School Acoustics and BB93

Noise Problems

The problems experienced in schools were so prevalent in the past that special guidance for building acoustics in education was introduced, originally as recommendations, but now enforced as mandatory requirements of the Building Regulations under Section 1 of Building Bulletin 93 (BB93).

Since 2003, Part E of the Building Regulations, resistance to the passage of sound, was extended to include schools that were previously exempt and acoustic design requirements for new schools are specified in Section 1 of Building Bulletin 93 (BB93).

Why were standards required?

The hard surfaces of walls, floors and ceilings once commonly used in schools to create a tough hard-wearing environment, gave rise to these poor acoustics with the serious consequence that children of otherwise normal hearing struggled to hear every word their teacher said.

Whilst most adults can intelligently interpret missing words, young children have not developed this facility. Concentration is lost and education can suffer. Teachers too will find the situation stressful in maintaining class focus and experience strain on their voices as they struggle to overcome the problem. On top of this, noise generated in other school areas, particularly sports and music facilities, can further compound the problem.

Despite the introduction of various guidelines over the years aimed at ensuring good speaking and listening conditions in schools, many schools continue to be built which are acoustically ‘unfit for purpose’ with high noise levels and reverberant conditions creating difficulties for both pupils and teachers.” Bridget Shield, Emeritus Professor of Acoustics, London South Bank University

What do the standards cover?

The Building Research Establishment guidance document – Building Bulletin 93 – provides a comprehensive guide for architects, building control officers, building services engineers and others involved in the design of new school buildings. Section 1 of this publication describes the ‘Specification of acoustic performance’ and gives the targets for compliance with the Requirement from Part E of the Building Regulations that apply in England and Wales.
The three important areas of guidance are:

  1. Target ambient noise levels in teaching areas
  2. Acoustic separation between adjacent spaces
  3. Lower reverberation time to improve intelligibility of speech

How Black Cat Acoustics can help

Black Cat Acoustics can help your facilities team ensure that appropriate acoustic conditions are being achieved by testing existing spaces, either individually in areas where there is a noise related problem, or as part of a whole school survey.

Solutions we have designed and installed include absorptive wall and ceiling panels, impact-resistant absorbers for high-impact rooms such as sports halls, acoustic curtains, secondary wall structures and sound-isolating, modular music practice rooms – a flexible solution for controlling and containing noise in music departments.

View our Case Studies for examples of schools and educational buildings which have benefited from our acoustic treatments.

We are happy to arrange a site visit to discuss your acoustic requirements.