Dialing Down the Din

  • Marcus Adrian, AIA, LEED AP was the  author of an article titled “Public Spaces: Dialing Down the Din,” written for the ASHA Leader, a publication which provides insights and resources for the speech-language-hearing world.  In the collection of essays titled  “Planet of Sound,” Marcus addresses how to design buildings and spaces that are engaged and connected without acoustic overload.  In the article he addresses some design strategies that can provide that desired balance.

  • Allow choice and variety. Provide spaces with a full range of sensory exposures, from high-energy and high-stimulation to soft, low and quiet.
  • Zone and buffer. Protect quieter spaces by placing them away from noisier ones and locating support spaces like file, storage and work rooms in between.
  • Absorb. Use acoustically absorptive wall and ceiling surfaces to kill ambient noise on the “first bounce.”
  • Mask and cover. Use ventilation systems and white noise generators—devices that produce a constant sound, such as rushing air—to balance speech privacy and speech intelligibility.
  • Careful separation. Use glass walls to marry visual connection with acoustical separation. Translucent panels provide even more privacy, while allowing daylight to circulate.
  • Manage transitions. Corridors, entryways and other connectors that link noisy spaces with quieter ones should be designed to signal the change. Lighting, color and texture of finishes can all be used to provide visual and tactile transition cues.
  • Switch gears. Create break room and lounge spaces that offer sensory contrast from the work areas they support. A stimulating coffee bar with TV screens can be a welcome jolt from a quiet office, just as a softly lit quiet lounge can be an oasis from a noisy trading floor.