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Consumers nowadays have specific expectations for their home and work spaces. Simply having an aesthetically attractive space is now insufficient; consumers expect specifically chosen elements within their home and work spaces to help buffer external noise and distractions, keeping their spaces calm and comforting.

This is true of homes, multifamily buildings, offices and businesses alike. In an office setting, it is essential for a worker to concentrate fully on the task at hand. If that worker’s office has poor acoustics, noise from around the office and from outside will filter throughout the space, making it difficult to stay focused. Likewise, in a residential setting, if a person is trying to unwind by reading a book or cooking, noise from around the house or outside is an unwelcome distraction.

For both homes and offices, this is especially true if the space in question is located near an airport, below a busy flight path or in an area with heavy traffic and loud noises. In such settings, it can become almost impossible to concentrate on work or pleasure, thereby worsening the occupant experience.

The occupant experience, then, can be greatly enhanced by incorporating features according to the WELL Building Standard and Sound Transmission Class (STC) rules. The WELL Building Standard takes into account sound transmission and sound barriers to help occupants live or work in optimal health conditions. And STC ratings are issued based on testing the amount of sound transmitted through the product from one room to another in a laboratory setting.

One feature that can be used to improve the occupant experience is an acoustical door. When external sound enters a space, it frequently comes through the door because it is easier for the sound waves to pass through a door designed to open and close than through stationary walls. Acoustical doors function as a sound barrier because they are not hollow and make use of jammed gaskets at the head to minimize the chances that noise will pass through. Moreover, different acoustical doors have different STC ratings, meaning that designers and architects can choose a specific door for a specific space based on that space’s surroundings and the noise levels nearby

While occupants often want quiet settings where they live and work, they do not want to shut themselves off from the world, either. Working in a confined space without windows can create a distracting, claustrophobic effect. Designers must then thread the needle between shutting out sound and shutting out the outside world entirely.

One such way to do this is to use reinforced windows. Windows with double or triple panes of glass shut out more noise than their single-pane peers. With double- or triple-pane windows, office and residential spaces can still provide views of the outside world without allowing the outside world’s noise to filter in and cause distractions.

Steve Orlowski

Sr. Director, Standards & Technical Activities, WDMA

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