How to Improve a Building’s Acoustics

A building's acoustics, meaning how it transmits sound, is important for anyone inside and outside the building. In an office building, for example, your staff needs quiet in order to concentrate and to hear customers on the phone. While you may not be able to create a completely silent environment for your staff, you can often improve building acoustics overall. Note a few tips and suggestions on how to do this, and if you still need to improve sound quality in your office building, check with an acoustical engineer for even more personalized advice.

1. Insulate the ductwork

Aluminum ductwork very easily carries vibration, including sound waves. This is why it's often easy to stand next to a vent and hear a conversation happening in the next room or another part of the building. Ductwork can also be noisy, as it vibrates and rattles every time the air conditioner or furnace switches on. To cut down on this vibration, have the ductwork insulated. There are special types of insulating materials that you cut to size and wrap around the ducts, and these absorb vibrations rather than letting them travel through those ducts.

2. Interrupt the flow of sound waves

Very often an office can be noisy because there is nothing to interrupt the flow of sound waves from one end of the space to another. The more items you can add to the space, the more likely those sound waves will be interrupted and absorbed rather than simply traveling freely. Consider adding plants, furniture, higher panels on cubicle walls, and other such items in any open space of the office so that sound waves are more readily absorbed and interrupted rather than being able to freely travel.

3. Use sound-blocking materials and surfaces

Metal and glass tend to vibrate easily, so they may carry sound waves and vibrations, whereas rubber and cloth fabrics will absorb those vibrations. If you have metal blinds along the windows, switch to fabric-covered blinds or curtains. Use rubber mats on the floors; these can go under chairs for easier rolling, and they also absorb the sound of workers. Long rubber mats on tile floors can help to absorb sound that would otherwise bounce around the space. If privacy in a glass-enclosed conference room is an issue, hang fabric curtains on one or both sides to stop noise from traveling through the glass. The more rubber and fabric you put in your office, the better the acoustics overall.