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Creating Serenity: Sound Reduction With Window Shades

How a space looks, feels, sounds and smells impacts what goes on in that space. A commercial office building with poor lighting and a mysterious dank smell typically won't inspire productive and happy workers, for example — and probably won't inspire a renewal of any lease the owner is able to get in the first place.

Maintaining some elements of a healthy and productive commercial space simply requires maintenance and, potentially, some elbow grease. Ensuring indoor acoustic quality, however, can require planning ahead and ensuring you're selecting the right acoustic solutions for commercial spaces.

Contexture Design-Assist is one company that helps architects, designers and others think proactively about acoustic quality and sound reduction needs in commercial spaces. Investing early in these solutions can increase overall occupant comfort, leading to enhanced productivity and better ROI for building owners.

Acoustic Solutions and Their Impact on Occupant Comfort

Sound plays a critical role in occupant comfort and productivity within every type of commercial space. It's important to consider multiple elements when it comes to reducing unnecessary and unwanted sound in a space.

First, designers and architects must consider how exterior noise will impact individuals inside a space. For example, a doctor's office located near a busy street may deal with external noise that makes it difficult for patients to relax or for clinicians to communicate with each other or patients. Or a business located in an office building next to the local high school's practice field might see a drop in production every day around 3 p.m. when the marching band shows up for practice.

Internal acoustics also play a role in the comfort and production of building occupants. A conference room that's impacted by acoustic echo can leave individuals confused about what a speaker said or make negotiations or collaborations more difficult. A restaurant, which is already a noisy environment with lots of activity, can become so loud as to make diners uncomfortable and unwilling to return.

In all of these cases, acoustic design solutions can be used to create quieter, more pleasant, and more productive commercial environments.

The Role of Window Shades in Sound Reduction

One important element of sound reduction in architecture and design consideration is window shades. The right shades can help reduce the impact of external noise while also contributing to the acoustic quality within a space. In short, window shades with the right acoustic profile can block external noise while absorbing internal sound to reduce echo and other issues.

Designers should consider Sound Transmission Class when selecting window shades. Regular open woven shades don't do much to reduce outdoor noises, but solid blackout shades don't help absorb internal sounds. The goal is to choose shades made of fabrics that offer low openness but aren't entirely solid, so they work for both types of sound reduction.

Of course, the purpose of the space, the overall design and the location all impact the type of window shade that might be best for sound insulation. An office space in a suburban environment not on a busy road may not need to contend with as much outdoor noise, making internal sound absorption a bigger priority. A high-end retail location in a downtown commercial space, in contrast, is unlikely to generate as much internal noise and may require putting a priority on blocking external sound.

Even other design elements impact shade choice. A posh hotel lobby with thick carpeting and other elements may already have a low internal sound profile, for instance, making that less of a concern when selecting shades. This is one reason it's important to integrate window shade and other acoustic solutions early in the design phase, as you can better determine how all elements will work together, what priorities may be, and where you can reduce costs because you already addressed sound quality with certain solutions.

Cost-Effectiveness of Acoustic Solutions

Understanding the purpose of a space and all the other design elements that go into it can help you make cost-effective decisions about acoustic solutions. For example, when you understand the Noise Reduction Coefficient of standard products, you can make more educated decisions about what you include in your designs. Products marketed as "acoustical" tend to cost more, and being aware of the overall space and needs, you can select only what you need to support occupant comfort and productivity.

Additionally, investing in sound reduction early can provide greater long-term value for building owners. When people are happier in the space because it is quiet or otherwise meets their acoustic needs, they are more likely to remain as tenants. That reduces a number of expenses, including marketing and releasing spaces, for building owners in the future.

The Value of Performance-Based Designs in Acoustics

Whether your goal is material savings in construction or long-term enhancement for owner ROI, commercial building acoustic design is important to consider. By taking a performance-based design approach, you can:

  • Decrease the cost of design and construction by making proactive, data-backed decisions early in the process to reduce rework later

  • Ensure you are selecting the right products to meet the goals of your project and maximize future outcomes for building owners and occupants

  • Maximize the acoustic performance of a space by ensuring all the components work together to achieve a common goal

  • Enhance the usability of the space by ensuring it is quieter and more pleasant for occupants

  • Drive high occupant comfort and increased production, supporting a better outcome for building owners looking to lease or renew the lease on various spaces

The Role of Expertise in Acoustic Solutions

You don't have to engage in performance-based building design on your own, though. If you're interested in increasing your ability to integrate acoustic solutions for commercial spaces early in the design process, Contexture can help. We specialize in tailored window treatments in building design and install many interior acoustical solutions, including options for ceilings and walls. Reach out to speak with us about how the Design-Assist team can help you ensure the final acoustic products you select align with your overall project vision.