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Noise pollution in public spaces can feel like a necessary evil. From someone chatting in the hallway outside your cubicle to the hum of traffic from the street outside, unwanted sounds are really all around.

However, just because noise is omnipresent doesn’t mean we should just deal with it. In fact, exposure to excess noise is often associated with inefficiency and lack of productivity — beyond that it’s distracting, let’s not forget that noisy environments can be downright annoying.

The takeaway? If the goal is to help people feel happy and at home in public spaces so they’ll want to relax, shop, dine, linger, and enjoy more productive and positive experiences, mitigating sound is a must. And while noise pollution can be unique from other acoustic disturbances because it’s not always clearly perceptible — both due to its invisibility and because people just “get used to it”— we shouldn’t take it lying down. The good news? We don’t have to! There are many things people can do to mitigate sound problems to create more comfortable, healthier, and happier environments — starting with these five ways to reduce noise pollution in public spaces.

1. Embrace Noise-Friendly Flooring If you’ve ever been in a cavernous space where sound just echoed, chances are that unforgiving flooring surfaces had something to do with it. Specifically, concrete, ceramic, and porcelain are major offenders when generating noise pollution. This brings us to the ABCs of acoustic design. Or, more specifically, the “A”— absorb. Even though dense, hard materials are impenetrable and reflect and amplify sound, softer and more porous materials act as insulators that absorb sound. When it comes to reducing noise pollution in public spaces, noise-absorbing materials are your new best friend. This brings us back to your original question of how to increase office acoustics…here’s solution number one: Replace your existing flooring with new flooring that has sound absorption qualities, such as wool based carpets, engineered hardwood and LVT flooring. However, there’s also a more affordable, less disruptive option: acoustic rugs in sound-absorbing materials like wool felt.

2. Incorporate Panels, Partitions, and Screens Acoustic panels are sound-absorbing panels that also block (the “B” of the previously mentioned ABCs of acoustic design) noise and reduce reverberation. Available in many different types and styles, they include acoustic panels, acoustic floor and desk screens, and acoustic hanging screens. Depending on factors ranging from the specifics of the space to your budget and aesthetic goals, different acoustic solutions have different benefits. For example, while some provide permanent sound absorption, others are flexible and mobile.

3. Mask Background Noise Ever heard the expression, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em?” Putting a fresh (and quiet!) spin on the same concept, noise pollution control puts the “C” in the ABCs of acoustic design. Despite your best efforts, it’s not possible to eliminate all sounds in public spaces. However, covering existing sounds with a consistent level of white noise, AKA ambient noise, can help mask (or “cover”) unwanted sounds. It may seem like you’ll just add to the issue by introducing more noise, but this is a proven noise reduction strategy.

An additional benefit? Research also indicates that ambient sound improves perception of safety and satisfaction in public areas (pretty cool, right?).

4. Go Green While we’re big fans of eco-friendly improvements in our living and working spaces (as evidenced by our commitment to sustainable products), we’re talking about a different, more literal type of “green.” Plants.

Plants offer many benefits when introduced to public spaces. For starters, they’re beautiful, help purify the air, and create privacy when incorporated into workplace designs. They also have powerful noise reduction capabilities. You’ve probably noticed the abundance of trees and shrubs planted along highways. This isn’t just because they’re pleasant to the eye. It’s also because they help reduce the amount of noise to nearby communities – they also have the same effect inside buildings.

Due to the dynamic surface area of both bark and fleshy leaves, plants are natural sound absorbers and noise deflectors. Not only that, but soil and top dressing are also effective sound absorbers.

It’s not just about introducing plants but also about how you arrange them. For example, clusters of smaller arrangements placed around the perimeter of a space can be incredibly effective.

* Planter Options above from our Nevins Planters collection

5. Sound Absorbing Ceilings Floors and walls aren’t the only surfaces with the potential to absorb (or amplify!) sound. Ceilings also play a big role, especially in larger spaces where sound waves behave differently. Enter acoustic panels and ceiling tiles.

When suspended from the ceiling, ceiling tiles help mitigate sound both by the materials they’re made of and through sound-absorbing air pockets between the panels. Thanks to innovation and technological advancements, some ceiling acoustics solutions even feature inset LED lighting for dual-purpose functionality. The right acoustic tiles can also add an element of beauty to your ceiling design.

Sound Absorbing Environments = More Livable, Workable Spaces

No one likes noise. However, writing it off as a mere annoyance and/or a fact of life is overlooking a major opportunity to create more livable and workable public spaces for your community members. And there’s no better way to start prioritizing noise reduction than with these five proven strategies to reduce noise in public areas.

Whether you’re looking for acoustic ceiling ideas, more information on noise canceling walls, noise-reducing solutions, home office noise reduction, or other sound acoustic solutions, you’ve come to the right place. To learn more about Unika Vaev and our extensive line of acoustic solutions, contact us today!

Originally Posted with permission, from Unika Vaev

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