Mar 9th 2022

Press Mute on Noisy Rooms: Tips to Design an Acoustically Balanced Space


Designers have the power to make or break the overall experience of a space with acoustics. How sound is transmitted is so important that certain buildings are designed around it, like auditoriums and amphitheaters. Unfortunately, acoustics are most noticeable when they’re bad. But with the power of design, you can start with a strong acoustic plan and create a space your clients won’t want to leave.

Examining Echoes

Bad acoustics can mean a lot of echoes. Echoes occur when sound waves bounce back and forth between surfaces – especially hard surfaces. While one singular echo might not be too bad, when multiple sound sources are competing in one environment, the excessive noise makes it difficult to converse, concentrate, or even feel calm. There are plenty of tactics to tackle acoustical issues when designing a space, but let’s first breakdown the basics of acoustics.

Sound travels through the air in sound waves. The most common unit of measuring the sound level in a space is the decibel, on a scale of 1 to 140 or mouse to jet engine respectively. As the sound waves travel through a space and interact with surfaces and objects, it can be diffused, reflected, absorbed, or blocked. When you can hear sounds reflecting off surfaces and persisting in a space (almost competing with other sounds in the space), this is known as reverberation. Echoes are a form of reverberation. An important acoustical measure is the Reverberation Time (RT) which is the amount of time it takes for reverberation to decay by 60 decibels.

Q1 2022 Acoustics soundwave

Simple Acoustic Solution

It’s easy to design your space to keep sound sources and reflections under control. Adding fibrous, acoustically absorbent materials to your surfaces to capture and dampen reverberations makes a huge impact. It’s important to know a few things to find the appropriate acoustic fix.

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Know Your Needs: Soundproofing vs. Sound Absorption

In certain cases, soundproofing might be needed for confidentiality or recording studios, but for the most part, sound absorbing acoustic elements are the right solution for most designers. Completely soundproofing or over engineering rooms can actually cause distractions as well - silence can be deafening. Instead, you’ll want to find the right balance with added elements that diffuse and dampen sound waves within a space.

Q1 2022 Acoustics NRC vs STC

Know the Numbers

When looking at acoustic elements, there are a few measurements that are key to finding what works. Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) is a numeric rating of the level of sound absorption of a given surface. NRC normally ranges from 0-1.0 (0 being no absorption and 1.0 being almost perfect absorption). However, NRC can also be above 1.0 (like our Diamond Tiles) as the coefficient is not a percentage and multiple surface areas can increase the overall NRC. Materials that are thicker and more porous will have higher NRC ratings and have a better acoustic performance.

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Spec Smarter

While carpet and furniture can make a small difference with echoes, when you specify elements that are designed with acoustic absorption in mind, it makes a big impact. Kirei offers a large collection of wallcoverings, tiles, baffles, clouds, and partitions that can be mixed and matched to address unwanted noise.. With detailed, and accredited lab acoustic testing information, you can make educated decisions based on product thickness, NRC, Sabins, and Sound Absorption Average.

Installation Makes an Impact

You can spec all the right elements, but placement of your acoustic products plays a part in the performance. You can actually increase the NRC rating of products by the way they are installed. Adding air gaps, height installation, and which walls you treat can all play a part in the acoustics of a room.

Q1 2022 Acoustics Install Ideas

Design an Excellent Experience

It is important to remember that every space is an experience and you can ensure that everyone who enters walks away with a positive memory by centering acoustics in your design. Keep acoustics front of mind on your next project and make a difference you can see and hear.

Get Started Today

Design with acoustics in mind.

Q4 2021 Echo Star 500 CTA

Glossary of Acoustic Terms:

Acoustics: the properties or qualities of a room or building that determine how sound is transmitted within it.

Absorption: In acoustics, absorption refers to the dampening or reduction of the sound as it bounces off a given surface. The higher absorption, the more sound is reduced.

Articulation Class (AC): Used to classify dropped ceiling systems according to their ability to provide acoustic privacy within a modulated workspace. It can indicate which ceiling materials best muffle separated workspaces in an open office environment.

Attenuation: Reduction in sound level or intensity as the sound wave travels a distance, reflects off a surface, or passes through a barrier.

Decibel (dB): A unit of measuring the sound level in a space, on a logarithmic scale of 1 to 140 or mouse to jet engine respectively.

Diffusion: The efficacy with which sound is evenly distributed over a given environment.

Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC): A numeric rating of the level of sound absorption of a given surface. NRC is a measurement of how well something absorbs sound, mostly in the range of normal speech frequencies (250 Hz, 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz).

Reflection: In acoustics, reflection refers to the transferral of sound as it bounces off a surface. Perfect reflection will result in a zero loss of sound from material contact.

Reverberation: The persistence of a sound within a space after it reflects off surfaces - an echo is a form of reverberation.

Reverberation Time: The amount of time it takes for reverberation to fade away in a closed space. RT60 is the time it takes for the sound level to decay by 60 dB.

Sabins: The unit for measuring sound absorption of acoustic baffles and other three-dimensional sound absorbers placed or suspended inside rooms. One Sabin is equal to 1 square foot of 100 percent sound-absorptive surface.

Sound Absorption Average (SAA): The average of the absorption coefficients for the 12 one-third octave bands from 200 Hz to 2500 Hz.

Sound Transmission Class (STC): A measure for determining the ability of a product or material to reduce the transmission of sound between rooms.