Primacoustic Paintable Acoustic Panels Bring a Sound Solution To Open Office Environments

Primacoustic paintable acoustic panels at QuadReal in Vancouver

Primacoustic paintable acoustic panels reduce noisy distractions in open office spaces.

Problem: The popularity of open office environments has also led to an increase in the use of installed paintable acoustic panels to reduce distractions, both acoustically and visually. A study of 10,000 people by office equipment supplier Steelcase found that workers lose an average of 86 minutes per day of productive time due to acoustic distractions. That’s almost 30 hours per month, and the equivalent of one 8 hour day per week lost due to acoustic distractions. Another study found that overhearing conversations was the biggest frustration workers had with their office environment.

Solution: Primacoustic paintable panels are used by many installers and designers to address this problem. Paramount Automation, a Vancouver, Canada sound and automation consultancy that regularly installs Primacoustic panels in corporate offices, uses the paintable panels to address a client’s need to create spaces that not only meet acoustic standards and requirements, but also design and decor specifications.

In this interview with Marty Nightingale of Paramount Automation, we dig deeper into the challenges of distractions, as well as acoustical problems such as reverb, echo and sound bleed. In the interview, Marty talks about some of the corporate clients the company has worked with to resolve both acoustics and design challenges, all using Primacoustic paintable panels.

Marty Nightingale Paramount Automation Primacoustic blogPrimacoustic: Let’s start with a bit about Paramount Automation, and what the company does.

Marty: We’re based Vancouver, where there’s a big need for custom homes and high-end residential installations. We do audio, video, home control, lighting. And acoustic panels are almost always in the consideration set for our installs. In the past, we typically only installed these panels in theaters. But we started to notice a big need for acoustic control in commercial spaces, restaurants, athletic facilities and therapy places. So we started launching into that, and it’s really kind of taken off for us.

Primacoustic: Let’s talk more about the commercial projects. One of the projects you worked on recently was an acoustics project for an international commercial property company based in Vancouver. Talk a little bit about the process of how the conversation regarding acoustic control started and how ultimately you got to talking about installing the Primacoustic sound panels and how the paintables component of that install came about.

Marty: QuadReal is a property management group in Vancouver. They manage large commercial spaces, buildings across Canada. In the corporate office here in Vancouver, they have several meeting rooms and boardrooms where they do conference calling. It really became frustrating for them to try to do a call remotely to another client or another office and they couldn’t really hear each other very well due to the echo and reverberation in the rooms.

Primacoustic: How did QuadReal get in contact with Paramount Automation?

Marty: They first reached out first to a Primacoustic looking for a solution, and then Primacoustic contacted us. We have a spray booth here in our facility, and experience matching color for acoustic panels, so the discussion regarding painting the panels progressed because of that.

Primacoustic: You mentioned the concrete walls in the meeting rooms. What acoustic problems were they having in those rooms? Reverb, echo, sound bleed?

Marty: Primarily they were experiencing echo and reverb problems during conference calls. But the problem was also prevalent during in-person onsite meetings. So, on a conference call, the echo really interfered with the beneficial part of the meeting. A lot was lost. And they really needed to fix this.

Primacoustic: But the challenge was more than just acoustic, correct? They really need the panels to blend in with the decor of the office.

Marty: That’s correct. As a world headquarters, it’s quite a fancy office, so they didn’t just want to have sound panels just hanging there on the wall. They wanted the entire color scheme to match on each floor of the corporate offices.

Primacoustic: Where did you start with matching the color scheme?

Marty: Their corporate logo has four different colors in it, so we started by match those color. The corporate office has four floors, so each floor has a theme color, and then we sprayed those panels to match that color. We color matched it and then installed each floor with their colors.

Primacoustic: Talk a little bit about the process of color matching with regards to the Primacoustic Paintables sound panels.

Marty: The Primacoustic Paintables acoustic panels come me in a bright white primed panel that’s paintable. So the first step was to coordinate with the designers to get their color palette. Next, I proceeded to take samples, just the cuts of some old panels, and test sprayed them in our spray booth. Those were taken to their designer to make sure they were happy with the end results, that it matched what they had on each floor. And then, once we got the go-ahead, we then sprayed each floor’s panels to match the color scheme of that floor.

Primacoustic: How does having a paintable acoustic panel like this help you address the needs of your clients in room design and automation?

Marty: We are seeing a significant trend of increasing desire to color coordinate all aspects of a room, especially the acoustic treatment. Many office spaces go through a lot of time and effort to achieve a certain look. When we’re able to come in and just take that color and just make the panels actually a feature of the room as opposed to something that kind of stands out, that’s always a great feeling.

Primacoustic: With QuadReal, the panels almost became a sort of artwork component to the design, correct?

Marty: Yes, that’s true. The panels, once painted, took on a whole new place in the renovation. They actually used the sound absorption panels more like an art piece, like a feature of the room. As opposed to just being functional.

Primacoustic: What are some of the other projects you’ve done from commercial to home, and what were some of the challenges that you experienced. And how did Primacoustic help with those challenges?

Marty: We’ve just done a pretty big project at ScienceWorld in downtown Vancouver, one of the most popular attractions in the city. And again, color matching was key to getting that job. Corporate clients in most re-designs or renovations today have designers now, commercial spaces, and if we’re able to go into those spaces and work with the designer and color not to be an issue, we seem to be able to get the job and satisfaction of the customer, and everyone is really overwhelming how satisfied they are with the final outcome.

Primacoustic: And this is how you worked with the team at ScienceWorld?

Marty: Yes, It was a very collaborative effort. Quite a bit of back and forth, but that’s relatively normal, and in the end, they were very happy.

Primacoustic: Talk a little bit about the process of prepping the Paintables panels. What’s involved in terms of putting paint on a panel and how delicate that process might be?

Marty: Well it’s always important to remember that, obviously an acoustic panel’s first role is to absorb sound. And so a primary consideration is how to paint the panel in such a way that it does not detract or interact with the core principle of being able to absorb sound.

Primacoustic: How do you do that?

Marty: The key there is to have the paint sprayed on, not rolled on. Remember, acoustic panels are designed first and most importantly to absorb sound. So painting over the panel with a roller will change the performance of the panel. It still performs, but not as well as it does if it’s being sprayed. So the key to the panel maintaining its acoustic performance qualities is light coats of paint. Applied that way, we’re able to cover all the uneven surfaces without really filling in all the acoustic properties of that panel.

Primacoustic: Talk about some of the other businesses where you’ve installed the Primacoustic sound absorption panels and the purpose for installing those panels.

Marty: Another one that comes to mind right off is Coast Performance Rehab in north Vancouver. They’re a treatment facility for injured athletes, and they have a beautiful space there. We installed the Primacoustic Paintables sound panels there to address reverb and echo in the main room, while also matching the decor of the office.

Primacoustic: Most of the spaces you deal with today are not designed for acoustic properties, correct?

Marty: Yes, most of the spaces we work in these days have an open concept with no finished ceiling on them. The open-concept office space has been very popular over the last five years or so. Many are just concrete and ducting on the ceiling and a lot of glass.

Primacoustic: This was one of the challenges you faced with Coast Performance Rehab, correct?

Marty: Yes, they really liked the open space look, but when they would start treating patients, they realized that, from one room to the next, you could really hear conversations between therapist and client, and this triggered a security and privacy concern. In addition to the sound bleed, just the overall volume was causing irritation. After we installed the Primacoustic Paintable panels, the sound bleed issued disappeared, which just makes it more of a clinical space. The patients and the owners at Coast Performance Rehab really seem to love what we did there.

Primacoustic: What are some of the trends that you’re seeing with regards to room design and acoustic treatment?

Marty: We are talking with another downtown Vancouver property management company. They rent out spaces downtown and across Canada, and they are really looking for long-term leases as part of their business strategy today. So most people that want to lease now want that open space concept look with the ducting and not the drop ceiling of years ago.

Primacoustic: So they are renovating the old designs and updating them to open space designs?

Marty: Yes, they’ve actually ripped out a lot of the drop ceilings and gone ahead and renovated these offices in open space designs to try to coax long-term leases. And of course, after they stripped it all back with the concrete floors, they realized that no one can have a conversation without intelligibility issues. So then, we’ve worked with them on multiple spaces within their buildings downtown to install the Primacoustic Paintables acoustic panels.

Primacoustic: And is this new approach working?

Marty: Yes, they’re able to attract customers that, again, will stick around for a while. Not only because the space fits the design criteria they want, but the spaces all sound really good because of the acoustic treatment.

Primacoustic: And in those particular instances, what are you using in the ceilings to help address that open office or where they’ve taken out the drop ceiling? Are you using acoustic clouds?

Marty: Yes, we use the Primacoustic Nimbus Clouds acoustic ceiling clouds a lot. The Nimbus is a two by four paintable acoustic cloud panel that is an inch and a half thick and comes in the white latex finish. Oftentimes, we will just leave the panel white, we don’t even have to paint it.

Primacoustic acoustic panels Infographic on statistics on noise in the workplace

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Primacoustic: So you have flexibility with then Paintables panels to paint or not?

Marty: That’s correct. There are occasions when we do paint the Nimbus, but in those spaces where we don’t, they usually have just a bright white ceiling, where all the ducting has been sprayed. So, when we put those unpainted Nimbus clouds in, they just blend in.

Primacoustic: How do you go about convincing the client to go with a white unpainted panel?

Marty: Well, first of all, we have to get over the misperception that an untreated panel won’t look good as is. So there are conversations sometimes about what the ceiling is going to look like with the panels installed. I have some pictures to show them beforehand, but generally, once they see the finished installation, they all agree that the panels fit in with the space because of the ducting and multiple levels and all of the cabling that’s up there. By just making them different levels and orientating them different ways, it really just looks like it’s part of the ceiling. And then, for the walls, if they have a wall color, then maybe we’ll use a different panel for the walls in there. Those we’ve sprayed in and blended in, as well.

Primacoustic: It sounds like the Primacoustic Paintables panels give you the flexibility you need, whether white or color, to address a clients sound concerns as well as design concerns.

Marty: Yes, that’s correct. We’d have a hard time addressing many of our clients’ challenges as consistently as we do without the Primacoustic Paintables acoustic panels to rely on, both for sound absorption and for design.