Sound. Noise. Racket. Commotion

However you describe it, sound is ever present and can be either extremely pleasant or equally unnerving. And we all treat the sounds around us as though they were something we can’t really do anything about. But, is that really true?Global Acoustic Ambassador of Rockfon, Pascal Van Dort, explains that noise is defined as unwanted sound. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is  a particularly unpleasant sound, but rather something that is not welcome to you in your environment. Nowhere is this more true than when you are trying to concentrate on a task at hand. Productivity levels can plummet when a noise interruption arrives unwelcome. But how much do people really know or understand about the acoustics in their workplace?

Close up head and shouldewrs image of Pascal van Dort

Debunking acoustic myths

Most of us know  quite little. We may think a large plant can absorb the sound of our colleague, the  voice note enthusiast, or that ducking behind a closed office door can help, but the truth is that every space is unique and requires its own assessment.

Pascal is enthusiastic about this subject, saying that often people have more knowledge on other workplace aspects such as design aesthetics or the best temperature setting for the office for productivity.. In fact, there are many misconceptions about how acoustics work exactly.

With a wealth of knowledge on sound and acoustic mechanics, Pascal has built up his expertise with the industry giant Rockfon, having started with the company as part of their sales team in 1999. Working closely with clients over the years and fielding questions allowed him to build up his expertise, and  also made him keenly aware that not much is widely known about the science behind sound.

Levelling up

Intrigued by what he was hearing, and wanting to know more, Pascal started studying building acoustics at a post-academic level in 2012, whilst still working full-time for Rockfon.

His new qualification, coupled with his wealth of experience, saw him promoted to an acoustics specialist alongside his sales position, and over the next 7 years, Pascal steadily built upon his experience and training,  working alongside clients like architects, construction companies and interior designers.

When Rockfon’s current Managing Director was appointed , Pascal was tasked to develop a plan for how Rockfon could take acoustics to the next level. After sharing his ideas he was promoted to Global Acoustics Ambassador, representing Rockfon in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.  

In his time working for this central division of the company, Rockfon has started to explore more with their design work. While 90% of the core business remains the manufacture of their highly sound absorbing ceiling tiles and panels, Pascal has brought a wider vision that encompasses customised design solutions to meet with their clients’ unique requirements.

Space. Shapes. Sounds

Pascal says that these are easily the three most important aspects to consider when planning or designing a new space and its acoustics.  

In the case of offices, and most certainly coworking spaces, one needs to consider that in post pandemic work spaces, meetings and events are also  held virtually – and everyone owns a smartphone.

The additional sounds created by this new way of working  can create stress and affect productivity at work. The biggest complaint Pascal hears  from potential clients globally is simply, “This space is too noisy!” And trendy, urban industrialised designs don’t always take into account what effect their minimalistic approach has on noise and travelling sound.

Rockfon and Pascal have noted that many people have struggled to settle back into their noisy workspaces after the relative peace of their home environments. Worldwide, the uptake of noise cancelling earphones is a great indicator as to how important sound, particularly unwelcome ones, are to  overall well being.

The impact of unwelcome ‘noise’

Imagine 20 people all talking and listening in on different meetings. This is oftentimes a reality, particularly in co-work spaces or popular coffee shops.

The truth is that the stress reaction created by a noisy space not only affects your productivity, but your stress hormone reaction and ultimately has a direct effect on how happy you may feel at the end of your workday.

The truth is also that it’s entirely possible for everyone to work happily alongside one another if the right measures have been taken to ensure that the acoustics are optimally suited to the environment. 

Educating other experts

As far as acoustics are concerned, though, there is no one size fits all solution. What may work in a perfect square room with no exterior noise factors, may have a terrible effect in a rectangular office on the 3rd floor of a bustling office block.

What you need is the correct expertise on your team when creating a new space.

Rockfon’s main objective and Pascal van Dort’s main driver is to create awareness and educate his clients about the purpose of acoustics and how this can align with their vision for a building. The relationship between design aesthetics and the science of sound needs to be symbiotic, he says, so that maximum enjoyment can come from working in a suitable environment.

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