Standard Active Last Updated: Dec 10, 2021 Track Document
ASTM E1130-16(2021)

Standard Test Method for Objective Measurement of Speech Privacy in Open Plan Spaces Using Articulation Index

Standard Test Method for Objective Measurement of Speech Privacy in Open Plan Spaces Using Articulation Index E1130-16R21 ASTM|E1130-16R21|en-US Standard Test Method for Objective Measurement of Speech Privacy in Open Plan Spaces Using Articulation Index Standard new BOS Vol. 04.06 Committee E33
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Significance and Use

5.1 The speech privacy between locations in an open plan space is determined by the degree to which intruding speech sounds exceed the ambient sound pressure levels at the listener's ear; a classic signal-to-noise ratio situation.

5.2 The sound pressure levels at the listener's ear from intruding speech depend upon:

5.2.1 The individual vocal effort and orientation of the talker,

5.2.2 The attenuation of speech signals due to distance or intervening barriers, and

5.2.3 The reinforcement of speech signals due to reflections from surfaces such as the ceiling, furniture panels, light fixtures, walls, or windows.

5.3 The ambient sound levels within a space often must be increased in order to mask intruding speech using an electronic sound masking system. However, in certain locations and in specific frequency ranges, the building mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) equipment, and the heating, ventilating, or air conditioning equipment (HVAC) may increase ambient sound levels or add tonal noise components that may require mitigation before tuning the masking sound.

5.4 The primary purpose of this test method is to assess the speech privacy for an average speech spectrum using the standard Articulation Index method. This requires measurement of the relevant acoustical characteristics discussed in 5.2 and 5.3 for a pair of locations and calculation of the Articulation Index using an average speech spectrum. The average speech spectrum is for male talkers speaking with normal voice effort. In specific cases such as designated quiet work zones for ‘focused work’ where administrative measures have been taken to reduce speech levels, a ‘casual’ voice spectrum should be used to calculate speech privacy, whereas in designated group work zones for ‘collaborative work’ where lively discussion is expected, a ‘raised’ voice spectrum should be used to calculate speech privacy.

5.5 The Articulation Index ranges from a low value of 0.00, where speech is generally perceived to be unintelligible, to a high value of 1.00, where all individual spoken words can be understood. Caution should be exercised in interpreting the numerical AI results of this test method since the percentage of single words, phrases, and sentences understood will be different for the same AI value (5).

5.6 This test method can be used to:

5.6.1 Compare the relative speech privacy afforded between different locations within open plan spaces.

5.6.2 Evaluate how changes in open plan components (barriers, furniture, ceilings, masking sound, or wall panels) affect speech privacy.

5.6.3 Assess speech privacy objectively for correlation with subjective responses.

5.7 This test method could be one element of a performance or acceptance test procedure. However, many additional items would need to be specified to allow the use of this test method for performance testing of an open plan environment, such as, the number of locations to be tested and method of selecting those locations, and the method of assessing the results. Specifying a numerical criterion in terms of the Articulation Index is also necessary for acceptance testing; however, the selection of such a criterion and permissible deviations should be undertaken with care in view of the present state-of-the-art as discussed in 5.5.


1.1 This test method describes a means of objectively assessing speech privacy between locations in open plan spaces. This test method relies upon acoustical measurements, published information on speech levels, and standard methods for assessing speech communication. This test method does not measure the performance of individual open plan components which affect speech privacy; but rather, it assesses the privacy which results from a particular configuration of components (1, 2).2

1.2 This test method is intended to be a field test for the assessment of speech privacy in actual open plan spaces. However, this test method could be used in mock-up spaces and in environments arranged to simulate an open plan space.

1.3 This test method is suitable for use in many open plan spaces including traditional open offices, focus areas, and collaboration spaces. In addition to office buildings, these types of spaces will also be found in healthcare buildings, institutional spaces, schools, etc. It is not directly applicable for measuring the speech privacy between open plan and enclosed spaces or between fully enclosed spaces.

1.4 This test method relies upon the Articulation Index, which objectively predicts the intelligibility of speech. While both the Articulation Index and this test method can be expected to reliably predict speech privacy, neither predicts the specific effective speech privacy afforded to particular individual occupants.

1.5 The values stated in SI units are to be regarded as the standard. The inch-pound units in parentheses are for information only.

1.6 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety, health, and environmental practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use.

1.7 This international standard was developed in accordance with internationally recognized principles on standardization established in the Decision on Principles for the Development of International Standards, Guides and Recommendations issued by the World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committee.

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Book of Standards Volume: 04.06
Developed by Subcommittee: E33.02
Pages: 7
DOI: 10.1520/E1130-16R21
ICS Code: 17.140.01