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Office Sound Isolation

Discussion in 'Room Acoustics / Isolation / Treatment' started by doubleJ, Apr 3, 2014.

  1. doubleJ

    doubleJ Active Member

    My editor and I just moved into new offices and it seems that we can hear more external sound than we did.
    The outside hallway is wood and our doors have windows.
    The offices are 9'x12'x8' (WxDxH) and there is no insulation above the drop-ceiling.
    I'm not sure if insulation is in the walls, as they are capped (steel studs) and our phone/network jacks are in boxes.
    We can hear people talking in adjacent offices, doors shutting, etc...
    Unfortunately, no one asked us audio guys how our offices should be built or where they should be placed and I don't think hundreds of dollars of acoustic tiles will fly.
    Our previous offices weren't insulated, but there was a lot less activity (and a carpeted hallway).

    I'm not as interested in dampening the inside of the room as isolating the rooms from exterior noise.
    The effort is just to create a quiet environment that we can make noisy.
    My initial thought was just to cut 2x2 insulation squares and place them over the tiles, but I don't think the bulk of the noise is from above (the actual ceiling is only a couple of feet above the tiles).
    I think the majority of the noise is through those door windows, but I don't think I can do anything to change that.
    Of course, I can hear through the walls.
    It's just a bad location for audio work.
  2. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    It's going to take a lot more than a few tlles, because in the main, they are designed to provide treatment, not insulation. To stop transmission, you need mass, so realistically the only effective system is going to involve building something more substantial than some foam or insulation board. These will stop HF, but the human voice is actually quite low, and will travel. Doors shutting and footfall is usually carried via the structure, and again is not going to be cheap to fix. If it's critical, the Esmono rooms would work well, and could be removed if you move again.
  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    "...My initial thought was just to cut 2x2 insulation squares and place them over the tiles, but I don't think the bulk of the noise is from above (the actual ceiling is only a couple of feet above the tiles).
    I think the majority of the noise is through those door windows, but I don't think I can do anything to change that."

    As Paul mentioned, you are at the mercy of the design and construction of the structure. Don't waste you time cutting and placing those foam tiles, they won't do a thing. They are made as frequency absorbers to tune the reflections in a room, and are not designed for isolation/soundproofing.

    Sound leakage and transmission can and will happen anywhere there are openings or thin massed objects between areas... from thin doors and windows, HVAC ducts, lighting fixture cavities, etc., and even up above that drop ceiling you mentioned where there is nothing between your office and the other offices.

    In more modern buildings, because of codes, you will have sections of buildings separated by fire walls. These are even found above ceilings, and are meant to stop fire from traveling - or traveling rapidly - from section to section or room to room.
    Perhaps you might be able to locate yourselves in an area bounded by one of these sections if those firewalls are in your building, this would help some, but you'll still run the chance of leakage from the other people that also happen to be on your side of that wall.

    As a cheap(er) fix, you might be able to cut some of the transmission by having thick insulation pad placed above the ceiling, something thick like an R19 or better, and that might cut some of the pollution, but probably not all that much.
    And you need to make sure that the drop ceiling tiles can support the weight of a thicker insulation laying on top of it.

    Short of building a room within a room, I don't think you're going to be all that happy with the results of any of the cheap attempts that you could try.

    This might help to at least explain what you are up against:

  4. doubleJ

    doubleJ Active Member

    Thanks for the replies, guys.
    I really wish that some audio personnel were involved in the decision process, but that wasn't the case.
    We will, likely, just have to live with the way it is.
    Unfortunately, silence isn't critical to our work.
    It just makes it a whole lot nicer (and easier to hear those little pops and ticks).
  5. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    Yeah - insulation above the ceiling isn't really going to do much (if it does anything.)

    If you can't really do anything from the perspective of construction (meaing creating some physical isolation between you and the neighboring spaces, sealing of penetration - proper door seals - isolation from direct communcating sources like HVAC systems) then you aren't ever going to make it from "A" to "B"

  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Bottom line it's the air that transfers the little sound molecules, dancing about. If it doesn't fit? You must acquit. It worked for OJ. So you get to seal up your rooms from the other rooms. Which means building a box, within the box. Which means a lot more mass and air spaces. An intertwining of flexible HVAC ducting that looks like the inside of somebody's intestinal tract. Separate air-conditioning and heating from the other offices. Three times the amount of sheet rock. No more drop ceiling. Airtight doors. Heavy solid core and metal. Multipane and rubber mounted Windows. Nothing a few hundred thousand dollars couldn't fix.

    Or you can purchase a bunch of whisper rooms? Announcers and singers don't mind them. Which is the box within your box, then. Problem solved.

    How about hiring Rod? He'll help ya. You need his help. I just take the cheap way out. Loose lips sink ships.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  7. dprimary

    dprimary Active Member

    Since you mention the walls have steel track capping to top, it makes me think the walls do not run all the way to the floor deck or ceiling. If that is the case the walls are not doing much. The noise is flanking through the ceiling tiles. Both Armstrong and USG make ceiling tiles that can reduce the transmission through the ceiling.

  8. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    Dan, think about what you are saying man. Walls that do not go all the way to the floor? Sure you can do it...but not everyday.

    I would almost bet my life as a fine human being that he is referring to sheathing, meaning the vertical wall assembly has been "capped" or finished.

    Noise does not flank through a vacumn. Flanking is the result of a hard connection. So it will not "flank" at a penetration point that has no connection. That would be air borne, and that is very typical of "new offices".

    If I may continue....you would be hard pressed to flank anything through a, most likely existing Armstrong ceiling tile since they are a leading brand, that exists in these structures.

    You may, how ever, pinch a light guage wall track to the ceiling GRID and introduce flanking(there is that word again)...but not to the tile.

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