I have read your acoustical surfaces blog with a lot of interest, since I recently was moved from an office to a big cubicle area at work. As you can imagine, the worst thing about being in the cube is the noise.
The cubicles, as you may see in the included pictures, are made of paper thing cardboard/wood and glass, the perfect solution for a noisy office. The cubicle area is approximately 105 x 80 inches and the height of the panels are about 66 inches. Unfortunately, the ceiling is very high above my own cubicle.
I am writing to you because I am desperate to find a solution to block as much noise as possible. I imagine I will not be able to block all of the noise, but I am wondering if adding some panels around my cube could help some.
Any suggestion or recommendation would be really appreciated.
Thank you very very much!
Unfortunately, my reply is likely what you fear it will be. Due to the common air space that connects your work space with the rest of the environment, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reduce the amount of sound that makes its way to your ear. I am truly sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re fighting physics.
I have a very good friend that is in the same situation. He is a quite blunt and fairly cynical guy with a good sense of humor but he is one of those guys that tells it like it is. He went from working in the construction industry to working for a national bank. He is in a similar situation where his workspace is in a cubical in a larger room. The sound coming from his co-workers was his first complaint and of course, he called me to see what could be done to minimize the bothersome noise.
If we were able to put a roof and a door on your workspace, we could probably do a pretty good job at keeping the sound out, but without that, it is nearly impossible. Sound travels through air and as long as there is common air space, there is an easy path for the sound to travel through. Here are a couple of numbers that surprise a lot of people: If there is a 1% air gap in ANY kind of a sound barrier, that small gap will leak 30% of the sound from one side to the other. If there is a 5% air gap, 90% of the sound is able to pass through. For instance, if you had an office and there was a 1/4″ gap between the bottom of the door and the floor – 90% of the sound from the hallway would leak through that seemingly TINY gap! So, as I’m sure you can imagine, keeping sound out of the cube is going to be nearly impossible.
I was looking for an office prank where someone’s co-workers actually framed, wired, and sheet rocked a little room around someone’s cubicle while they were on their honeymoon. These guys went as far as painting, roofing (with shingles) and even wiring a light and doorbell around the cubicle. It was quite funny, but I can’t find the picture and thought it would be an amusing touch.
The only thing that I have that may be able to help would be a Sound Screen White Noise Machine. This is a small plug-and-play machine that plugs into a standard wall outlet. It makes a sound that is like a small fan or space-heater running – a whir or a humming sound. The idea here is that your mind will concentrate on the steady noise that is nearby rather than the varying noise that comes in from other spaces. Basically, it is a comfortable way to raise the ambient (background) noise so that it is harder to hear other noises. For instance, if you are sitting at your desk with a small radio playing and someone from down the hallway is trying to talk to you, it is a LOT easier to hear and understand them if you turn the radio off. Same theory here, it is just a non-obtrusive noise. The SoundScreen is not “anti-noise”, it is basically background noise that you will not even notice once it is on for a few days.