Workplace researchers have long known that noise is one of the most detrimental factors for employees working in large open-plan offices. A study by the Danish National Research Centre for the Working Environment* found that 52% of employees find it hard to maintain their concentration in a room with unwanted noise from colleagues conversing, ringing telephones, loud ventilation systems, etc.
Yet open spaces also offer many benefits, including knowledge sharing, innovation and social interaction – and there are many ways to minimise noise and create spaces conducive to concentration. Out of habit you may have considered the use of partitions, which provide privacy and shield unwanted noise. Another option, however, is a functional acoustic solution – decorating your office with furniture that reduces noise and provides spaces that can be actively used for a variety of purposes.
But can furniture match the power of traditional partitions as effective acoustic buffers? We examined this question in collaboration with the textiles company Gabriel.
Furniture as a noise-reducing device
The German engineering company Müller BBM measured** the extent to which two HOLMRIS B8 soft seating collections minimise noise and compared the results with two certified Class A partitions.
The soft seating collections used in this study were IGLOO Hub, developed in collaboration with AART Designers, and TWEET, designed by Hans Thyge & Co. Both collections were designed with a strong focus on acoustics.
An IGLOO Hub upholstered with the sustainable fabric Cura*** from Gabriel provides the same acoustic reduction as four rectangular, certified Class A partitions.
A high-backed two-person TWEET sofa upholstered with Cura fabric from Gabriel delivers the same acoustic reduction as 1.5 rectangular, certified Class A partitions.
The effective acoustic reduction can be attributed to the steel frame design of the two sofa systems, and a sound-absorbing core in the sides of the sofas between the inner and outer fabric.
A room within the room
In addition to reducing noise in offices, schools and other high-activity spaces, TWEET and IGLOO Hub both create a room within the room – a delineated space, forming the ideal setting for knowledge sharing, concentration, short meetings and breaks, without requiring changes to the division of rooms within the building.
On the contrary, this furniture offers an easy way to create new spaces for a diversity of activities, while its fabric upholstery and frame absorb undesirable noises.
*Source: https://www.djoefbladet.dk/artikler/2017/8/hver-anden-d-oe-jer-med-st-oe-j.aspx and https://arbejdsmiljodata.nfa.dk/downloads/Fakta_om_Arbejdsmiljoe_og_Helbred_2018_01_29_v3_FINAL.pdf
** All measurements were recorded using freestanding elements. The two largest surfaces of the partitions are included in the calculations. The area of the space, e.g. 3.84 square metres. ISO 354 and ISO 11655 served as the basis for the calculations.
***Cura is a fabric from Gabriel made from 98% recycled polyester extracted from used plastic bottles. Cura also carries the EU Ecolabel and is Eco-Tex certified.