A New Approach to Acoustics

Using sound masking as a design platform
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Sponsored by LogiSon Acoustic Network
By Niklas Moeller

In Conclusion

Closed offices and meeting rooms are built with the intention of providing occupants with both visual and acoustic privacy. While the first goal can easily be achieved, the latter often proves elusive because of the many ways in which sound can transfer from one space to another. Each crack in a wall’s armor facilitates the transmission of sound to and from neighboring spaces. But, ultimately, the lack of sufficient background sound is what allows conversations to be overheard.

While acoustic professionals have always advocated the ABC Rule of absorbing, blocking, and covering unwanted noise, listing ‘C’ last reinforces the notion it is a final consideration and perpetuates the misplaced emphasis on isolation and absorption strategies. Instead, the approach should be CBA: cover, block, absorb. By using sound masking to define and, therefore, know exactly what the background sound level will be anywhere in a facility, one can more accurately specify the remaining materials. Further, the level can be increased (within comfortable limits) at a later date if more acoustic control is needed in order to compensate for deficiencies in partition assemblies—a flexibility uniquely afforded by this technology.

Building professionals should not hesitate to take advantage of this value-engineering opportunity by employing a judicious balance of controlled minimum background sound and isolation in all facilities where speech privacy and noise control are priorities.

End Notes

1The recommendations for maximum noise limits are reported using a single-value metric known as the Noise Criteria (NC), which uses a reference contour to approximate the overall shape and level of the ambient acoustic environment. Because the NC rating does not tell one the overall dBA level or spectrum of the noise, in practice most simply estimate that the actual A-weighted overall sound level is 5 points higher than the NC value (e.g., NC-25 is approximately equivalent to 30 dBA).

2Because peaks in speech are around 65 to 75 dBA, the SPP formula considers the value of 75.

3The vendor must ensure the sound masking system’s design is able to perform to the standard to which the system will ultimately be assessed for compliance. At a minimum, control zones should be smaller than specified test area(s) to ensure any test areas that fail to meet specified targets and tolerances can be adjusted without negatively impacting other test areas.

Niklas Moeller is the vice president of K.R. Moeller Associates Ltd., manufacturer of the LogiSon Acoustic Network and MODIO Guestroom Acoustic Control.


LogiSon Acoustic Network Our company has been dedicated to the design and manufacture of sound masking technologies for more than 40 years. After taking this course, we hope you find the topic of workplace acoustics less mysterious…and feel inspired to create spaces that sound as good as they look.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in December 2021