School Acoustics

Noise Problems

School AcousticsCommon noise problems in schools are loud music intruding into classrooms and disrupting lessons, or echoing reverberation in the sports hall. Other frequently-occurring noise problems include difficulty in hearing the teacher due to acoustically unfriendly building materials, or overhearing other classes when a large room/hall is being used by more than one group.

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

Improving acoustics in schools

The hard surfaces of walls, floors and ceilings once commonly used in schools to create a tough hard-wearing environment, also gave rise to these poor acoustics with the serious consequence that children of otherwise normal hearing struggled to hear every word their teacher said. Although adults can intelligently interpret missing words, young children have not developed this facility. Concentration is lost and their education can suffer. Teachers too will find the situation stressful in maintaining class focus and a 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.

Improving Acoustics in SchoolsThe Building Research Establishment issued a guidance document – Building Bulletin 93 – which provides a simple and 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.

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

Noise Control & Building Regulations

Controlling the built environment to create conditions conducive to work and study depends on the skilled application and integration of various building services including lighting, air conditioning, ventilation, acoustic treatments, electrical distribution and control systems.

The Building Regulations in England and Wales set standards for the design and construction of buildings for health and safety purposes, energy conservation and access. 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). Included are:

  • Indoor ambient noise levels
  • Airborne sound insulation
  • Impact sound insulation
  • Reverberation time
  • Sound insulation in corridors and stair-wells
  • Speech intelligibility in open plan spaces

Black Cat Acoustics works with a commercial partner who can help your design team to ensure that appropriate acoustic conditions are achieved. 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 – an affordable, flexible solution for controlling and containing noise in school 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.

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