its worth with improved employee attitude and
In addition, providing both visual and acoustical privacy, are designated rooms that can only be
accessed with key cards. While secure, the room can
be walled in glass (draperies used when needed),
blending it in with the rest of the décor.
Open-work areas often allow better access to
outdoor views and natural light and, with the right
furnishings, can create a feeling of semi-privacy, but
they can create problems.
Says Koplin, “They are what they are and provide
very little privacy. However, we do have solutions,
among them using materials with sound-absorb-ing properties, such as carpeting, drapes, furniture,
upholstered wall/acoustical panels, visual privacy
screens, and small rooms of various sizes where
one to four people can meet, talk, or take conference calls.”
QUIETING THE WORKPLACE
Williams mentions that many large metropolitan
banks have installed call centers and online tellers
in their main areas, where clients can conduct business without human assistance. Their walls are sufficiently high to deter viewing by passersby, and are
often padded with a carpet-like material to absorb
Another way to keep the noise level down, and
block people from hearing private conversations, is
with “clouds.” Made of sound-absorbent materials,
they are hung from ceilings over specific areas. A
third method, suggests Koplin, is to provide sound
masking, otherwise known as white or pink noise,
in areas where phones are used. She also notes that
speaker phones are one of the biggest offenders in
the open-work environment. “Simply limiting their
use can do wonders.”
Nelson adds that the greatest acoustic con-
cern is between offices, not the corridor. If focus is
given to the wall construction between offices, then
a glass-front office with a lower sound-transmis-
sion coefficient can be used on office fronts to allow
access to daylight that benefits interior spaces.
The layout of the furnishings is, of course, an important factor in creating visual privacy. One successful
way to do it is to use heretofore empty spaces.
At First Bank of Missouri, located in Kansas City,
Missouri, Williams designed a reception area surrounded by pods of high-backed seating with chairs
and tables providing privacy within an open space.
And elegant to boot.
Adjustable draperies and blinds are the traditional ways to create visual privacy for conference
rooms, explains Koplin. There is also textured glass
and a 3M film that produces a frosted glass appearance. Both allow light into the room, yet disrupt
viewing from unwanted eyes. Another solution,
though expensive, is electrified glass, which with
the flip of a switch changes from clear to opaque.
Nelson says it’s a question of balance. “We aim for
‘activity-based design’ that combines function with
aesthetics, and is geared toward multiple work styles
or generations and their diverse needs.” Abundant
• One size does not fit all—get
clients thinking about different
levels of confidentiality.
• Involve needed acoustical or security
consultants in the design process
from the start.
• Keep in mind that the greater
acoustical concern is between
offices, not the corridor.
• Don’t let necessary security
concerns and technology interrupt
the aesthetics of a space.
• Find unique ways to promote relaxed
interaction between your client and
Effective design enhances a company’s privacy
and interaction through a combination of open and
more private areas (left and right, top) or through
glass-walled conference rooms (right, bottom).