Lab Design with Soundproofing in Mind

Sometimes lab QuietBench_Shh1design and lab safety go hand in hand. This is especially true with noise. While dedicated lab furniture contributes to noise reduction, as we talk about often, so can lab design when it comes to soundproofing.

After all, it can be just as difficult to focus on your experiments when you’re able to hear instrument noises and voices from an adjoining lab coming through the walls, as it is if the sound is emanating from an unenclosed vacuum pump beneath the mass spectrometer you are using. As we often point out, it is critical to create a quiet lab environment for safety and the sake of the work being conducted.

Understanding Wall Design and Soundproofing

Many people think that insulation is the only variable that matters when it comes to soundproofing a wall. This is not the case, however. To understand why, we need to remember two basic physics lessons.

The first is that sound travels more easily through connected materials (aka “structural paths”) than it does through empty space. This matters because conventional or “standard” walls are constructed by nailing drywall to either side of a single row of studs. As a result, sound travels from the drywall on one side, through the stud, and out through the drywall on the other side—thus easily transmitting sound through the wall, from one room to another.

The second physics lesson tells us that the empty spaces between sections of drywall and the spaces between studs also transmit sound—although not as much as a structural path. This is why many lab designs incorporate insulation into those empty spaces between the walls. But insulation is usually insufficient because it’s just filling in the holes between the structural paths, which remain in place.

Laboratory Design with Soundproofing in Mind

A common solution in the past has been to add more insulation, creating thicker walls but not solving the problem because the structural paths remain, transmitting sound between rooms.

One of the newer solutions to come along in lab design is the idea of a staggered-stud or decoupled wall. In this case, two sets of studs are offset, and drywall is only nailed to one side of each stud. This allows for a continuous band of insulation to be woven between the studs within the wall. Since there is no structural path all the way through the wall, this approach provides a demonstrable positive effect in reducing noise transmission between different labs.

Not All Sound Travels the Same

Unfortunately, not all frequencies of sound are equally baffled by these methods. Insulation, for example, has a more positive effect reducing middle- and high-frequency sounds, but less of an effect on low-frequency sounds. As a result, additional barriers to sound should be incorporated into your laboratory design—like our MS Bench.

With its integrated vacuum pump enclosure, this dedicated lab furniture provides a 75 percent reduction in noise, with a guaranteed sound suppression of 15 dBA. By integrating our benches for mass spectrometers into your new lab design, you will create an additional sound barrier. Coupled with the insulation of modern staggered-stud walls, our dedicated lab furniture ensures that your new lab is as quiet as possible, with no sound carryover from mass spectrometry research taking place in adjacent rooms.

New lab design should always incorporate the results of proven research, whether it involves structural advancements, instrumental improvements, software or even furnishings. Dedicated lab furniture is worth the investment in a quieter lab; request a quote today to learn more.