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Getting started with soundscaping: How to plan sound into your space

A laptop displays a building floorplan with different coloured areas or zones, to indicate that they're playing different soundscape themes

Are you interested in soundscaping but not so sure about where to start? These simple steps can be used in any type of shared building – like a workplace, hospital or school.

1. Choose your first soundscaping site

First, the site. If you've got multiple buildings or areas in mind, here are few things to consider. Some organizations prefer to install soundscaping in a smaller pilot area, while with others we’ve soundscaped multi-storey buildings right from the get-go, so either approach is viable.

  • If you’d like to start with a pilot, we recommend choosing a space at least 1,000 square meters (roughly 10,000 square feet) in size that encompasses a few different zones.
  • Try and choose a site that accommodates employees in a mix of functional roles. It’ll help you best understand how soundscaping works for a diverse range of people.
  • We perceive multiple senses all at once. You’ll get best results deploying soundscaping in spaces with visual biophilia like greenery, natural light, circadian lighting, etc. 
  • Soundscaping systems can be retrofit into an existing building or designed into a new build.

2. Think about different activities

Once you’ve chosen a site, define some of the key activity-based spaces.

This will help us build a zoning plan. Choosing the actual soundscaping content in each area is something that comes later down the line (and it’s flexible – building managers can change this with the click of a button). But it's important to get the actual areas or zones right from the outset.

Here are some of the key activities to think about.

  • Focus: People often think that silence is the best sound for focus spaces, but this isn’t typically the case. A silent workspace accentuates any distractions. Plus, research shows that even when there are zero distractions silence isn’t optimal; instead people focus best when they’re listening to natural soundscapes. Biophilic soundscaping can benefit focus spaces in two main ways: (i) minimizing distractions and (ii) improving restoration and mental bandwidth. Moodsonic’s focus soundscaping themes include a specifically engineered babbling brook that masks distracting background noise equal to or better than traditional sound masking to create an environment where people can immerse themselves in their tasks. Nature-based soundscaping can also improve restoration, which means people feel better and have more mental bandwidth to focus.
  • Collaboration: Collaborating in silent spaces isn’t easy. People hold off on talking to one another because they’re conscious of disturbing those around them or being overheard. So, soundscaping is a great way to create spaces where people feel comfortable sharing ideas. Moodsonic’s collaboration soundscaping themes include specific elements that are particularly good for collaboration. Ocean waves and birdsong have been shown to improve creativity – plus it can cue our bodies’ circadian rhythms and help us feel more awake. Typical soundscaping for collaboration will be livelier and more dynamic compared to focus spaces. 
  • Restoration: Wellness spaces are an obvious fit for soundscaping. In wellness spaces and across the workplace, biophilic (nature-based) soundscaping can improve mental wellbeing, including mood, reduced feelings of anxiety, comfort, feelings of safety, and restoration. (In healthcare environments, patients even require less pain medication when they can hear the sounds of nature!) Soundscaping can also improve physical symptoms of stress, including blood pressure, muscle tension and breathing. 

That's not an exhaustive list though. Don't forget social spaces, welcome areas and even restrooms – while it's not glamorous, biophilic soundscapes in restrooms are highly requested because they can mask noise and help people feel more comfortable.

3. Think about different people

This step focuses on "sensory zoning".

We want to ensure that we plan different sensory zones for people to choose between. You may have already defined high-stimulation and low-stimulation areas as part of your workplace design. If not, think about areas that can be used to accommodate different sensory preferences – from dynamic and energetic through to calming and more predictable.

4. Plan for user control

You can also start thinking about whether there are any spaces where users could be given individual control of the soundscape (e.g. via wall-mounted tablets), such as meeting rooms or wellness rooms.

Where appropriate, give people direct control of their soundscape so they can choose one to support their immediate needs. This allows them to choose between options in a soundscaping library – Moodsonic's has dozens of options for different working styles and personalities.

5. Design for sense of place

Are there any strong interior design concepts in the building that would benefit from bespoke soundscaping? Or prominent cultural references? Or natural locations that have significance to the site or its people? Is biophilia present in the building?

All of these things can be enhanced with complimentary soundscaping. Highlight these areas on your floorplan for special attention. They might be good candidates for some bespoke "soundscape themes", or you might choose to play a certain type of library content there specifically to emphasise their unique features.

6. Get a soundscaping design

If you've followed these steps, you'll already have a good sense of some of the principles of soundscaping and some ideas about how it can work in your space. You've probably got some questions too!

We can answer any questions and start designing your zoning plan. It's free - no obligation - and puts steps 1-5 into action. Contact us to tell us about your project, or arrange a demo to hear more.

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