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How to use blinds & curtains to help acoustics in offices
Category: All,Technical
By: John James

Uncontrolled noise in commercial office interiors can have a negative impact on the productivity and health & well-being of staff. Increased stress levels, inefficiency and discomfort are all side effects of poor acoustics in offices. Blinds and curtains can be a very effective, in-expensive and unobtrusive way to improve the acoustic performance of offices.

Open plan offices create acoustic challenge

The trend towards open-plan offices and agile workspaces has led to acoustic considerations becoming an increasingly important factor for architects and interior designers when working on new and refurbishment office projects. Controlling noise levels in open plan offices is notoriously difficult given the expanse of hard surfaces i.e. desks, cupboards and now the ever growing use of floor to ceiling glass both externally and internally.

Obviously fabric blinds i.e. roller blinds, vertical blinds or panel blinds have better acoustic properties than metal blinds i.e venetian blinds. There are also several acoustic fabrics manufactured that are suitable for use with roller blinds and panel blinds that will have a significant impact on reducing reverberation times (echo) as well as providing protection from heat and glare.

When selecting a blind or curtain fabric with acoustic properties in mind look for the fabric’s ‘Acoustic Absorption Factor’ αw. High absorbing materials will tend towards a 1.

Special roller blind fabric absorbs as much as 25mm thick acoustic felt!

Acoustic screen fabrics suitable for roller blinds and panel blinds are less than 0.5mm thick yet have a score of up to 0.8αw – the same absorption properties of 25mm thick acoustic felt. Imagine blinds with acoustic fabric covering floor to ceiling external glazing on all four sides of an office building and you can quickly appreciate the positive impact this has on the acoustic performance of the office!

Velvet curtains improve acoustics

Curtains in boardrooms have long been installed to external windows to provide light exclusion and improved acoustics whilst adding a touch of luxury to the ambience of the room. Heavy wool serge or velvet curtains are typically used in this situation or fabric lined with a thick acoustic lining.

The fullness of the curtain will also have an impact on its’ acoustic performance. Curtain fullness is the amount of fabric used to make the curtain. The more pleats and the bigger the pleat size used to make a curtain the more fabric is required and thus the fullness of the curtain is greater. Curtain fullness is expressed as a percentage, so a curtain with 100% fullness uses double the amount of fabric than the finished width of the curtain.

Use curtains as room dividers

Curtains can also be used as room dividers and as well as creating a visual and acoustic partition can also provide a welcome contrast in textures adding to the intrigue of the interior design. The modern ‘wave’ curtain system from Silent Gliss creates visually stunning curtains by creating uniform ‘wave’ pleats down the entire height of the curtain. This minimalistic soft furnishing is ideally suited to corporate interiors.

Recent advances in curtain fabric manufacture means that acoustic lightweight sheer and voile curtains with the same acoustic properties as heavy wool serge and velvet curtains are now available. Creation Baumann has probably the widest range of acoustic fabrics – over 90 fabrics in 200 different colours. Some of these fabric score as much as 1.2 αw. Fabrics like these are ideal for internal glazing or as standalone room dividers, giving a good degree of privacy whilst still allowing light through.

Contact us for more information on specialist acoustic blinds & curtain fabrics

About the author

John James Marketing Director