We've recently been asked to look at noise issues from office reception areas and a common theme seems to be developing. There appears to be a trend for client and executive meeting rooms to be located directly off the main reception area of an office fit out.
Presumably there are good reasons for this; visitors not having to walk through back office areas, security, and ease of servicing maybe among them. Despite these valid justifications, there are a few potential pitfalls to this growing trend.
Common causes of noise reverberation in office receptions
Every office fit out is, of course, different but the noise problems are often because:
- The reception area is fitted out in the modern style with no sound absorbing surfaces;
- A plasterboard ceiling hangs over a stone or timber floor surrounded by hard walls and glazing;
- A reception desk sits in the middle, with one or two soft chairs and a small rug (if we're lucky).
Reception areas have been designed like this for as long as I can remember. The problem now though is that high quality meeting rooms often open directly off this space and a conflict arises.
Poor privacy in adjoining office meeting rooms
The reception area is invariably highly trafficked. Conversations and telephone calls at reception reverberate around the room, and high heeled footsteps click clack across the floor.
Coupled with this, the meeting room door has inadequate or no acoustic seals, with gaps at double door meeting edges and where the door closer cuts into the head of the door.
Unsurprisingly, sensitive rooms are frequently disturbed and the meeting participants complain of poor privacy. C'est la vie, right? Not necessarily!
5 ways to improve meeting room privacy
Several acoustic solutions could be applied without compromising the design intent too much. For example:
- The reception area could be made much less reverberant using modern ceiling treatments that look monolithic and have a clean white finish similar to plasterboard; both Sto and Oscar can provide these.
- The stone / timber floor can be kept for the main circulation area, but having carpet outside the actual meeting rooms will reduce disturbance from footsteps and trolleys. A perforated acoustic ceiling tile in this area would also help.
- Doors, doors, doors! Ideally, don't have doors directly off the main reception. A lobby would be great but at least specify a good solid door with rebated edges, acoustic seals and overlapping rebates on any double doors.
- Don't forget full height partitions from slab to slab either.
- Engage an acoustic consultant at an early stage to avoid unhappy clients and expensive retro fit partial solutions that may not work as well.