possible to meet the rising demand for focus areas, distraction-free call zones and hybrid meeting rooms. For collaboration, businesses need flexible, open-spaced offices that can adjust to meet employee needs – but architects must balance these larger areas with acoustic design measures that eliminate noisy distractions and allow for privacy where needed. 

This is no minor challenge, which is why acoustic design products exist to help architects and designers tackle noise reduction in the workplace. With over 45 years in the sound business, Oscar Acoustics has built an unrivalled reputation for the reliability, quality and performance of its acoustic products. It’s why it has become synonymous with the changing face of the office landscape, working with businesses of all sizes to reduce noise, improve focus and boost the happiness and welfare of staff.

This video explains how Oscar Acoustics’ range of architectural acoustic finishes can help you create calm and comfortable spaces where people can thrive.

SonaSpray: architectural acoustic finishes 

Make noise reduction easier than ever with Oscar Acoustics’ SonaSpray range of fire-rated, seamless acoustic finishes. The sprays absorb sound energy instead of reflecting it, enabling designers to create inviting spaces that sound as good as they look.

The range allows complete flexibility with Category A and Category B fit-out configuration and reconfiguration, enabling architects to create adaptable spaces where employees don’t need to shout to be heard. 

SonaSpray's design benefits 

  • Fire safety comes first: Class 0 to BS 476 and B-s1,d0 fire rated with full fire test reports available on request.
  • Lowers noise levels: Controls noise reverberation by absorbing sound energy instead of reflecting it, reducing overall noise levels in any interior space.
  • Easy application: Can be applied directly to substrates, including concrete, plasterboard, GRP, steel, glass and expanded polystyrene. 
  • Flexible: Can be applied to complex architectural elements, such as barrel vaults, domes and corrugated decks.
  • Aesthetically pleasing: Seamless acoustic spray finish follows the lines of whatever is underneath, enabling designers to achieve perfect, sweeping curves and shapes.
  • Fast installation: SonaSpray permits fast application compared to labour-intensive stick-on panel alternatives, especially when installing around primary service grids. It is also more visually appealing.
  • Complex cases: Suitable for application behind suspended mesh and timber ceilings.
  • Helps control light: Black finish achieves ideal conditions for lighting control and creating the illusion of infinite ceiling height above suspended ceilings.

SonaSpray's environmental credentials

  • Contributes towards sustainable design and health certification systems, including BREEAM, SKA, Living Building Challenge and LEED. 
  • Achieves M1 certification as Low Emitting Building Material, GreenGuard Gold and Cradle to Cradle.
  • Contributes towards satisfying many features under the International WELL Building Standard.
  • Made of fire-treated, recycled paper and other rapidly renewable natural resources.
  • Can effectively lower the carbon footprint of a building project by sequestering rich stores of carbon for the life of the structure or application.
  • Installed by ISO-14001-certified, expert in-house Oscar teams.
SonaSpray fcx in breakout space, 22 Bishopsgate, London.  Credit to DesignLSM, Adnitt Acoustics & Andrew Meredith Photography.

The SonaSpray range 

  • Oscar EliteAn exceptionally smooth and flat acoustic plaster finish with the appearance of conventional plaster.
  • SonaSpray FCX: Offers a sprayed and trowelled, flat acoustic plaster finish with an attractive, lightly pitted, seamless surface.
  • SonaSpray FC: Attractive, spray applied, lightly textured, seamless acoustic finish.
  • SonaSpray K-13 Special: Beautiful, seamless acoustic spray with a medium texture, available in standard and custom colours.
  • SonaSpray K-13: Deliberately industrial, coarsely textured, seamless spray-applied acoustic finish, available in standard and custom colours.  

Transform office noise levels with ease 

Although the needs that inform office design may have changed, the quality of offices as hubs for businesses and their employees remains paramount. Workers may be able to carry out certain tasks remotely, but the true value of a successful office is creating a space where people come together to connect, collaborate and build a healthy culture. 

With some relatively straightforward adaptions in acoustic design, architects can transform these spaces to reduce office distractions and noise, creating healthier, happier workplaces. SonaSpray enables architects to transform any noisy interior space, including offices, auditoriums, atria, schools, restaurants and warehouses, into acoustically balanced environments - without compromising the design.

Learn more about acoustic design and specify Oscar Acoustics products on NBS Source

Header image: SonaSpray K-13 in grey in Herbal House offices.  Credit to BW Workplace Experts, TP Bennett and Tom Green Photography.