Flex space

Sound proofing tools for your coworking space

Listen up!

We expect performance spaces, music studios, and podcast booths to include sound proofing. But everyday spaces need them as well, and coworking spaces in particular need to monitor and manage the way sound travels.

This can be especially challenging as today’s coworking spaces are often in upfitted older buildings or former industrial spaces, both of which include materials that often bounce sound around, such as concrete, glass, and metal. The appeal of the aesthetic might be in contrast to the function of noise management. 

When you go into a commercial building or office, the ceiling often features three dimensional shapes. These are often more than just decorative additions or visual candy. They are most likely acoustic products specially designed to dampen sound and create an environment conducive to quiet work.

Acoustic tiles and sound-absorbing panels provide sound management in two specific ways: they reduce soundwaves by soaking up sounds and stopping it from bouncing around a large room, or they block sounds from traveling to an adjacent room. They can be installed on the ceiling or the walls. Full acoustical drop ceilings work in the same fashion but offer less visual interest.

Sound proofing vs acoustic management

If you have a podcast room or music studio, you probably want something that will completely control the way sound moves in the room and keep it from escaping to nearby spaces. That’s sound-proofing.

But for a coworking space, the goal might be to simply minimize the way human voices carry, limit reverberation, and create privacy in smaller areas. That’s acoustic management.

Consider using a baffle 

Acoustic sound baffles suspend vertically in rows and columns spread out across the expanse of your ceiling. These acoustic baffles can help stop echoes, minimize noise pollution, and reduce reverberation.


Check the NRC rating

Naturally some materials are more sound dampening than others, but there is an easy way to compare. Be sure to check if the panels or tiles you choose include an NRC rating, or noise reduction coefficient. This is a single number value ranging from 0.0 to 1.0 that classifies the average sound absorption performance of a material. The NRC rating is specially calculated to determine the noise reduction coefficient. This tells you exactly how much noise will be reduced and absorbed in the foam when the sound comes in contact with the panels. 

An NRC of 0.0 indicates the object does not attenuate mid-frequency sounds, but rather reflects sound energy. 

Make sure the material is fire rated

If you are in a public venue, target class A fire rated sound panels. Fiberglass panels are class A fire rated.  Foam panels made of melamine foam are also class A fire rated.  But polyurethane foam is not. 

Coworking spaces can use movable acoustic management tools

Since flex spaces often change configurations based on usage needs, you might want to look at flexible sound-absorbing partitions.

Use other features and decor for acoustic attenuation

Coworking spaces don’t have to strictly use purpose built sound-management tools. Canvas wrapped art, soft couches, tapestries, filled bookshelves, and curtained windows all serve to soften and control how sound moves around your space. 

Photo by Copernico on Unsplash

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