Sound Masking for the Modern Office

by Level365March 29, 2019

When looking for corporate office space to accommodate our growing team a few years back, we knew we wanted something with character and an open floor plan that fostered collaboration and interaction between the different departments. When we came across a building located in the Fort Benjamin Harrison District in Indianapolis, Indiana which encompasses the decommissioned U.S. Army base of the same name, we knew we had found our home.Built in 1906, it initially served as the mule barn for troops preparing for World War 1 and holes for tack can still be seen in the beams throughout the building. Repurposed by the military for many uses when donkeys were no longer used in the military, it served different purposes with its last being used for classroom training in the nineties before becoming inactive. A modern renovation leaving the character, and the corporate offices of Level365 were ready for move in!

High ceilings, original wooden floors and brick walls kept all the character alive. But let me share something about structures built in 1906, you hear everything! Not wanting drywall and drop ceilings, which typically give sound absorption, our open floor plan and historic building was leading to noise distractions and conversations heard across the building. Visitors to the building could listen to our technical support engineers on calls, and everyone took to bringing in their headphones- kind of counterintuitive to an open, collaborative workspace! Passive acoustic absorption and sound blocking solutions were obtrusive or too expensive. When visiting a client in NYC with an open floor plan in a building as old as ours, I came across a sound masking solution that they were using from a company called Cambridge Sound Management. Sound masking helps cover up the excess sound and reduces noise distractions while also increasing speech privacy. While at first listen, it sounds like white noise, but it isn't. White noise is irritating when it is amplified, sounding similar to a loud AM radio static. Sound masking is different than white noise because it is band limited to only overlap with the frequencies of human speech.

The Installation Process

During the layout and design phase, we drafted up a detailed installation plan that took into account ceiling height and material, wall locations, light fixtures and other material obstructions that could affect the sound emitters installation. We have exposed ceiling beams that extend across the length of our office and had to take those into account. We drafted up some simple blueprints with dimensions and submitted along with pictures to Cambridge for their review. After a few days, we received a detailed plan and blueprints for our installation. We over engineered a bit on our side, because thats what we do, and built our materials list. Because of our ceiling construction, we decided to mount external and with a mix of private offices and open work space stretched over two floors, we ended up with 52 active emitters spread over 5 zones using 2 controllers (Images below). There were also 2 additional requirements we wanted to have in the system; the ability to page across zones using our Level365 UC service and platform and also to have light music playing over the emitters in common areas. Our Level365 UC engineers were able to accomplish the former, and the latter is very easy with the auxiliary inputs on the controller. Installation for the office took about 3 days but much of that time was for running the external conduit. When paging, the zone you are paging pauses the sound emitting so the page is clear. Music is broadcast above the sound emitted and the volume can be adjusted. Typically, Music playback systems, paging systems, and sound masking systems are often separated, which is expensive and inefficient. The controllers from Cambridge integrate all of those functions under a single controller.

We Liked the Company So Much, We Bought It

Well, not exactly. But we were so impressed with the functionality of the technical solution from Cambridge Sound Management that we become an authorized partner and had one of our engineers complete training from Cambridge to become a Certified Masking Expert. It is an excellent solution for call centers and compliments our UC for Contact Centers and supports paging functionality from the Level365 UC platform. If you would like more information, project budget numbers or to schedule a site survey, select the "Request a Quote" link below.