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Reducing Echo/Reverb and overall Noise Level in Office Space

Tomception

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So I was tasked by my manager to look for solutions to reduce Echo and Sound Leakage in our Office Space.

I know next to nothing about audio engineering and my specialty is IT but as the poor poor working student I got no choice other than doing this.

So here is the situation:

Our Office Space is pretty small but has large empty spaces with two desks each and what seems like an attempt to limit reverb/echo with pieces of wood hanging from the ceiling. They dont do a noticable or very good job.
We are a consulting business meaning lots of calls, hence lots of talking. We have good headsets with great isolating mics, but having a confidential or private conversation is almost impossible.

The particular Office Spaces are divided by single pane Glass from floor to ceiling, they have a ca. 8 Millimeter Gap in between them.

Here are possible solutions Im thinking off:
  • Put acoustic foam/material on the ceiling wood
  • Keep the ceiling wood and place acoustic foam on the walls where possible to trap sound
  • Do something about the gaps between the panes. (I dont think this would help, since Im guessing a lot of sound is transfered by the glass, not the air in between.
  • Go the cheap and easy route and just put desk attachable noise isolation on the desks.
Ive attached pictures of said office spaces. I could get measurements of the rooms, if its useful. I dont know if I could get my hands on building plans.
I technically have permission to potentially get room measurement equipment if needed, though thats definetly not something Id wanna deal with if I dont have to. They basically told that my limit is limitless as long as what I need is cheaper than actually hiring an audio engineer.

About the second picture:
All walls expect the back wall with the window panes are made of said glass.

PXL_20240408_102016488.jpgPXL_20240408_122138031.jpgPXL_20240408_101617414.jpg
 

ErVikingo

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Some initial thoughts, I had similar issues in my office.

- Use area rugs under the desk and task chairs
- If those "clouds" are not absorbent, replace them with absorbent clouds or at a minimum, put absorbent panels over them

I like these for office spaces: https://sevenaudio.eu/?product=absorber-cloud-pro

I worked with Lukazs and he was great (and very reasonable!)

See these, hanging clouds!

419730906_18077422630437778_1397389441019556377_n.jpg


Floor or desktop mounted:
394784523_18067810498437778_8108260058619082076_n.jpg
 
OP
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Tomception

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Some initial thoughts, I had similar issues in my office.

- Use area rugs under the desk and task chairs
- If those "clouds" are not absorbent, replace them with absorbent clouds or at a minimum, put absorbent panels over them

I like these for office spaces: https://sevenaudio.eu/?product=absorber-cloud-pro

I worked with Lukazs and he was great (and very reasonable!)
Thank you for the suggestion! Ive actually gotten myself a ladder and checked the "clouds". Theyre definetly not straight up wood, but rather some made of some sort of high density foam that has been coated with paint and some other material.
Area Rugs were one of these things ive been thinking of. Might genuinly be the easiest solution to capture the sound at the desks. Still doesnt solve the issue with the larger spaces being quite echo-y but that, I think, would definetly lower the overall noice level in the office significantly
 

ErVikingo

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Thank you for the suggestion! Ive actually gotten myself a ladder and checked the "clouds". Theyre definetly not straight up wood, but rather some made of some sort of high density foam that has been coated with paint and some other material.
Area Rugs were one of these things ive been thinking of. Might genuinly be the easiest solution to capture the sound at the desks. Still doesnt solve the issue with the larger spaces being quite echo-y but that, I think, would definetly lower the overall noice level in the office significantlyI
If you dont want to mess with what you already have, get some absorber panels and place them over the clouds. They dont have to be "finished" since they wont be visible.

If possible, give serious consideration to the area rug suggestion. You can also place absorbers on the walls and, if you are creative, maybe put some on the glass divider to make a cool design. That way you further reduce reflective surface area without turning the office into a psychiatric ward (padded room! ;) ).

There are "art panels" which are acoustic panels wrapped in printed fabric also.

A client's office has art panels, rugs, absorbent panels on the ceiling grid and absorbent foam under the desks. It is very quiet!

Look at the photo I included. The desktop and floor mounted panels, give a look of privacy panels while providing significant noise control.
 

Pareto Pragmatic

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Use area rugs under the desk and task chairs
- If those "clouds" are not absorbent, replace them with absorbent clouds or at a minimum, put absorbent panels over them


Rugs might not fit the "vibe" management wants, and might affect cleaning. But yes.

Ditto on the clouds being upgraded to something effective.

A panel between the desks.

The glass is an issue. Design wise, you likely can't do anything. Gaps WILL let sound through. So I would try floor/ceiling/between desks and damp three sides of the problem, and see how far that takes it. Then I would suggest a test by hanging some thick material from the ceiling over the glass behind the work seating. That would not cover too much of the glass, and might help enough with other changes. A permanent solution would likely be some colored acoustic panels. They do make floor standing ones, but watch out for the legs, they can be a trip hazard in small spaces. Affixing one to glass, that might be possible.

How you would seal gaps in the glass, I have no idea. Duct tape to test, but permanently? Hopefully you don't have to take it that far.

I suggest doing some tests on one space, and get feedback on the changes at each stage. Depending on what management thinks about rugs, I think it makes sense to start with the clouds/ceiling, then panels, then floor. Get feedback, and that will get buy in as you develop your overall plan. Move in stages, get buy in at each stage.

Really the best solution is to hire someone who knows what they are doing, but absent that getting buy in from your manager about initial ideas, and each stage test, will save you a lot of headaches in this process.
 
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Tomception

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If possible, give serious consideration to the area rug suggestion. You can also place absorbers on the walls and, if you are creative, maybe put some on the glass divider to make a cool design. That way you further reduce reflective surface area without turning the office into a psychiatric ward (padded room! ;) ).

There are "art panels" which are acoustic panels wrapped in printed fabric also.

A client's office has art panels, rugs, absorbent panels on the ceiling grid and absorbent foam under the desks. It is very quiet!

Look at the photo I included. The desktop and floor mounted panels, give a look of privacy panels while providing significant noise control.
Colored panels might be the best solution/aesthetically most pleasing to management. Is there seller that does custom coloring? If I can present an idea that uses the company colors, they might be more lenient with whatever it will cost.

I havent actually thought about putting panels on the glass due to concern of it shattering or tearing the milky privacy coating off. But definetly sound like an interesting idea
 
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Tomception

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Are the Elgato Sound Panels any good? They seem reasonably priced for what they offer and are somewhat aesthetically pleasing though they are black and would probably stick out like a sore thumb. Something wood-ish or white or green (company colors) would be great.

Edit: Nevermind I am blind. Elgato offers them in white.
 

JeremyFife

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I used to work in noisy, open plan offices where we sometimes needed to have confidential calls (finance). Office manager set up some better isolated 'pod's where we could go for a quiet call.
I don't have any details I'm afraid: they seemed to just have panels around them, more closed in. Quite effective though
 

Pareto Pragmatic

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Rugs might not be possible due to fire regulation compliance actually because they need to have a material within a certain range of fire proofness, since its a workplace
A rubber/gel/whatever mat might work. Putting something on either side of the desk, letting the body take care of the center kind of thing (and keep the hard surface for chair movement). I am not sure how many options there are for such things. Search for anti-fatigue mats, I think that would get you some idea of what is out there. They are most often black, but I have seen colors, and a brown would likely work.

If attaching panels to glass, attach above and below the privacy coating (unless that would cause problems with some UV coating or something). Hanging from the ceiling is a lot easier to undo.

I am no expert on this, so I hope only to give you some options of things to think about.
 
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Tomception

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I used to work in noisy, open plan offices where we sometimes needed to have confidential calls (finance). Office manager set up some better isolated 'pod's where we could go for a quiet call.
I don't have any details I'm afraid: they seemed to just have panels around them, more closed in. Quite effective though
Oh I know those! We have them in other Offices, I think we call them Silent spaces. Basically a lot of acoustic foam, paired with the cabin itself having a slightly lower air pressure than the outside. We are actually supposed to get one of those some time in the future but its unsure where were able to put them and when well get them. Also thats 2 seats max, which sadly doesnt solve the overall issue :/
 

radix

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EDIT: I'm not a pro at this, so these are just my thoughts on the process.

Being in a glass box for those offices is likely pretty echo inducing. Putting an absorber on the pillar between the windows and rug would definitely help. As would absorbent clouds.

Big leafy plants or bookcases with real books or as someone mentioned, hanging an absorber by the glass walls could all help.

I am pretty sure you cannot seal the glass, due to code. Those offices do not look like they each have dedicated vents, so they rely on those gaps for circulation. But, you could put a plant or hang a banner or absorber near the gap to help reduce inter-office spillover.

I think those sound absorber panels for the backs of desks might be better than trying to hang stuff over the glass. If you can capture the sound before it starts bounding around, that seems like the place to do it.

Basically, people talk looking at their monitors. So capturing the sound behind the monitors and behind the person (bounded off the monitors) are likely the best points. You could get a portable decibel meter and measure a room while someone is talking to see where the hot spots are. That could help justify your budget and solution too.

If you are going to buy a bunch of stuff from a vendor, you could try sourcing a vendor or two and see if they have any helpful (free) design services.
 
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