Techniques for Soundproofing Busy Commercial Building

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When designing any building, it’s important to consider soundproofing and acoustics. Designers will need to contend with exterior noise pollution while also considering sources of internal noise. With any luck, the architect or designer will have a general overview of the build’s intended purpose and can shape their soundproofing techniques to fit the client’s needs.

Regardless, there are six tips anyone can follow to guide them towards the best strategies for their situation.

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1. Utilize Absorption Materials
Noise and sound move throughout a room, reflecting off various surfaces. This leads to echoes and noise interference which can distract from an otherwise productive working environment.

Many common building materials like concrete, brick, tile, and wood do not absorb much sound and therefore reflect it throughout the space. Designers can utilize absorption materials throughout the building to minimize the amount of sound travel and noise disruption.

One common design involves acoustic panels built into the building’s structure or applied on the walls and ceilings. In general, softer, more fibrous products like carpet, fiberglass insulation, and foam padding are the best materials for absorbing sound.

In a commercial space, you’ll want to position absorption materials to reduce unwanted sound travel. You can maximize these benefits by including items with built-in absorption qualities  throughout the room. For instance, hard flooring can be placed with sound-dampening underlayment to reduce the sound of busy traffic. Erecting sound-dampening cubicle walls or panels can also strategically lower sound levels to help employees focus in quiet spaces.

However, it’s important to remember that absorption is only one part of any good acoustic design and soundproofing strategy. Designers must also consider noise diffusion.
2. Consider Diffusion Opportunities
Diffusion spreads reflected sound energy throughout the space while simultaneously reducing the harmful effects of reverberation and echoes. Designers can place curved diffusion panels on walls and ceilings to uniformly spread sound reflection without fearing destructive interference.

It’s essential to utilize diffusers in restaurants and other areas where sound needs clear dispersion without disruption.

Typically, diffusion techniques are best for large spaces like an auditorium or concert hall. In smaller areas — like a conference room — it’s better to utilize absorption materials to minimize noise reflection.
3. Eliminate Gaps and Cracks
Architects and designers should think of noise like they think of wind — it can enter a building through minuscule cracks and gaps. Therefore, when soundproofing, it’s crucial to seal all areas that could allow sound to travel. While it’s impossible to eliminate all openings, like doors and windows, it is possible to seal around plumbing and light fixtures.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to open interior walls to seal these gaps and cracks, which can become time-consuming and costly. It also rarely solves the entire problem. Therefore, designers should combine this technique with other strategies for a greater impact.
4. Take a Customized Approach
Most commercial buildings consist of several components and areas, such as storage closets, entryways, and main offices. With this in mind, designers should take a customized approach when planning the soundproofing and acoustic layout for each region.

Storage closets won’t require as much absorption and soundproofing as the main office, where workers need calm spaces to perform at their best. Likewise, the main entrance may need diffusion panels if tours are commonly held at the facility. Prioritize the budget and planning for soundproofing design where it really matters.
5. Think Outside the Box
Architects and designers need to think outside the box when planning their soundproofing and acoustic layout. Thanks to innovative companies, many products exist that don’t look like an absorption material.

For example, SoundPly and Soundproof Cow products can look like wood and other materials but absorb more sound energy than similar items on the market. This allows buildings to have superior acoustics without compromising on style.

Professionals should stay alert for discoveries relating to soundproofing and absorption if they hope to stay ahead of the competition and continue to offer outstanding services.
6. Consult a Professional
Ultimately, architects and designers are knowledgeable on a wide range of topics but may lack expert soundproofing experience. That’s why it’s always best to consult acoustical product suppliers for additional information and expertise.

These professionals can describe the latest innovations and offer unique input relating to the designer’s specific situation. Some can even provide custom designs and quotes based on the specific space in question. It’s their job to explain the advantages and disadvantages of the available products, so they’re a resource worth using.
Reducing Distracting Sounds in Busy Buildings
To make the most of these six tips, designers need to identify the building’s intended aesthetic. The soundproofing techniques that would best suit a rustic restaurant would differ greatly from a modern industrial office space. It’s also worth visiting the building site, since some noise disruptions — like a busy highway — are unlikely to be included in the original project specs.

With the proper planning and techniques, it’s possible to soundproof commercial buildings, even in busy urban environments.

Author Bio: Evelyn Long is a writer and editor-in-chief for Renovated, a web magazine for the home industry. Her work focuses on design and construction tactics for industry professionals. 

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