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Good acoustics assured at Unigarant

Following a thorough renovation, the insurance company Unigarant now houses its entire workforce in open-plan workspaces that encourage knowledge sharing and new ways of working.

Project: Unigarant Hoogeveen Office

Country/city: Netherlands / Hoogeveen

Architect: SKETS Architectuurstudio

Installer: De Graaf Afbouw

Photographer: Scagliola / Brakkee

New ways of working

The insurance company Unigarant, an ANWB subsidiary, is based in a unique semi-circular building in Hoogeveen. Some of the staff previously worked in rented premises. Following a thorough renovation completed at the end of May 2018, Unigarant has achieved its objective of housing its entire workforce in one location, in open-plan workspaces that encourage knowledge sharing and new ways of working.

Over 400 flexible workstations have been created, utilising all floors of the building. An extension has been added, and the basement has been converted into a new workspace. Architect Laura Favata from the SKETS architecture studio was involved from the very beginning: “An open-plan office layout is very attractive and has many advantages. Sharing knowledge, seeing one another, conferring easily and yet also being able to work in peace. That includes getting the amenities right, and acoustics is one of the most important factors.”

Special discovery

When the time came to remove the old suspended ceiling, Laura Favata discovered that the original architectural ceiling was too beautiful to be hidden. SKETS joined forces with Ecophon to seek out a creative solution that would preserve ceiling height while providing a functional, noise-reducing ceiling. As a result, the solution chosen was Solo Square, a system of square ceiling islands. In consultation with an acoustic adviser and with Stanley Meyer, Unigarant’s facilities management coordinator, Ecophon investigated how many islands were needed to reduce noise.

“Eventually we settled on equipping 70% of the ceiling with individual square ceiling islands,” explains Laura Favata. “Positioning the square ceilings in a semi-circular building was practically a design project in its own right, but it was totally worth it.”

Different acoustic solutions to meet the different challanges

A conduit housing all the services runs throughout the building. To hide this, an aesthetic solution has been found in the form of the Focus Ds. This sleek suspended ceiling system ensures the installations are neatly concealed but remain easily accessible for maintenance.

Another challenge was the acoustics in the meeting rooms and quiet rooms located in the middle of the open-plan workspaces. Unfortunately Solo Square was not an option for these rooms where the air circulates via a plenum space. The soundproofing solution eventually chosen was Combison Uno. This suspended ceiling system provides sound insulation between rooms where the dividing walls do not extend all the way up to the structural ceiling. What’s more, Combison Uno is an effective solution for vertical sound insulation (air noise, ventilation noise, footsteps, etc).

“I can’t say a bad word about the acoustic measures we’ve taken,” says Stanley Meyer. “Previously we had a thick dropped ceiling, and now we’ve opted mainly for individual ceiling islands. We’re certainly noticing the difference – in a good way. Bear in mind that noise levels depend on how densely occupied a department is and the type of work that takes place there.”

Extra wall absorbers needed

The first step towards a healthy acoustic environment is an acoustic ceiling, to reduce noise levels and noise propagation. But in a space with lots of bare walls, sound will always still reverberate, resulting in an annoying din. Fortunately Ecophon offers a solution to this issue as well: Akusto. These absorbent wall panels reduce echo noise, allowing office workers to carry on conversations without disturbing one another.

“In our customer service department, we face a particular challenge where noise levels are concerned,” explains Stanley Meyer. “The occupancy rate per square metre there is slightly higher than we first thought. As a result, our customer service staff are more likely to be disturbed by sounds and ambient noise. Luckily Ecophon is thinking along the same lines as us, and we can probably solve the problem by installing acoustic wall panels.”

Easy on the eye, the ear and the mind

The acoustics of Unigarant’s renovated premises are completely tailored to the role of the spaces. The industrial ceiling in the open-plan offices is modern, and the staff are generally pleasantly surprised by the noise levels. In the end, five acoustic solutions were deployed:

  • Solo Square (square island ceilings)
  • Focus Ds (sleek suspended ceiling system with concealed services)
  • Gedina A (suspended ceiling system with exposed services)
  • Combison Uno Ds (suspended ceiling system preventing sound transfer between rooms)

In the first instance, horizontal ceiling islands were deliberately chosen in preference to vertical solutions. This creates space, depth and a less claustrophobic feeling for staff – important for mental wellbeing when working in an open-plan office. “It looks sleek and creates a spacious effect compared with a heavy dropped ceiling,” notes Stanley Meyer.

Of course, it is important to be easy on the ear as well as the eye and the mind. As the customer service department is more densely occupied than expected, it is being equipped with vertical wall panels that are likely to catch any residual echoes.

Contact us

Phone:
+91 22 40212121
Fax:
+ 91 22 40212392
   
Address:
 Saint-Gobain Ecophon AB
 5th Level, Leela Business Park,
 Andheri Kurla Road,
 Andheri (E) 
 Mumbai - 400 059
 INDIA

 

 

Contact us

Phone:
+91 22 40212121
Fax:
+ 91 22 40212392
   
Address:
 Saint-Gobain Ecophon AB
 5th Level, Leela Business Park,
 Andheri Kurla Road,
 Andheri (E) 
 Mumbai - 400 059
 INDIA