Case study: Council regains full use of its meeting rooms
Sydney’s Bayside Council turned to an acoustic solution so it could conduct important meetings close to a noisy customer service centre.
It wasn’t long after the worst impacts of COVID-19 subsided that Bayside Council realised it had a problem with its meeting rooms.
Situated next to the Council office’s busy customer service department and with staff needing to conduct video conferencing on a regular basis, the two meeting rooms were becoming increasingly difficult – and frustrating – to use.
It took the Council’s new working patterns brought on by COVID-19 to expose the rooms’ limitations.
Our office went into a hard lockdown during the height of the COVID pandemic. Our workforce shifted to working from home and began to learn to communicate in a different way. That meant conducting remote meetings using Microsoft Teams.
When staff returned to the office post-lockdown, Mayne says she and her staff had to think carefully about how to cope with the new demands placed on the rooms.
“We didn’t have any spaces available where we could conduct interviews without distraction and where we could easily use video conferencing,” Mayne explains.
“The rooms let in a lot of background noise from the customer service centre so the acoustics weren’t great. And because they were like glass fishbowls, anyone could look in and see who you were conducting a remote meeting or interview with.”
After conducting a strategic review, Mayne decided an acoustic curtain and panelling solution was the best way to address the rooms’ acoustic and privacy limitations – and cater to the Council’s emerging digital communications needs.
Distractions all round
Bayside Council in Sydney’s south administers a sprawling area that is home to a multi-cultural community and which is gentrifying fast. The area includes some of Sydney’s most important infrastructure, such as Sydney Airport and Port Botany.
Busy Princes Highway runs through the council area and connects Sydney city with the Illawarra Region and NSW South Coast. Bayside Council’s main office building is situated on the Highway and features co-located customer service, library and administrative spaces.
With hubbub coming from the customer service centre on one side of the meeting rooms and sirens and other road noise emanating from Princes Highway on the other, the rooms were crying out for an effective acoustic treatment.
“We reached out to Acoustic Blinds and Curtains to install acoustic curtains and we had an additional subcontractor come in to provide acoustic panelling for the ceiling and walls,” Mayne says.
The results completely exceeded our expectations, she says.
“I didn’t realise until we applied the acoustic treatment what a difference it could make. Our IT manager came to check it out and hung around for about half an hour, just completely surprised by what a difference it had made to noise levels in the rooms.”
Fitting the acoustic curtains also addressed the important issue of privacy. The semi-sheer quality of the curtain fabric means it is solid enough to limit inquisitive eyes during the day. At night, however, when the rooms convert into private study rooms, the curtain fabric is transparent enough to reveal when the rooms are in use.
Without a drawstring to draw the acoustic curtains across, the curtains also present no safety hazard to the children who regularly use the Council’s library and other facilities.
Positive staff survey responses
Staff at Bayside Council have offered a ringing endorsement of the changes made to the meeting rooms. 77% of respondents to a survey said they ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that the installation of curtains had improved the rooms’ acoustic performance.
In addition, more than 92% of respondents ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ that the functionality of both rooms has been improved by the acoustic curtain installation.
“The acoustic benefit has been wonderful, cutting out noise from the nearby highway, the [adjoining] meeting room and general noise from the foyer of the customer service centre,” said one staff member. “They provide much-needed privacy, especially if staff interviews are occurring in the meeting rooms – no-one can look in anymore, which is great.”
Mayne says the meeting rooms are a test case for rolling out an acoustic treatment to other rooms in the Council building, plus other satellite buildings across the Bayside Council area.
She says she’d have no hesitation using the services of Acoustic Blinds and Curtains again.
“The experience of working with them was positive in every way.”