When looking for appropriate office space, many business owners will indeed take flooring into consideration. However, this is usually done in terms of aesthetics – what kind of look they prefer, what type of flooring they feel will require less maintenance and, of course, what type of flooring they think will stand the test of time.
Obviously, flooring is a vital aspect of any space, office space included. Having said that, the importance of office flooring extends far beyond the way that it looks, how much it costs and how durable it is. The type of flooring that a business owner chooses also has the potential to affect employees’ productivity levels, as well as a customer or client’s experience when visiting their offices.
This is the reason why it is essential that business owners, architects, designers and contractors alike need to be aware of the many benefits of acoustic flooring and the world of difference it can make.
Understanding sound ratings
Acoustic flooring is a special type of flooring that has the ability to reduce noise, not only on the one floor itself, but can also prevent sound transfer from floors above and below. This is great news for business owners whose offices are located in high-rise office buildings.
Before choosing the right acoustic flooring for an application, it is essential that business owners understand the impact of sound ratings. This is because different floor coverings will have different sound absorption capabilities. The three current sound ratings in South Africa, otherwise known as IIC (impact insulation class) are as follows:
• IIC 50: This type of flooring has the lowest sound absorption quality, usually referring to flooring made out of tile or stone. This flooring may be appropriate for ground floors, but would not be a good choice for a high floor without plenty of high quality insulation in the area between the floor and the ceiling below.
• IIC 60: This type of flooring is in the mid-level sound rating category and indicates a medium impact sound absorption quality. It encompasses wood, laminates and vinyl flooring.
• IIC 65: This is the best flooring for noise reduction and offers a high level of impact sound transmission absorption. Flooring that falls into this category includes carpet and cork.
How to choose acoustic flooring
One person’s flooring expectations may not be the same as the next. This is why it is extremely important to do adequate research on the different types of acoustic flooring available. While some flooring types may not naturally come with sound absorption capabilities, many types of floors can be treated in order to offer improved noise reduction. For example, vinyl flooring can be installed with a sound-insulating underlayment which can increase its noise reduction ability so it is on par with carpet and cork. Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) flooring with a solid backing layer may also be a good option.
Remember, it is also important to know what kind of noise you are hoping to manage with acoustic flooring. Some types of acoustic flooring may be better at reducing impact sound (such as heavy footsteps in rooms with a high level of foot traffic), while others may be made to keep airborne sound to a minimum (conversations, production-related noise, loud music etc.). Understanding the problem before searching for the solution is always recommended!
Maximising sound reduction in the office
While acoustic flooring undoubtedly makes the biggest difference when it comes to sound reduction in an office space, it is not the only way to keep noise levels to a minimum. Countless business owners will opt to pair their new acoustic flooring with other sound-absorbing building materials such as acoustic ceilings and walls. There are also various sound masking systems available. These, in essence, add specific background sound in an effort to reduce noise and enhance concentration. Sound masking is very similar to white noise. Other options include using portable acoustic panels which can be placed on the office walls and are endlessly more affordable than replacing the walls themselves.
If none of the above is possible, business owners could embrace the power of biophilic design. According to Resonics, an acoustic treatment specialist company in the UK, “Biophilic design is an architectural approach to reconnecting building occupants with nature. It is a way to seamlessly integrate natural materials and mediums with modern architectural practices.” Besides reducing noise, studies have shown that biophilic design benefits employee health and wellness too. A 2013 study conducted by the University of Essex discovered that visual exposure to the natural environment led to a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate following exposure to a stressor.
With so many reasons and ways in which to keep noise at bay, as well as boost productivity amongst employees, it is easier than ever before to embrace the power of an acoustic office space and reap its many rewards.
Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to www.getkisi.com, www.builddirect.com, www.spectracf.com, www.resonics.co.uk and www.cambridgesound.com for some of the information contained in this article.
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