Productivity in the Workplace
Sustainable acoustic solutions for new office designs are being developed in cooperation with Fraunhofer IBP
The trend for increased occupancy and open-plan offices have negatively impacted acoustics and productivity. To improve acoustics in the office and boost employee productivity, pinta acoustic contributes expertise in acoustics to the scientific studies and research of the Fraunhofer Institute for building physics. The goal was to determine the influence of acoustics—minimization of unwanted sound and improvement of speech intelligibility—on the productivity of employees. In addition, the objective was to make this influence quantifiable in order to optimize office characteristics. There was no question of the importance of an optimized workplace with respect to building physics that takes into account acoustics, room climate, lighting and air quality to promote health, comfort and performance.
Modern offices and workplaces are changing. And the requirements for people, technology, structure and spaces within the buildings are evolving. Space efficiency, networking, communication and flexibility are increasingly important factors for success. The single office is being replaced by open rooms, group and multi-functional offices, workshop islands and co-working spaces. All of these are intended to promote communication and increase productivity. According to studies, however, one of the biggest stress factors in the office excessive ambient noise levels from conversations and telephone calls. In combination with the continuing trend for higher space efficiency and a smaller footprint per employee, the open-office concepts can instead lead to reduced productivity.
Fraunhofer Office Initiative
In cooperation with planners and designers, manufacturers and investors, the joint research project of the Fraunhofer IBP seeks to find performance-enhancing and healthy solutions for modern work environments. The goal of the research is to analyze the dependencies and interactions as well as all possibilities for optimizing usage-related requirements for workplaces with acoustics, room climate, air quality, lighting and colors. pinta acoustic supports the interdisciplinary research alliance with expertise in optimized acoustics—an essential part of the research activities. Because compliance with specified values, especially in the area of acoustics, does not automatically guarantee an optimal working environment, there are too many interfering factors in the form of background noise that, even at a low acoustic level, can cause substantial stress at the workplace. In addition to scientific analysis, another goal of the interdisciplinary office initiative was to develop new planning instruments and solutions that fulfill the diverse and growing requirements of a modern office environment.
Patent for sound masking
In cooperation between pinta acoustic and the Fraunhofer IBP an initial prototype was built for sound masking. This prototype included an acoustic sail with an integrated speaker. In simplified terms, the masking effect is achieved by the fact that certain sounds in superimposed noises and frequencies are suppressed by vibrations in the inner ear, so that they are no longer perceived, or only minimally. In a research situation set up to simulate an office, the effectiveness of the pinta masking sail was tested for its ability to increase performance and reduce the subjectively perceived disturbance from background noise such as conversations. Subjects were tested for memory performance, the subjective perception of the disturbance and the ability to understand speech under different test conditions. The test workplaces were equipped with a masking sail or a standard ceiling sail. The loudness of the masking noises—different noise signals used for the test—could be adjusted by some of the subjects of the group with the masking sail, while the optimum expected result was used noise for the remainder. The test set-ups showed that certain masking signals generally lead to improved performance. With masking noises, there was less distraction from background conversations and the people conversing were perceived as being further away. The first prototype of the speaker/sail combination from pinta acoustic was tested by the Fraunhofer IBP and evaluated as a useful combination of absorption, shielding and masking. The next steps will be to continue development of the prototype to enable production. The cooperation with the Fraunhofer IBP has resulted in a patent.