MTM Solutions Brings Acoustics to the Workplace

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MTM Solutions continue to hold its long established and reputation for creating productive solutions for office spaces in Singapore.

Sound might not seem important in an office environment, but the noise level (or lack thereof) in a work area directly affects employee productivity. If employees are distracted by things like conversations, phone calls, or loud music, their productivity will suffer as a result.
No one knows that better than Mark Moore. For more than a decade, his company MTM Solutions has helped other companies like JPMorgan, American Express, Standard Chartered, Cisco Systems, Johnson&Johnson, McDonald’s, INSEAD, SMU, Mediacorp, and Signpost, create acoustic spaces that foster collaboration without acoustic distraction.

MTM Solutions

A design by MTM Solutions

The Soundzipper team recently caught up with Mark from MTM Solutions to discuss his work and the impact of acoustics in the workplace:

You run a furniture company. What role does acoustics play in your work?

Almost every project we touch has acoustic issues that we are dealing with. Most often it’s a retrofit because the acoustics were not considered. We implement solutions like acoustic glass partitions + doors, carpet with acoustic backing, furniture/storage with acoustic panels, acoustic wall panels, and acoustic ceilings + baffles

What are some of the biggest challenges you face regarding acoustics?

Generally, we see that people are not very well educated on the subject. We are trying to get the basic message across and make sure everyone has a basic understanding of the role that acoustics play, and the terminologies. It’s as easy as ABCD (Absorption, Blocking, Covering + Diffusion).

We’ve accomplished that by bringing in expert speakers like Julian Treasure and also through our own research. We’ve found that this education works best when we can use examples rather than just talking about these concepts. We talk and we show slides but people don’t know what the difference really is unless they hear it.

We recently did a simple simulation regarding reverberation time. Each slide had an accompanying soundtrack that allowed us to demonstrate the reverberation time in the room and the effect of different acoustic treatment in the same room could sound tremendously different. If you play a soundtrack people get it more than just putting up PowerPoint slides where people forget what they just saw.

How do you balance what a client wants against what you know is best for them?

We rarely ask a client what they want because they don’t know. MTM Solutions rather seeks to understand their needs through observation and through testing.

For example, we had a meeting room where the echo was horrendous before we installed an acoustic ceilings and wall panels. Now, the echo has been reduced so much that the room is sometimes uncomfortably quiet. But, it makes the space much better for having conference calls and video calls.

Why should companies care about having good acoustics in their offices?

The success of office projects is measured in user satisfaction. That satisfaction is not very good if users are complaining about poor acoustics in an office.

One research study showed a 66 percent drop in productivity caused by noise with voice. So if you play the radio in an office, music is suddenly interrupted by adverts that have a lot of human voice.

Suddenly you have someone telling you to buy something at a louder volume and it’s deliberately disturbing. Research also shows that on average we are interrupted at work every 3 minutes. It takes 23 minutes to regain full concentration after such an interruption, which undoubtedly affects productivity and output.

What role does acoustics play when you are creating a design?

Most designers design for the eyes and not for the ears. When we go into a space, we are designing with our ears.

For example, in client facing, areas and front of house meetings rooms often have flooring made of timber or other hard surfaces. This might be visually appealing but even with best partitions, you will hear the noise from stiletto heels or anyone walking outside.

Banks and other high-end spaces are very excited about a new hard flooring product we have that comes backed with acoustic support. They can achieve the look and aesthetic they want without being concerned about the clip-clop of feet.

What are your future goals for the company?

We continue to see acoustics as being a key element of what we do in serving our customers’ needs.

The biggest shift in our market is the rise of coworking companies. It’s no longer just startups that are moving toward flexible office space. Research indicates that 40 percent of office will be coworking space by 2020. Coworking companies have notoriously cheap finishings and pride themselves on the amount of noise they create. Different companies with different needs are sharing the same types of spaces. Clients are increasingly wanting flexibility and agility.

We continue to educate designers on how important acoustics are so they can advise clients better to create good spaces. Even among top architects, not everyone has a universal knowledge on acoustics and not everyone within an organization does either.


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