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Jun 02, 2008

I’ve been a regular reader of Joel Spolsky’s Joel on Software blog for almost 10 years now. Joel is a software entrepreneur and his blog covers mostly software and tech firm issues. While the subjects he covers have little to do with acoustics, I find his discussions on the “right way” to run a business to be intriguing (particularly his ideal compensation policy), and I find the insider perspective to be entertaining.

His latest blog entry points to an Inc. Magazine column where Joel talks about finding new office space for his growing firm. Joel has the admirable goal of wanting to provide “nice” office space for his employees and he’s willing to pay to accomplish that. He dismisses the typical office accoutrements of “[d]rywall, low acoustic tile ceilings, ugly fluorescent light fixtures, frightening industrial carpet” and lists some of the features of the new space:

There will be a reception area with a dry creek of stones and pebbles and plants that will make a great first impression on our guests. There will be a big lunchroom, because we all eat together, as well as a coffee bar, a lounge, a 180-gallon saltwater aquarium, the aforementioned shower, a library with reclining chairs for naps, two private meeting rooms, 20 private offices for programmers, 23 adjustable-height workstations for everyone else, Wi-Fi, a big screen for movies and video games, and enough glass to build the world’s largest ant farm.

Hmm, glass, dry creek, granite and marble (for the shower) - my first thought was “that sounds really nice.” My second thought was “this has the makings for an acoustical nightmare.” If you read Joel’s blog, you’ll find that he values privacy and the ability for his workers to be free from distraction, which is part of the reason why he advocates private offices for his staff. Still, the goal is going to be more difficult if all those classy hard surfaces increase reverberation inside the office. The private offices may not be of much use if the duct work in the ventilation system channels noise from the common areas into the offices.

Still, he has an architect; if the architect knows what he’s doing these problems aren’t insurmountable - STC 45-50 walls, wall/ceiling absorptive panels, appropriate duct design, etc. The only problem: does the architect know what he’s doing? If not, it’s going to cost Joel more money down the line.

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