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Good acoustics: Is it good enough?

At Rockfon, our guidance to go beyond good acoustics is called Optimized Acoustics™.

Introduction to acoustics

Everywhere you look, new, modern spaces are coming to life and while these open-concept spaces promote communication and collaboration, they also increase one main challenge – noise. Now more than ever going beyond good acoustics is as important as the look, feel and function of a space. And it starts by choosing the right ceiling material to achieve the best level of sound absorption for your space. There’s a lot of noise out there. Take your acoustic design to the optimized level.

What is good acoustic design?

Good acoustics in buildings goes by many names; soundproofing, noise control, noise deadening, sound damping, noise reduction solutions, sound isolation, noise canceling, noise blocking and more. It can be confusing, but it is very important.

The Optimized Acoustics™ approach is simple and it is based on proven acoustical engineering practices.

  1. Select a ceiling system to optimize acoustic absorption.
  2. Where needed, use walls or plenum barriers to effectively optimize sound insulation or blocking between rooms.
  3. Ensure that the background sound level is within the desired range.

This approach results in more than just good acoustics. It provides Optimized Acoustics™ that comply with the standards and achieve the best sound experience at the best price.

Acoustics Inquiry

Contact an acoustics specialist.

Design Your Acoustics Project

Follow these three simple steps to achieve Optimized Acoustics™

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Rockfon® Optimized Acoustics

What makes Rockfon stone wool acoustic ceiling tiles the best acoustic panels for absorbing sound? The key is understanding the true role of your ceilings and your walls. Optimize your acoustic and aesthetic designs with a sound solution for the real world.

Why Optimized Acoustics™ is important in buildings

We spend 90 percent of our lives inside buildings. Our sense of hearing is always 'on'. Sound is either improving or worsening our wellbeing and our ability to communicate 24 hours a day, seven days a week – even when we sleep.

Learning The acoustics inside classrooms determine whether children can understand their teachers. For every 10-decibel (dB) increase in noise, elementary school students perform 5.5 points lower on their national standardized tests1.
Healing Acoustics can improve patient and resident comfort and safety, while helping maintain caregiver and employee accuracy and productivity.
Comfort The acoustics inside office buildings impact employee productivity, attendance and retention. Workers need to perform quiet work 62 percent of the time2.
Overall Wellbeing     Without appropriate room acoustic design and noise control inside buildings, noise can seriously harm human health by causing short and long-term health problems3.

Understanding acoustics is important for today’s high-performing buildings. Sound acoustic solutions, such as Rockfon’s Optimized Acoustics™, lead to improvements in student learning, patient healing, worker comfort and our overall wellbeing.

Since we are Canada’s largest convention centre, many of our events can be quite large and so the need to contain noise and provide acoustic privacy is essential - rather than having sound penetrate the plenum and carry to adjacent spaces.

Joshua Jaikaran

facilities technical coordinator, Metro Toronto Convention Centre

1.Optimize acoustic absorption

With greater awareness of the impact noise has on our daily lives, it’s not surprising that building standards and guidelines require good acoustics and are evolving with more stringent requirements. Many now require the use of a high Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) ceiling tile. To meet these higher performance criteria, it’s important to consider how every surface, material, structure, fixture and gap plays a role in the way noise is experienced. For the best results, this means focusing on the true strength of ceiling panels – acoustic absorption.

Enclosed Rooms

  • Acoustic absorption relates to the room acoustics inside enclosed spaces, such as a classroom, private office, conference room or patient room.
  • It applies to the absorbing capabilities of the ceiling sound treatment, acoustic wall panels and whether the floor has carpeting.
  • As the amount of acoustic absorption is increased inside a room, the reverberation time decreases. It also can reduce echoing. In addition, this improves speech intelligibility, allowing students to better understand their teachers and patients to better understand verbal instructions from a doctor or nurse.

Open Spaces

  • Acoustic absorption also relates to the room acoustics within and between open spaces, such as open offices, nurses' stations and corridors.
  • In open spaces, the acoustic ceiling takes on an even more important role because there are no walls with acoustic wall panels.
  • As the amount of acoustic absorption is increased in open spaces and corridors, the distance noise travels decreases. The build-up of sound pressure is prevented. Fewer people are disturbed, and speech privacy is increased.

Ceiling noise reduction panels

The most common way to optimize acoustic absorption inside enclosed rooms or in open spaces is to use one of our high-performing, sound-absorbing, suspended, acoustic ceilings made of stone wool.

Learn more about acoustic absorption.

optimized acoustics, healthcare, patient, recovery, quiet, acoustics

Rockfon® acoustic ceiling solutions

Whether you are working on an office, healthcare facility or school, what drives us forward is our commitment to make products that help people live more comfortably, work more productively, recover a little quicker, and communicate more clearly.

2.Optimize sound insulation

Optimized sound insulation design is an important part of good acoustics. It results in increased sound privacy and speech privacy between rooms. In some cases, such as the office of a human resources director or school counselor, the acoustic need is speech confidentiality.

Sound insulation or sound blocking between enclosed rooms relates to the interior walls, doors, and windows. When the rooms are above and below one another, the floor slab also can play a role in sound insulation.

There is no such thing as a soundproof ceiling or noise canceling ceiling panels to compensate for poor wall and slab design. It is a common misconception that a suspended acoustic ceiling, alone, can provide adequate sound insulation between rooms. Sound blocking ceiling panels cannot meet minimum sound insulation performance required in building standards, guidelines, and rating systems. Adding insulation on top of the ceiling, two feet on either side of the wall or over the whole ceiling does not meet minimum sound insulation requirements in standards either.

As you navigate the ceiling panel solutions available, you’ll notice products on the market that claim to be a high Ceiling Attenuation Class (CAC) ceiling tile and they attempt to absorb and block noise. The reality is: lightweight modular acoustic drop ceilings, by themselves, do not have enough mass to block sound. Additionally, when sound blocking ceiling tiles and panels are placed into a ceiling system, there always will be substantial noise leaks – created by installing light fixtures and air devices – making them even less effective at blocking sound.

Ceiling sound insulation panels

Those “noise blocking” panels actually compromise both blocking and absorption. When designers use these high-CAC ceiling panels, they mistakenly sacrifice acoustic absorption (NRC) for CAC, and the sound insulation is simply not good enough. Instead, look to your ceiling panels to meet the high absorption requirements you need and look to your walls for blocking, when it’s needed. CAC is no longer compliant with most acoustic standards, guidelines and rating systems.

The most common way to optimize sound insulation between enclosed rooms is to use acoustically rated walls that extend full height from floor slab to floor slab or to the roof. Alternatively, our lightweight Rockfon® Plenum Barrier Board can work with our suspended acoustic ceilings to create a high-performing, sound insulation system that meets or exceeds industry requirements.

Learn more about sound insulation 

RFN-NA, optimized acoustics, optimized absorption and blocking vs compromised

Optimize, don’t compromise, the acoustics by using Rockfon acoustic ceilings for absorption and walls or plenum barriers for sound insulation.

3.Optimize background sound level

Even if there is optimal acoustic absorption inside a room or space, and the walls are designed for the required sound insulation, it is also important to ensure that the background sound level falls within an acceptable range. It is a common misconception that the quieter it is the better. In fact, many building systems have become so quiet that people are being disturbed by every little whisper, creak and bump.

Some people refer to the background sound level as “white noise” or some other color, such as “pink noise,” but this is incorrect. Some people refer to background sound level as sound masking. There are natural, mechanical and electronic sound masking systems that can be used inside buildings, but the end result should be referred to as the background sound level. Designers should plan to achieve the optimal background sound level – not too loud and not too quiet – regardless of what type of systems or sources of sound establish it.

Learn more about Background Sound. 

Final words on going beyond good acoustics

You can achieve more than just good acoustics in your projects by following our Optimized Acoustics™ design approach. It encompasses acoustic absorption, sound insulation and background sound level. An easy way to summarize it is that the role of your ceiling is acoustic absorption and the role of your wall is sound insulation.

To learn more about this topic, read an article titled, “Understanding the role of ceilings and walls in your buildings.” Or even easier, just remember that for Optimized Acoustics™, ceilings are for absorption and walls are for insulation.


1. Harvard T.H Chan (2017) Foundation for Student Success

2. Brille et al. for BOSTI Associates (2001): Disproving Widespread Myths About Workplace Design

3. World Health Organization, Regional Office for Europe. Summary of growing evidence of the impact of hazardous environments on human health. https://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topics/environment-and-health/noise