Here at Interion we’re surprised by the lack of technical acoustic data that is available to support manufacturers claims in respect of sound attenuation.
There is no shortage of products available in the rush to provide breakout/meeting spaces with a degree of privacy, but do they work?
The answer is - not always.
Broadly, there are two areas to consider; barrier performance (insulation) and absorption.
The only way to create true acoustic privacy is with full-height walls and doors (and a ceiling!) In effect, the private office or meeting room.
A number of manufacturers can provide fully enclosed ‘pods’ that broadly meet these criteria and are acoustically effective. However, these pods are expensive and relatively inflexible. Why not just build a partition wall?
If a 'pod' or enclosure of any description has openings without doors or open air above, it is a fact that sound will escape – this is called 'flanking sound'. No matter how effective the absorption of the material used, it can only impact the sound waves that hit it, yet sound emanates in all directions equally from its source!
There is a problem of perception here. If you sit inside one of these pods it feels acoustically ‘dead’; so much so that you will tend to speak more loudly if you’re sitting inside one. You feel as if you are in a private space, but the reality is that people walking past can hear every word!
In part, this is because the standard substrates and materials (typically fabric, foam and hardboard) act fairly evenly across frequency ranges, and are not particularly effective in the range of frequencies applicable to human speech.
We need a new dialogue; sound itself is not a problem but speech intelligibility is. It compromises privacy and is distracting to others in a way that general background noise isn’t.
We are currently looking at a unique new panel material that specifically absorbs these frequencies. Subjectively it’s amazing. You can sit inside a pod and it does not feel ‘muffled’. Yet speech intelligibility outside the pod is reduced dramatically.
Watch this space for more news soon…..