Commissioning the acoustical performance of an open office space following the latest healthy building standard: A case study
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Healthy building design guides are cogent and necessary. While elements that contribute to healthy buildings are multifactorial, the perception of sound versus noise is subjective and difficult to operationalize. To inform the commissioning process, the acoustics in an open office was examined following the first international building certification system that focuses on the well-being of occupants. Results highlight the role facility managers play in ensuring acoustical quality and offer suggestions to optimize healthy building rating systems. Mixed empirical evidence concerning the advantages of open office designs exists, as does evidence that noise, and a lack of privacy, affects workers’ levels of distraction and dissatisfaction. Sound masking systems can lower stress levels and augment performance. However, the sound produced by these systems can also be disruptive; conflicting information exists for facility managers to use when making decisions. The results suggest that, although objective measurements and healthy building guidelines for designing satisfactory indoor acoustic environments are important, changes to the physical environment, and acoustical systems, in particular, require iterative subjective assessments within the retrofit process to bolster occupant satisfaction. Mixed-methodologies used in this study may aid facilities managers in capturing and interpreting occupant data about physical stimuli in the workplace and improving the commissioning process.