Audio-visual preferences, perception, and use of water features in open-plan offices

Zanyar Abdalrahman, Laurent Galbrun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
93 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines the use of water features for masking irrelevant speech and improving the soundscape of open-plan offices. Two laboratory experiments were carried out, as well as acoustic simulations and field tests. Experiment 1 aimed to identify the preferred sound level of water sounds against irrelevant speech. Experiment 2 examined the audio-only and audio-visual preferences and perception of waterscapes. Acoustic simulations and field tests examined the impact of design factors. The results showed that, when played against a constant level of irrelevant speech of 48 dBA, people prefer to listen to water sounds of 42-48 dBA (45 dBA being best). These results and results from previous research suggest that water sounds work mainly as informational maskers rather than energetic maskers. Furthermore, the introduction of a water feature improved the perception of the sound environment, and adding visual stimuli improved perception by up to 2.5 times. Acoustic simulations indicated that features at each corner and one at the center (or a single feature with an array of speakers) can provide appropriate masking for a large open-plan office, whilst field tests showed that water sounds decrease the distraction and privacy distances significantly (clusters of workstations benefitting more than rows of workstations).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1661-1672
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
Early online date16 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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