The importance of floor plans, furniture and access to natural light mean that walls can be a neglected area of office design, although most commercial interior designers will give basic consideration to colour choices and art. However, we are seeing the emergence of new technology that will help to shape workplace design for years to come.
Both acoustic wall panels and video walls serve important functions, in addition to their more basic decorative roles. Here, we take a look at the reasons why these two new wall designs are growing in popularity, as well as the ways in which they can help to improve the appearance and functionality of your office.
Noise pollution is one of the key issues in modern workplaces. In fact, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, surveyed 65,000 people around the world and found that more than half of office workers are unhappy with the level of sound privacy they have. This makes it the single most prevalent complaint in offices globally.
Various pieces of research have demonstrated that this sound privacy issue is especially prevalent in open plan and cubicle designs, which account for the vast majority of office layouts. Noise pollution at work has been shown to distract workers, reduce productivity, hinder performance on complex tasks and increase stress levels.
Acoustic wall panels are one of the most effective solutions thatoffice interior design companies are turning to, helping to absorb sound and reduce noise pollution at work. The benefits of this can be far-reaching, ranging from increased work output and improved morale, to reducing instances of illness and even lowering staff turnover.
“Walls can even be decorated with pieces that double as both high-quality soundproofing materials and unique pieces of art,” Christopher Calisi and Justin Stout explain in the Havard Business Review. “These materials can often come with hefty price tags, but can be worth the investment for offices with major sound problems.”
Another growing office wall trend involves the use of vast LED panels, which span entire walls and allow for video content to be played. A particularly strong example of this can be seen with the Salesforce.com office in San Francisco. The lobby in the building features a 107 foot wide video wall, which displays truly stunning scenes.
For commercial interior designers, one of the key advantages of video walls is that they allow entire wall designs to be changed on a regular basis, at the touch of a button. This means that, for example, the aesthetic of a room can be altered based on the time of the year, the weather, or what the room is being used for at that particular time.
As well as being used by office interior design companies as a type of wall art, video walls also have the potential to display important work-related information, or even live streaming video. This opens up the possibility of people using Skype or similar technology to speak to your entire office, even if they are in a different part of the world.
“Rapid development in communications has seen increasing use of video conferencing,” says Anton Shone in his book, The Business of Conferences. “A presentation from a speaker in, say, Frankfurt, [can] be made at a conference on a video wall in Harrogate.”
The role that walls play in an office design is sometimes overlooked and when it is factored in, the effort often amounts to little more than painting walls a specific colour and hanging some wall art on them. However, with the emergence of video walls and acoustic wall panels, this is beginning to change.
Research has repeatedly shown the detrimental effect that excess noise in the workplace can have on well-being and productivity, and acoustic wall panels can provide a solution, while also contributing to the overall aesthetic. Meanwhile, video walls allow for the creation of visually stunning wall displays, which can be changed on demand. However, they also serve an important additional function in displaying important information or live video content.