The trend toward open floor plans is making a lot of noise in the office world – literally. In response, movable wall manufacturers are boosting acoustical performance while maintaining the flexibility and reconfigurability that made their offerings so attractive in the first place.
Movable walls come in a variety of materials with plenty of options to improve functionality, such as writable surfaces, tackable walls, and technology compatibility. But if the walls don’t perform acoustically, these features hardly seem worth the investment.
Your application will dictate the proper solution. Take the following steps to ensure your occupants don’t sound off with a slew of complaints.
Choose the Right Features
Movable walls can be as simple as glass panels and as complex as finished veneers over gypsum board or sheet metal. They can be personalized with technology, dry erase marker boards, and paint or wallpaper.
The appeal of movable walls has always been their ability to accommodate shifting open plan environments, but these features kick occupant productivity up a notch.
“They’re configurable canvases,” says Shawn Green, vice president of design for manufacturer KI. “Other than definition of space, the big opportunity with walls is maximizing how that space can be used.”
Other offerings can have work surfaces, small shelves, or computer monitor arms hung directly from the wall.
“These items can either determine or support the purpose of a room,” explains Kris Yates, vice president of architectural walls for manufacturer Allsteel. “Privacy panels can be used in executive offices, or interactive surfaces can spur collaboration in meetings or conference rooms.”
Other questions to consider include whether the panels are manual or powered and if accordion or sealed modular partitions are necessary, notes Melissa Rosson, marketing coordinator at manufacturer Modernfold Inc.
This important distinction revolves around simple space management dividers vs. high-performance noise control walls, notes Kenneth DeLasho, general manager of manufacturer IAC Acoustics.
“If you’re just trying to block the line of sight, then dividers and partitions are sufficient,” DeLasho says. “But in sensitive areas like legal, medical, or human resources offices, acoustics aren’t just desired, they’re required.”