Occasionally clients ask about using HVAC system noise as a sound masking system. While dual use of the HVAC system would save money and be more sustainable, most ventilation systems cannot be relied upon to produce a constant level of background noise with a desirable spectrum of sound. With the widespread use of variable air volume systems, the inconsistent air flow volume produces varying levels of background sound.

At best, it would provide a hit-or-miss situation: sometimes it would be an effective masking system, assuming the spectrum doesn’t annoy the occupants, but most of the time it would not. Furthermore, the sound spectrum cannot be changed; you get what it is, which may not be what the occupants need.

With an electronic sound masking system, the level of the background sound is constant and can be adjusted. With many systems, the spectrum can be tuned to optimum levels to maximize its effectiveness. A system that can be controlled will provide the maximum benefit of increased worker productivity due to the reduced number of office noise related distractions. That’s money well spent.

Acoustics By Design provides recommendations and performance specifications for sound masking systems for open and private offices, call centers, healthcare facilities and other spaces where speech privacy and reduced distractions are desired. After the installation is complete, we provide field services to adjust the system to an effective sound level and preferred spectral balance best suited to the project type.

ABD Engineering and Design

ABD Engineering and Design is one of North America’s leading independent acoustical consulting and AV design firms, serving clients across the United States and Canada, as well as other international markets from offices in Grand Rapids, MI and Portland, OR. Our specialized acoustical engineering and AV design practices help architects, building owners, engineers, facility directors, and municipalities design spaces, environments, and systems for optimal acoustical and audiovisual performance. Our consulting practice areas specialize in all aspects of architectural acoustics, environmental and industrial noise and vibration control, and audiovisual systems design.

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