The COVID-19 pandemic prompted intense review of workplace design considerations and solutions. Amongst the A&D community, there is growing conviction that occupant well-being and engagement must be supported through concern with equity—and applied to real-world needs such as acoustical privacy. To reliably design buildings to function acoustically for their users (e.g., provide adequate speech privacy, freedom from distraction, reduced annoyance, a good night’s sleep, and so on), one needs to establish a known and consistent level of spectrally neutral background sound.
Given today's focus on health and wellness, it seems prudent to revisit our acoustical lexicon with the intention of developing deeper awareness of the differences between background sound and noise, as well as their implications for our experience within facilities. Refining our understanding of 'noise' and 'sound,' as well as terms such as 'silence' and 'quiet,' allows for a more nuanced discussion of occupants’ needs and expectations, and fosters opportunities to improve building design practices.
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