Silence is Golden - How Acoustics Are Shaping The Workplace


We’ve all heard the expression before, Silence is Golden, but how many really stop to think how that phrase applies to our daily lives, especially in the workplace?Noise is inherently distracting and we all have differing capabilities to be able to filter it out.

But it's worth considering the real benefits of silence and our ability to work, have considered thought and think creatively.

Matthew B. Crawford from the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies observed in an article titled The Cost of Paying Attention in the New York Times:“The benefits of silence are off the books. They are not measured in the gross domestic product, yet the availability of silence surely contributes to creativity and innovation. They do not show up explicitly in social statistics such as level of educational achievement, yet one consumes a great deal of silence in the course of becoming educated.

“… In the business-class lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I heard only the occasional tinkling of a spoon against china. I saw no advertisements on the walls. This silence, more than any other feature, is what makes it feel genuinely luxurious. When you step inside and the automatic doors whoosh shut behind you, the difference is nearly tactile, like slipping out of haircloth into satin. Your brow unfurrows, your neck muscles relax; after 20 minutes you no longer feel exhausted.”

According to Julian Treasure, chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises businesses on acoustic issues, architects should pay more attention to acoustics. 

In a TED Talk, Treasure says that "sound affects us physiologically, psychologically, cognitively, and behaviourally, all the time." He states we are three times less efficient working in an open-plan office space than in a quiet room and suggests the use of headphones as a quick fix for improving concentration.

A couple of modern building designs that are very attune to acoustics include the new California headquarters for Skype and the nearly completed Apple monster campus in Silicon Valley.

(Above & below) Skype headquarters by Design Blitz features three zoned areas
for collaboration, contemplation and concentration. Images from 

Selfridges Silence Room by Alex Cochrane Architects. A silent sanctuary for shoppers to escape from the hustle and bustle, with a felt cladded interior to minimise sound from the rest of the store. Image from[/caption]Acoustics can be shaped by intelligent design, thoughtful work structures and use of appropriate materials and technology. It certainly is going to feature more prominently in most modern workspace designs.


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