Quiet Down the Walls


(Quiet Walls | Photo Courtesy of AV Designs Now)

Are you trying to reduce or control the volume of your space? When I walk into your room, the first thing I will to say you is, “Let’s talk floor volume.” We’ll also address whether putting acoustics on your wall will actually quiet it down at all. Then, I will hope that you are open to a new construction, which will be a good plan since it’s cheaper and easier. But usually, I have found, volume issues are an after-the-fact situation. So, let’s start with, “Shhhhh. Listen. What do you hear?” Icemaker? Refrigerator? Road noise? Buzz in your sound system? Conversations? Machinery? Fan noise? I am a big proponent of listening first, considering the space, then addressing acoustical design and finally, educating the customer.

Understanding the Basics of Noise Reduction

BuzziSpace offers a simple and down-to-earth explanation of basic acoustics. They begin with the definition of sound.

Sound consists of pressure waves running through the air. It can be described as energy, created by vibrations, transmitted through air or any other medium. The inner ear converts those vibrations into electric signals, which are sent to our brain, where they will be processed and perceived as the actual sound coming in. These sound waves have two different characteristics — 1) Frequency determines the tone of the sound, and 2) Decibel determines the intensity of the sound.

Why this matters? Well, in today’s open-plan workspaces, employees are exposed to noise pollution. Noisy offices above the suggested thresholds of frequency and decibels may hamper concentration and interfere with collaboration.

But there is always a way to avoid getting stressed by trying to keep focus at work. The solution could be several workplace microenvironments, designed with sound balance in mind for the activity and the people using these areas.

Building Optimal Walls and Workspaces

In Mark Laliberte’s article, Building Science: Optimum Wall Sections, from the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, he shares five techniques you can employ immediately that will make a significant difference in the personal of your wall systems. He states the following from his article:

  1. Use blown-in insulation systems on every new building. Select blown fiberglass, cellulose or spray-in-place foam. I believe we need to move away from poorly installed fiberglass batts.
  2. Detail the air-barrier system you will use. If you use spray foam, caulk your bottom and top plates, and the job is done. If you install fibrous insulation, ensure bottom and top plates are sealed using high-quality caulks or gaskets. Increase insulation levels by providing rigid foam blocking behind tub decks, shower stalls, soffitted framing and any other complex framing areas.
  3. Use advanced framing techniques whenever possible. Design for 24-inch on-center 2×6 walls with wood sheathing or proper bracing with a combination of wood and foam sheathing. This will ensure the wall system is ready to accept more insulation. Foam sheathing also can address the dew-point issues that can affect many climate regions. Just remember, more insulation is good. It reduces equipment size, uses less energy and keeps homeowners comfortable.
  4. Use significant care and attention when detailing the weather management system. Pan-flash every window and door. Seal all penetrations in the wall with products that integrate completely with the weather barrier system. In climate regions that exceed 25 inches of rain annually, use a system that creates an air space between the cladding and the sheathing. Use products with properties that are compatible, as some sealants don’t work well with others.
  5. Use paperless gypsum in areas prone to excess moisture exposure. Use cement-based tile-backer products that are specifically designed for moisture-prone applications. Do not rely on green-colored gypsum to prevent moisture problems in bathrooms.

Let’s partner together to reduce and control the volume of your workspace too. Talk to you soon!


Laliberte, Mark. (Aug. 12, 2008). Building Science: Optimum Wall Sections. The Journal of the American Institute of Architects. BuzziSpace. Understanding the Basics of Noise Reduction.



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Tony the AV Guy

Tony, the AV guy, 503-888-2515, tony@avbend.com, www.avbend.com/blog

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