With the gain in popularity of open-plan office design and the engineering efforts to achieve acoustical comfort for building occupants, a majority of workers still report dissatisfaction in their workplace environment. Office acoustics influence organizational effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction through meeting appropriate requirements for speech privacy and ambient sound levels. Implementing a sound masking system is one tried-and-true method of achieving privacy goals. Although each sound masking system is tuned for its specific environment, the signal—random steady state electronic noise, has remained the same for decades. This session explores how “natural” sounds may be used as an alternative to this standard masking signal employed so ubiquitously in sound masking systems in the contemporary office environment. As an unobtrusive background sound, possessing the appropriate spectral characteristics, this proposed use of “natural” sounds for masking challenges the convention that masking sounds should be as meaningless as possible. Based on psychophysical data and a sound-field analysis through an auditory model, we hypothesize that “natural” sounds as masking sounds have the ability (with equal success as conventional masking sounds) to meet standards and criteria for speech privacy while enhancing cognitive functioning, optimizing the ability to concentrate, and increasing overall worker satisfaction.
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Tuning the cognitive environment: Sound masking with “natural” sounds in open-plan offices
Alana G. DeLoach, Jeff P. Carter, Jonas Braasch; Tuning the cognitive environment: Sound masking with “natural” sounds in open-plan offices. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 1 April 2015; 137 (4_Supplement): 2291. https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4920363
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