Arena Sergel –The future of office soundscaping
BETTER SOUND 2022 | Categories: Soundscapes and Ambient Sound, Universal Design
Difficulties concentrating, low confidentiality, irritation, fatigue and stress. The clouds gather when planning an open plan office, and these worries have one thing in common: They are usually caused by a bad sound environment. And the intricate part is that these issues occur both when there is too much sound, but also when a space is too quiet.
Vasakronan is Sweden’s largest real estate company and their new headquarters is located in central Stockholm, together with a co-working office called Arena Sergel.
Good acoustics is crucial: There are some basic sound characteristics a workplace needs to have in order to function well:
– Speech intelligibility – It must be easy to have conversations
– Low noise level – The workplace must be free from annoying noise.
– Insulation – Sound outside a meeting room should not disrupt the meeting, and vice versa.
Therefore it was crucial to ensure optimal acoustics and airborne sound insulation in all rooms. But we didn’t just focus on reduction values, reverberation times and regulations. We also needed to consider how the different areas throughout the office would be used and how it could affect the overall soundscape. For example, we ensured that the walkways and lunch areas were provided with carpets that dampen the sound of loud heels and scraping chairs.
Psychoacoustically anchored sound design:
The study of how humans perceive, interpret and are affected by sound is called psychoacoustics, and to create a healthy and attractive sonic environment it’s crucial to work with both an acoustic and psychoacoustic perspective in mind. Sometimes you need to remove sounds, and sometimes you need to add sounds.
We know that open plan offices come with certain sound related challenges, so we wanted to set a new standard at Arena Sergel – to display how healthy and functional soundscapes should be designed. Open areas with a more permissive soundscape: In the entrance and lobby, all visitors are greeted by lounge music and elegant scent design. The goal is to create an inviting environment where co-workers and visitors can “let their shoulders down”.
The background music continues throughout the office in all open spaces with a social and casual function. These areas are perfect for spontaneous meetings and phone calls but also a great working area if you’re the type of person who finds the most focus in a somewhat lively atmosphere. In selected areas there’s also an option to play louder music e.g. at after works and other events.
Flex spaces with and without sound masking:
The workplaces in the office mainly consist of flexplaces with no personal workstations. Some of these areas are completely silent well separated from corridors, kitchenettes and other sections that can generate annoying noise. In other parts of the flex spaces we have added very subtle nature soundscapes, page 2of 3that we’ve meticulously recorded in Swedish deciduous forests. The auditory impact is like being outdoors or opening a window towards a calm forest. The purpose is to let the sounds of nature mask other sounds that can be perceived as interrupting such as conversations, tapping from keyboards and footsteps. Additionally, sounds of nature has in multiple studies proved to reduce stress and increase focus. This way we boost concentration with a soundscape that is both functional and pleasant.