ac Building Performance Lab | Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute, NYC New York
Newman Vertical Campus


Acoustics are often neglected during building renovations. However, an efficient building will have appropriate acoustics which maximize worker productivity. The layout of office spaces, hallways, walls, partitions, doors and other design features can affect the movement of sound through a building. Different textures of walls, floors and ceilings will also affect sound differently. Air handling systems are one of the greatest contributors to background noise, and tenant surveys often return complaints of loud venting.

An office retrofit is a good opportunity to evaluate acoustics and their impact on indoor environmental quality. When a quiet working environment is necessary, loud background noise can decrease worker productivity and therefore company revenue. Constant background noise, even at relatively low decibel levels, can gradually wear away at the mental and physical health of occupants. If private conversations are audible from significant distances, the workplace can turn into a problematic and even hostile environment, which will decrease tenant satisfaction.

During retrofits, property owners and managers may consider adding or modifying partitions. They might add sound absorptions materials, many of which can be budget-friendly. Problematic duct vents should be inspected for proper fan operation, size and cleanliness. Read more about maintaining duct systems here.

Acoustics chart

Image credit: The Center for the Built Environment (CBE) at UC Berkeley post-occupancy-evaluation (POE) database

Additional resources:

Acoustical Analysis in Office Environments Using POE Surveys from the Center for the Built Environment

CBE Acoustical Analysis Case Study (PDF)