Acoustic standards: a shared way of looking at products

An increasing number of countries are realizing the importance of national and international acoustic standards. Some, such as Germany, France and Poland, have introduced new or updated standards with a view to creating better work environments.


IN SWEDEN, acoustic standards are drawn up by the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS)and European standards are overseen by the Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN). The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) also plays an important role.

Klas Hagberg, section manager at WSP Akustik, works on Swedish and ISO standardization projects:

“Acoustic standards exist to provide the market with a shared way of describing and quantifying different products and initiatives.”

For instance, standards help determine how best to position screens, walls and cubicles in offices to reduce noise, echoes and other sounds.


The first level reflected in certification is the products and materials used inside the building. Various European and local standards apply, but as yet there are no clear, common standards for individual items like furnishings and suspended sound absorbers. Such standards would greatly simplify the process of choosing interior fittings to create the optimum office environment. 



“In order to compare products and services in quality and cost terms, purchasers have to know what to expect.”

At ISO, Klas Hagberg chairs a committee developing new standards for screens and furnishings that control the acoustics in a space.

“All over the world, we see the furniture industry getting into absorbents. There might be an absorbent material on a wall, or in some components of a piece of furniture – a desk, maybe, or a sofa that shields the people sitting on it. More and more furnishings are incorporating this sort of functionality, but the information available from manufacturers falls short. Few customers know the acoustic effects of these products. We need new standards to address this deficiency.”

“The acoustic aspect of ‘green’ building projects presents another challenge”, adds Klas Hagberg. “The sustainable building movement lacks an acoustic perspective, but I think we can change that. Good acoustics should be a given.”


At the next level, the building as a whole is assessed. Construction standards vary and are governed by national building codes, which in turn conform to EU-wide regulations. Directly or indirectly, building codes determine which construction materials are chosen.


Christian Nocke is a consultant at Akustikbüro Oldenburg and chairs a committee of the Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) working on a new German acoustic standard, DIN 18041.

“The acoustics of public spaces affect the health and activities of many people: office workers, customers, teachers, students… Poor acoustics are responsible for a 20 per cent loss of productivity. In Germany, we want to get our message out to architects, emphasizing that good acoustics are part and parcel of a sustainable building. How sustainable can a building be if its spatial acoustics don’t work?” he asks rhetorically.

Christian Nocke is optimistic about the future: “The design and certification sides of the construction industry are both paying increasing attention to spatial acoustics. National standards are becoming more common. Scandinavia is leading the way, although the countries have different approaches. I’m pleased to say that Germany has managed to develop a standard in two years."


At the highest level, there is voluntary certification under green building programs, which currently represent the highest standards a building can meet from an environmental perspective. Green buildings do not necessarily have to cover all parameters to achieve a high rating. We are now seeing these programs being updated to favour more sustainable buildings with a focus on people’s wellbeing, productivity and health. 


Text: Mia Ising

Illustration: Myra Starklint


 This article is from the magazine ECO for Sustainable Design - Office edition. If you enjoyed it and want more similar articles, read the full magazine online or download it to your iPad or Android tablet for a more interactive experience.