Overall loudness is not the only quality of indoor background noise that affects occupants. The distribution of noise across frequency (pitch), whether or not the noise contains tones, and whether or not the noise changes over time must also be considered. There are several indoor noise criteria systems available to quantify the background noise in rooms, but many of them do not account for these factors. These systems are commonly used by architects and engineers, and often incorporated into manufacturer's data, design guides, and standards. There is much debate over which of the criteria systems best reflect how occupants will respond to noise. To examine these issues, an extensive study is being completed at the University of Nebraska investigating the effects of various types of air-conditioning noise on occupant productivity and perception. Results from performance tests and questionnaires are used to evaluate a number of these noise criteria systems. Specific implications of this project on characterizing noise in the workplace will be discussed. Copyright ASCE 2006.