Sound Masking in an Office Without Private Offices or Cubicles – The Bridgespan Group



Reducing Distractions and Protecting Speech Privacy in an Open-Concept Space

When the Bridgespan Group, a non-profit consultant group for philanthropists and mission driven organizations, moved to a new 28,000 square foot, one floor location, they saw an opportunity to do something completely different with their office space and the way they worked. One aspirational value of the Bridgespan culture is collaboration—employees work in close-knit teams and the company leadership feels every person has valuable contributions to make. As a result, they wanted a completely open office that was a physical representation of their collaborative spirit. The goal was to design a dramatically different kind of office that would enhance interpersonal interaction and provide a variety of workspace choices for all staff every day while simultaneously keeping costs down.

All employees were invited to participate in the visioning of the new office project, and after numerous brainstorming sessions and a lot of research, a plan for a truly open office emerged. The new office would not have assigned seats, rather, everyone would have a place to store their personal belongings and choose where they wanted to sit throughout the day. At the heart of the office there would be a space with movable tables, sofas, and white boards where teams could meet and discuss work previously done in closed conference rooms. There would be several small comfortable seating clusters throughout the office for small-group conversations, and also sitting and standing work stations for individuals. Those looking for a more private setting could move to the “library” where there would be no conversations or cellphone use. There would be a bank of small private rooms for people to use when they truly needed privacy for meetings, phone calls, or individual work, but there would be no private offices – even for the most senior staff. Conference rooms would have glass walls so meetings could be seen by everyone.

With such a bold vision came privacy and noise concerns. A completely open office space with no cubicle partitions or walls to block sound would mean that speech privacy would be compromised and noise distractions would be elevated. How could Bridgespan retain their open concept vision but also create an acoustically comfortable environment? How could they ensure that teams did not distract one another while working on separate projects? How could they ensure that conversations in conference rooms and private rooms would not be overheard?


QtPro™ Sound Masking System

The Bridgespan Group asked their property managers, Cresa Partners, for potential solutions to office noise problems. Cresa suggested that Bridgespan consider introducing sound masking to the space. Sound masking is the process of adding a low level, unobtrusive background sound to an environment to reduce the intelligibility of human speech and reduce noise distractions. By making nearby conversations unintelligible, sound masking protects speech privacy and allows individuals to work more productively in a space with fewer noise distractions. Sound masking is more cost effective than other acoustical treatments such as partitions or soundproofing materials.

Integrator Connectivity Point won the bid to install Bridgespan’s sound masking. Small, barely visible emitters (speakers) were installed in the open ceiling and drop ceiling areas throughout the open-office space and the designated private areas. The emitters were connected by cables to a QtPro control module residing in the server room. Connectivity Point and Bridgespan worked together on a wiring plan that could facilitate potential zoning changes later on. The system was also configured to act as a docking station for music devices so that Bridgespan could play the music of their choice over the emitters during events and get-togethers.


An Open Office Plan that Actually Worked

Bridgespan was able to create an open office environment that’s both beautiful and functional. Office chatter from team projects is not distracting to employees and groups in other parts of the office. The “library” remains quiet and unaffected by noise in the adjoining open area. Furthermore, private conversations in the private rooms and conference rooms are not overheard by employees in the open area.

“Sound masking helped make our open office concept work. Teams can collaborate out in the open near other teams and employees without being overly distracting. We’re pleased with what the system has done for us.” – Charles Lee, Director of Information Services, The Bridgespan Group


About The Bridgespan Group
The Bridgespan Group is a nonprofit advisor and resource for mission-driven organizations and philanthropists. They collaborate with social sector leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and accelerate learning. Bridgespan works on issues related to society’s most important challenges and to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. Their services include strategy consulting, leadership development, philanthropy advising, and developing and sharing practical insights.

About Cambridge Sound Management
Cambridge Sound Management, Inc. manufactures QtPro sound masking systems to help organizations across multiple industries protect speech privacy, reduce noise distractions, and fuel workplace productivity. Powered by direct-field Quiet Technology, QtPro works by emitting a uniform, barely perceptible background sound at the frequencies of human speech. Cost effective and easy to install, QtPro is deployed in hundreds of millions of square feet of space throughout the world including commercial organizations, healthcare facilities, financial services, government agencies, and educational institutions.

About Connectivity Point
Connectivity Point specializes in integrated technology solutions for voice, data, video and security applications. They have specific expertise in structured cabling and wireless connectivity, security systems, audio visual equipment, VOIP telephone systems and sound
masking solutions. Connectivity Point services the New England area with their own technicians, and nationally and globally through a network of pre-qualified partners, enabling Connectivity Point to be their clients’ One Point of contact.

Post sponsored by Cambridge Sound Management

The Air Under There: Best Practices for Successful Raised Floor Installations

By David Atwood, General Manager at Integrated Interiors

 Integrated Interiors_Haworth UFAD_v1

Raised flooring and underfloor air applications have quickly risen in popularity with the new demands of sustainable construction.  With benefits tied into both its efficiency and reduced materials requirements, modular construction of underfloor air applications will become a key differentiator for any general contractors familiar with the benefits and the challenges of installing raised flooring systems.


Start at the Top


Perhaps the most unorthodox part of any raised floor system is the sequencing of the various trades.  Contrary to conventional installations where HVAC systems are contained in ductwork above the ceiling, raised floor systems are designed to incorporate most major building systems within the confines of the floor cavity.  Therefore, what remains in the ceiling – sprinklers and lighting systems – needs to be completed first, as well any other overhead work, to ensure floor installation and the sensitive systems within can be installed without any interruption or risk of damage.


In addition, when critical building systems are located underfoot, and bringing staging, lifts and other equipment for ceiling installation would only serve to complicate the installation of the floor.  The most effective way to manage floor construction is to phase the various trades effectively, starting with fire protection and lighting systems to ensure all overhead work is completed first.  By educating the subcontractors and providing a clear understanding of what phase each trade will be involved with, general contractors can capitalize on the efficiency of raised floor systems.


Keep the Airways Clear


One of the biggest advantages to underfloor air applications is a reduction of approximately 80% of the ductwork found in conventional projects with standard flooring.  With the floor containing air distribution chambers, it’s critical to ensure that all subcontractors know to keep the area beneath their feet as clean as possible.  When overhead work is completed, work with the electrical and mechanical trades should begin to configure the building’s power distribution systems and HVAC passageways.


It’s important to note, however, that the floor is laid out in a grid formation, utilizing a 10×10 spray-painted dot grid throughout the entire floorplate.  These dots identify locations where the pedestals are located, which are components that support the load of the floor and cannot be altered.  Lack of coordination between trades can lead to installation of piping, electrical systems and cabling in places that conflict with pedestals and can only be rectified by building a structural support to sidestep the interference, leading to delays and additional costs.  Given the relative newness of raised flooring systems, education of the trades is critical to avoid costly missteps.


In order to maintain the integrity of the airways, walls surrounding the underfloor chambers need to be sealed as tightly as possible, allowing for zero penetrations in the design.  As the underfloor cavity acts as a delivery plenum, any gaps or openings can lead to expensive and frustrating air loss.  Teams should also understand that any drywall verticals, whether columns or walls that extend down into the floor, are also critical to the air delivery system and should be carefully integrated into the flooring systems and properly sealed at the slab.


Following the Order of Operations


In one of the most critical phases of any raised floor installations, mechanical, electrical and flooring trades must work together to ensure each system is properly routed up from the slab and through pre-drilled openings in the floor panel.  A few additional steps have to happen first, however, before the raised floor is installed.  Raised flooring uses a modular power system, with zoned distribution boxes and power cabling mounted in the slab and data lines contained in cable trays alongside the utilities.  Once floor installation begins, all remaining materials are staged above the raised flooring to effectively float over the power and data equipment and avoid working directly on top of cabling.


Next, mechanical trades must be brought on board to lay out mechanical boxes and diffusers.  Diffusers are brought up and installed within the floor, and power and data cabling are guided through pre-cut openings in the floor panel.  Prior to purchasing materials, teams should outline exactly how the floor panel will accommodate the project’s power and data systems in order to secure a panel design with the proper penetrations already made.  Most raised floor systems use standard 2×2 panels with cutouts according to the specific project needs.


Once all systems have been tied in and tested, carpet installation begins.  Installing carpet in individual rooms is incredibly streamlined over conventional approaches, as carpet consists of individual modules matched to an access floor panel.  This means no more tedious cutting and measuring each section as the entire floor is essentially installed in one piece and must be done prior to any walls being constructed within a conventional modular interior.


Even in the final phase constant reinforcement of the basic principles of raised flooring must be emphasized among the trades, including that any subsequent penetrations in the drywall should be sealed at the slab level to preserve the integrity of the systems below the surface.  However, with a proactive approach to educating the team and a coordinated approach to installing building systems, general contractors can offer clients increased flexibility and enhanced sustainability for a wide range of applications.


About the Author

  David Atwood_Integrated Interiors_Sm_Frank Monkiewicz Photog

David Atwood is the General Manager of Integrated Interiors, New England’s premier commercial architectural/engineering products and construction services company. Integrated Interiors provides architectural interiors products including moveable walls, raised flooring, and modular power, as well as design-build construction services for mission critical or data center environments. The company is the region’s only source for the integrated procurement and installation of modular architectural products through a single manufacturer – Haworth. Combined with Haworth’s Organic Workspace™ products, Integrated Interiors’ modular solutions provide flexible, high performance workspace that adapts to companies’ changing needs while meeting the growing demand for sustainable and LEED-supportive design.  For more information, go to

Photo:              David Atwood, General Manager at Integrated Interiors

Photo credit:    Frank Monkiewicz Photography

Photos:             UFAD

Photo credit: Haworth

2014 Security Trends

End users continue to migrate away from legacy security systems towards technologies that enable them to be more proactive in mitigating their risks. As our IFMA Boston community witnessed first hand, last year’s investigation into the bombing at the Boston Marathon showed the potential waiting to be unlocked in using big data analytics to comb through troves of video evidence. The ability to remotely access and control security systems from mobile devices also continues to rise in prominence. Security Info Watch determined the following top 10 trends in the security industry:

Click HERE for full descriptions of each trend:


1. Security goes all IP, beyond just video

2. Technology makes IP in small systems a reality

3. New life for old infrastructure with bridge technologies

4. Moore’s Law lives on as vision gets even better.

5. Spotlight on cybersecurity as IT involvement continues to grow

6. Hybrid Solutions


7. Increase in demand for more secure, open and adaptable solutions

8. Mobile access control will continue to roll out in stages

9. Continued migration of intelligence to the door

10. Visitor management systems to move beyond traditional applications


The Facilities Manager Who’s Been Google, Facebook And Now Flipboard’s Secret Weapon

WATCH TechCrunch’s in-depth video.

During rapid growth periods at both Google and Facebook, facilities manager, Scott Oligher, had long to-do lists to make sure everything within their campus fell into place as seamlessly as possible. As the head of facilities at  Flipboard, Oligher’s responsibilities involve the lights being switched on in the morning, to the air conditioning and heating working correctly, to the set up of special meetings and events.

Oligher said one of the most important parts of his role as Flipboard’s Director of Facilities is about “customer service- making sure the employees are happy”. He also emphasized the importance of selecting quality vendors, since Oligher admitted to not being an ‘expert’ in mechanical systems or event planning.

Read the full article here.