What are acoustics?

Sound has a tremendous impact on employee wellbeing and performance.

This concerns absorption of significant ambient noise and dampening of non-significant ambient noise:

  • Significant ambient noise (sound absorption): sound in the workplace caused by colleagues (telephone calls, conversations between colleagues, etc.).
  • Non-significant ambient noise (sound insulation): ambient noise outside of the workplace caused by traffic noise (cars, motorcycles, mopeds, trains, planes, etc.) and installation noise (air-conditioning systems, lifts, toilets, meeting spaces and common areas, etc.).

Improving acoustics

Sound absorption

Users produce a tremendous amount of noise in offices and open work spaces. Consider, for instance, telephone calls and conversations between co-workers that can disturb other users who share the space. Sound-absorbing ceilings, walls and furniture can cut down on the unpleasant effects caused by this. 

Every material has an absorption coefficient that expresses how much of the sound is absorbed. Any residual sound is reflected. The absorption coefficient is measured at each octave band between 124 and 4,000 Hz and has a value of between 0 (no absorption, 100% reflection) and 1 (full absorption, no reflection).

Sound insulation 

In addition to noise in the workplace, employees also suffer difficulties with (non-significant) ambient noise outside the workplace. The two key sources of this are traffic and installation noise.

Sound insulation (noise dampening) can reduce these noises: 

  • External noise (e.g., traffic): thanks to great wall-to-wall sound insulation (no leaks!)
  • Air conditioning system noise: thanks to quiet fans, good layout of piping and ductwork, insulation of piping, ductwork and air distribution components and silencers
  • Internal noise: thanks to crosstalk preventive insulation in walls and doors (crosstalk is electromagnetic interference between different signals that causes the signal of one conductor to interrupt the signal of another)

Scientific research

A literature review (e.g., by Hongsito in 2005 and Toftum et al. in 2012) demonstrates that 4 to 11% of people perform more poorly as a result of significant ambient noise (caused by colleagues). 

There is less scientific research available on the the disadvantages of non-significant ambient noise. We primarily operate from an understanding rooted in an observation by by Szalma & Hancock: the effect is diminished compared to significant background noise, but still reduces performance by 2.5%.


Sustainability certificates

BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method)

This assessment method determines the sustainability of buildings. It was developed and introduced by the English research body Building Research Establishment (BRE). The method is divided into five different standards: 1) Communities, 2) Infrastructure, 3) New Construction, 4) In-Use, and 5) Refurbishment and Fit-Out.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)

LEED is an assessment and certification system used to determine building sustainability performance. The method was set up in 1998 by the US Green Building Council (USGBC) and is the most widely used sustainability tool in the United States.

Wellbeing certificate


People – and not just sustainability and energy – are increasingly the centre of focus in the design of new buildings. The end goal is to guarantee the user’s wellbeing. It’s for this reason that the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) introduced the WELL Building Standard in 2014, to promote healthy and sustainable buildings. It was updated in 2018 based on experience gained: WELL v2.

This performance-based standard measures, certifies and monitors the built environment and its effect on our health. In so doing, WELL strives towards designing buildings that make users healthier and happier. The air, comfort, sound and light quality are measured and improved based on personal needs. WELL, therefore, specifically targets the health and wellbeing of building users.

Trusted partner: SIG Air Handling

Total solutions

HVAC expert (heating, ventilation & air conditioning) SIG Air Handling provides total solutions in the area of sound insulation and sound absorption.

SIG Air Handling also implements fully integrated Smartwellbeing solutions to create an optimal indoor climate (indoor air, thermal comfort, acoustics and light). Our specialists combine products, systems and services with advanced control technology and smart building technology (Smart Building). And that’s how we create a healthy living, work and residential environment that the user is able – based on his or her own needs – to help determine. 

Development and testing

Our experts also put their experience to work in the (continued) development of new products and systems, services and project-specific solutions for every indoor climate issue.

In relation to climate, noise, control technology, performance, installation and assembly, SIG Air Handling has a wide range of testing facilities for this purpose. Where necessary, we also employ complementary techniques such as BIM/Revit, CFD, big data and 3D printing.

Specific advice

Would you like advice on acoustics or Smartwellbeing? Our specialists are eager to help with any indoor climate technology-related issues.

Please feel free to contact one of our specialists.


Smartwellbeing case


As an EDGE Technologies development partner, SIG Air Handling Nederland contributed significantly to the Smart Building technology of EDGE Olympic (The EDGE). The aim: to create a comfortable (working) environment for all users, automatically boosting productivity.

The result: an inspiring environment with a wide range of flexible work zones and facilities allowing all kinds of work. Every building function is focused on the users’ personal needs.

More resources

There are a number of great resources available for diving further into the world of Smartwellbeing.