Soundproofing 101: The Basics of Meeting Room Acoustics

The basics of meeting room acoustics for commercial offices

Does your office have an acoustics issue? Ask yourself, are you often distracted by noise or conversations at work? Are your employees’ meetings audible, even when in a separate room?

You’re not alone. Studies show that 80% of office workers claim chatty co-workers are the biggest distraction at work, with 70% of the workers referencing office noise as a main distraction.

Whilst office acoustics are a building-wide issue, one of the biggest contributors to workplace distractions is the Meeting Room.

Often the hub of conversations, meeting rooms in modern-day offices are multi-purpose and highly-used which only serves to worsen things if you don’t get your meeting room acoustics right.

Without proper acoustic treatment, your meeting rooms can bring several problems to your business.

From poor sound quality within the room, to sound leakage and GDPR concerns. Getting your meeting rooms acoustically secure is fundamental.

That’s why over the coming months we will be discussing office acoustics in full, starting with meeting room acoustics. So first, let’s outline the basics of soundproofing and acoustics so that office managers, CEOs, property developers and all other business professionals can identify the right solution for their particular situation – whether it is budget-conscious options or total rehauls – these are essential basics of meeting room acoustics.


What is Acoustic Treatment and Why Is It Important for Meeting Rooms?

Acoustic treatment has always been an important component of design. Unfortunately, commercial properties such as offices have long underestimated how powerful good acoustics can be for a business.

With increased use of technology in the workplace, growing concerns around well-being in the workplace and a push for hybrid working, companies around the world are beginning to rethink office design, especially acoustic clarity and security.

Acoustic treatment involves the soundproofing and restructuring of a room, taking into account the build-up of the existing walls, floors and ceilings. From wall resilience to flooring & underlay, acoustic treatment is designed to reduce and prevent excess noise pollution travelling from point A to point B.

As meeting rooms are used for most of a company’s group discussions, one-on-ones and conferences, ensuring that the meeting room acoustics are good prevents sound from leaking into other parts of the office.

This is not only crucial for general productivity, by minimising distractions, but also solves potential GDPR issues arising from confidential conversations being overheard.

Fitout for a commercial office, to improve the office and meeting room acoustics
Result photo of a commercial office project to improve the office and meeting room acoustics

Identifying Problem Areas in Meeting Room Design

The way we use meeting rooms has shifted. No longer are they reserved solely for large in-person conference meetings. As hybrid working becomes the norm post-COVID, video meetings such as Zoom & Teams are becoming commonplace.

Add to that the multi-purpose nature of a meeting room (for debriefs, one-to-ones, client meetings and company updates) and today’s office meeting rooms now need to serve more purposes than ever before.

But, how do you identify some common problem areas in meeting room design? Through years of industry experience, we’ve identified some common problem areas that we see every day in offices and meeting rooms most likely just like yours:

  • Meeting rooms joined to other important rooms without properly isolated walls
  • Surface breaks in walls, gaps caused by poorly fitted studwork and cable trays are the worst!
  • Gaps between the walls & floors/ceilings, poorly finished walls leave gaps you can’t initially see between walls and ceilings
  • Using single skin of plaster on walls, or a double skin of the wrong type of plasterboard!
  • Lack of acoustic-specific insulation in the wall cavity.
  • Poor implementation of AV technology. Often these systems get fitted directly to the walls or into the ceiling, making acoustic isolation a troublesome issue

Common Complaints Caused By Poor Meeting Room Acoustics

Noise pollution at its best can cause a loss of concentration and interfere with your day-to-day work life. At its worst, however, noise pollution can lead to poor productivity, increased stress levels and even complaints from your employees or clients. There are even instances where rooms in the office start to become disused entirely.

With modern-day offices incorporating open-plan design, businesses can open themselves up to more challenges if the layout and floorplan of the workspace isn’t considered early.

Meeting rooms that adjoin other spaces, such as a private office, breakout room or quiet space can lead to excessive noise pollution if sound transfer isn’t addressed.

For most businesses, there are times when confidential information is discussed, such as policy talks or HR meetings. This is even more present in offices such as law firms, where clients demand and expect confidentiality. For both of these instances, GDPR compliance is a huge concern for both the employer and the business’s clients.

All meeting rooms should be insulated and soundproofed to ensure that conversations cannot be overheard, or recorded from outside of the room as a matter of essential practice.

How To Acoustically Treat A Meeting Room

A common misconception is that to soundproof a room, all that’s needed is to add acoustic products such as panels to the walls. In fact, those products are just one element of acoustic treatment (especially soundproofing).

Soundproofing, sound absorption, mechanical decoupling and in some cases, sound masking, go hand-in-hand to create a fully acoustically treated space.

For most office spaces, there are two main options: Retrofit or Re-Construction.

For most, retrofitting provides the most suitable solution, as it allows businesses to address sonic issues whilst keeping the overall costs lower than that of a complete restructure or redesign.

To soundproof a space the most commonly used products are floor underlay and wall-mounted noise transmission barriers like our proprietary system. Floor underlay is a sound-dampening composite which sits underneath existing flooring to reduce impact noise. On the other hand, wall-mounted barriers can be installed over existing drywall and help prevent sound transfer between rooms.

Sound absorption focuses on increasing the overall sound quality of a space, by reducing noise pollutants such as reverb and echo. This is usually achieved through acoustic products such as absorption panels on the walls or ceiling.

We would always recommend you consult with Sound-Zero when carrying out any work relating to acoustic treatment. In not doing so, businesses can often spend huge amounts of money on questionable or in some cases negligible results due to poor specification, installation, bad design and planning.


Seek Out the Acoustic Experts For Meeting Room Acoustics!

These basics should help you identify some of the common contributors to poor meeting room acoustics and provide some information on how to assess the sonics in your business.

Acoustics is an exact science, getting it wrong can lead to money wasted, poor workplace productivity and a downturn in workplace wellbeing. In some instances, poor acoustics can even lead to complaints and GDPR non-compliance.

If your office space requires acoustic treatment then speak to us, the only professionals who specialise in the design and build of acoustically-led workspaces.

At Sound Zero we blend human-centric design with great acoustics, backed up by decades of industry experience. From handshake to handover, our turnkey services provide you with a complete consultation, manufacture and installation process, designed around you and your business.

If you’re for more information about acoustic treatment for your business, do not hesitate to get in touch!

Or alternatively, give us a call on 020 3984 2000.

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