Soundproofing Private Office Spaces

Millions of Canadians spend 40 or more hours working in office buildings each week. Unfortunately, not all the time spent by office employees is productive, as the buildings they work in are a constant source of unsolicited noise. If you’ve worked in an office, or even briefly visited one, then you are well aware of the noises people encounter in these buildings—keyboard clicking, calls with clients or other employees, and loud music are a few prime examples…

These individual noises are irritating and distracting, but they aren’t the biggest problem befalling offices today; sound transmission from room to room is the real culprit. Interestingly enough, the construction of office buildings is what promotes sound transmission. During construction, components like heating and cooling systems, water pipes, are run along the ceiling of a building. Next, walls are built and a “drop-ceiling” is installed to cover the surfaces. Finally, doors are installed and the rooms are finished. In each of these areas, very little attention is given to sound absorbing materials.

People tend to assume that walls are the main source of sound transmission, but generally speaking, sound travels too fast (1,130 feet per second to be exact) to determine its precise location. Regardless of location, these sounds interfere with office productivity, and often cause confusion among employees.

How Can I Resolve the Problem?

It can be challenging, but the first step is to try and pinpoint the general problem area—your choice of noise abatement products will depend on the specifics of the room. For offices with suspended (drop) ceiling tiles, Hush City Soundproofing recommends 5 exceptional products:

1. Privacy Board solves the problem of flanking airborne sound transmission above the suspended (drop) ceilings and over interior partition walls. The standard practice of an open plenum above the drop ceiling grid has provided for much lower cost return-air duct construction – unfortunately at the expense of sound transmission, speech privacy and work-place comfort. Sound attenuation through two layers of ceiling tiles from office to office or boardroom to open office areas or health care examination rooms to waiting rooms will typically only achieve a CAC rating of approximately 35 dB. Even less when a return-air register (egg crate grill) is present. The specified STC rating of a partition wall assembly is irrelevant when the sound-flanking path between rooms is through the suspended ceiling and over the incomplete partition wall. The Privacy Board barrier solves this problem with a product that is quicker and easier to install and much less messy than the installation of gypsum wallboard (GWB) extension walls. You want to double up on your soundproofing? Also use Privacy Board panels instead of your common suspended (drop) ceiling tiles! It works flawlessly!

2. Return Air Silencers solve the problem of HVAC return-air, ensuring the acoustic treatment does no harm to the HVAC system while maintaining acoustic isolation through the Privacy Board barrier.

3. In-Line Silencers are excellent for loud, annoying sounds travelling throughout your duct work from source such as noisy air handlers, fans, loud furnaces and air-conditioning systems. It virtually eliminates the transmission of voices, music and home-theater systems from travel from one room to the next. The In-Line Silencer is an apathetic device that when installed assists with the attenuation of noise levels being transmitted through the duct system. The In-Line silencer is a completely passive device that will not impede airflow when attached to the existing ductwork. Made of metal and lined with acoustic mineral liner.

4. Pot Light Backer Boxes Pot light backer boxes are used to isolate IC rated recessed lighting for nearly every brand and style of housing. Each untreated recessed light in your ceiling will lower the performance of your assembly by 1-2 STC points, depending on the number of lights and size of ceiling. This reduction in performance is due to the loss in mass where the recessed light is installed in place of one or more layers of drywall on the rest of the ceiling. The concept of the Pot light backer boxes is to restore this lost mass created by the recessed light housing by fitting the entire housing within the Pot light backer box and sealing the Pot light backer box to the back of the finish layer of drywall. Normal drywall ceilings will have the Pot light backer box installed using a 2x framing member or similar while resilient ceilings will remain decoupled by attaching the Pot light backer box with the Resilmount clips. Installation of the Pot light backer box around your IC rated recessed light will restore the lost mass entirely allowing your ceiling to reach the full STC, OITC, and IIC rating.

 5. Resilmount A50R™ Sound Isolation Hangers. When selecting hangers, it is recommended that the calculated mass of the ceiling system is increased by 10-20% to avoid overloading of the isolation element. If maximum rated deflections are required, the ceiling system needs to be accurately weighed and point loads assessed in accordance with the architectural specifications of the project.

The site contractor can undertake normal installation procedures of the suspended ceiling system. Once the hanging wire has been hung from the substrate, the lower end of the wire needs to be bent up in accordance with the ceiling system manufacturers specifications, providing a ‘hook’ on which the Resilmount™ Type A50R can be hung. Once the mount is in place, another section of hanging wire is required to be bent and inserted through the lower side of the Resilmount™ Type A50R. The shaft of this wire then becomes the mounting point for the ceiling suspension clip.

For office doorways, we recommend soundproof door seals & sweeps—these products are adjustable, durable, and are ideal for decreasing the amount of sound transmission through door seals. Our door seals are easy-to-install and available in several custom sizes & finishes.

To ensure the walls themselves are soundproofed enough for your needs/liking, we can also add in Roxul Safe & Sound Insulation behind the drywall, and then add a second layer of drywall using Green Glue compound & sealant to ensure that you don’t have flaking noise travelling through your walls into the office next door.

Finally, adding wall panels will help absorb echoes and reverberation throughout the office. Our Tectum Wall Panels offer an effective, permanent and attractive solution for any kind of application that required deadening of undesirable noise levels within an enclosed space. Tectum panels are abuse-resistant and are able to withstand repeated impact, yet are considerably lightweight. Tectum interior wall & ceiling panels are easy to install in new construction and in existing buildings for effective sound control.

Or you can use our Scrim Wrapped Absorber Panels. These are a durable and fire safe absorber designed to provide maximum performance in a wide variety of applications. The SWA is highly efficient tuned noise absorber design for mid to low frequency absorption. Model SWA consists of a semi-rigid fiberglass core completely encapsulated within a 2 mil thick reinforced foil/polypropylene cover. The absorber is available in standard sizes up to 4’ x 8’ and in thicknesses of 1 or 2 inches.

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