"Distraction in open plan offices can have a huge effect on concentration and productivity, and acoustic conditions are a fundamental factor in determining whether distraction is likely to occur."
Graham Hornby, Director, MZA Acoustics
Q1. In your experience, do acoustic treatments make a difference?
Absolutely, as an acoustics consultancy specialising in ‘room acoustics’ we understand the importance of applying acoustic treatments within a space, and perhaps more importantly installing them in the correct location. Clearly absorptive treatments are one of the primary methods we use to change the acoustic ‘feel’ and performance of a room.
Q2. Do you think a well-designed acoustic scheme makes people more productive?
Again, our experience, and that from research into office design, shows us that poor acoustics is one of the main causes of dissatisfaction as rated by occupants. Distraction in open plan offices can have a huge effect on concentration and productivity, and acoustic conditions are a fundamental factor in determining whether distraction is likely to occur. Research has shown that it can take anywhere between 4 and 40 minutes to regain full concentration on a task once you have been distracted, so the effect on productivity can be significant.
Q3. Is aesthetics important i.e. how they look?
From an acoustic engineering perspective, appearance may, at first thought, be a relatively minor consideration. However, we are often working as part of a design team and it is important that we work to achieve the aesthetic appearance that architects and clients require in order to deliver a design that is acceptable to all stakeholders.
Q4. What do you think the future of acoustics will look like?
The world of acoustics is constantly evolving as research and technology progress. It’s hard to predict what will be the next ‘big thing’ but we would expect to see a lot of effort in improving the acoustic conditions in open plan offices, and a stronger emphasis on sustainable acoustic design. It is also likely that we will see more research into understanding the link between acoustics and health / wellbeing, which we would will lead to better design and zoning of open plan offices.