Classroom Noise: Why A* Acoustics Are Important For Education

Classroom Noise | BB93 Design | Prism Acoustics, Birmingham

Classroom Noise: Why A* Acoustics Are Important For Education

Noise in school is inevitable. It is part of learning. Whether it’s out on the playground, working in class or even as part of a lesson; sounds in schools are a constant part of day to day life in the education sector.

Because of this, the BB93 design performance standards were introduced to provide minimum standards for the design of schools.

Prism Acoustics is passionate about ensuring that educational spaces are acoustically designed to be fully optimised for all learners and teachers with the highest standard of acoustics.

Read on to find out why A* acoustics are important for education…  

Noises In Schools

The type of noise encountered by learners in schools varies on a daily basis depending on the activity. Secondary schools often have certain rooms for specific subjects. In this case; these rooms must be suited to the type of task being performed. The BB93 Design guide takes this into account; giving a specific-criteria for each room type.

In schools, one of the biggest indicators for the suitability of a room to a task is the reverberation of sound within it.

A reverberation time is determined by the time it takes for a sound to fade away. The shorter the reverberation time, the less of an echo is created.

A high reverberation time raises the ambient noise levels in classes, causing a distraction to students. In large spaces, such as sports halls, there is a high reverberation time which can make it harder for teachers to communicate because delayed echoes of their own voices can be distracting.

In schools, dance studios, sports halls and assembly halls are usually larger spaces and therefore have a long reverberation time. As these lessons are often practical in nature, this shouldn’t be an issue providing the limit levels from BB93 are met for reverberation times.

Smaller classrooms are used where more traditional subjects are taught, which makes controlling reverberation times easier. The architectural design of a school should be suited to accommodating these factors.

When it comes to soundproofing between spaces, the placement of rooms should be considered before the performance of the partition wall or floor. For example, designing a school to have the music practice rooms next door to a language classroom would be inappropriate.

The noise from the music room will inevitably carry through the language classroom, disrupting learning and affecting learning outcomes. While it may be cheaper to initially relocate a classroom than invest in enhanced sound insulation, a properly insulated classroom provides a long-term solution that will aid learning throughout the course of every pupil’s education.

This is also true of sixth form colleges and universities. Although these spaces are exempt from Building Regulation E4 it’s advisable to follow BB93 Design advice for the well-being of student’s learning.

Providing adequate sound insulation between adjacent classrooms helps to lower the number of interruptions and prevents noise levels from escalating.

Ventilation and Noise

Ventilation in schools is also covered in BB93, as both natural and mechanical ventilation shouldn’t increase the internal ambient noise levels in classrooms above the set limits.

For natural and hybrid systems, this means using open vents that mitigate noise from outside the school (road, rail, aircraft, industrial, etc). While suitable mechanical ventilation systems should be considered based on the level of noise that they create internally.

During the hottest days of the summer (up to 200hrs), the internal noise level limit can be raised to prevent overheating. Classrooms with mechanical ventilation are permitted to raise levels by up to +5dB, while natural/hybrid ventilation systems are allowed internal ambient noise level of < 55dB.

One unintended consequence of this is that adjacent classrooms run the risk of noise being transferred between them, bypassing the partition wall or floor.

Educational facilities such as college or universities are more likely to have high volume activities taking place that goes on for long periods of time, such as if subjects like Film Studies are taught.

Ongoing noise such as a film, or even just the sound of an ongoing lecturer or teacher talking, can be transferred between classes via the windows. This is often made worse by the fact that acoustic design may not have been considered at an early stage, because of the exemption from Building Regulations E4.

Noise from other teaching activities or equipment (such as computers) in the school can be distracting if not considered but are not considered in the limit levels for the internal ambient noise levels (IANL).

Considering BB93 Design advice at an early stage means that we can create a more harmonious environment for students and education providers alike.

How Can Prism Help?

Prism Acoustics provide acoustic consultancy services to local authorities, architects, schools and universities who are passionate about providing the highest standard of acoustic environment for their learners.

We use the latest innovations in 3D acoustic modelling software to demonstrate visually how sound can travel within a space and ensure that spaces are acoustically optimised. This allows for the accurate prediction of reverberation in complex spaces and the optimisation of speech transmission in open-plan areas.

We work with our clients throughout the planning, design, construction and testing phases of education developments to provide high-quality learning environments.  

About Prism Acoustics

Prism Acoustics are leading acoustic consultants based in Birmingham in the West Midlands.

Prism work alongside architects, designers and developers, offering acoustic consultancy on a range of projects in the following sectors:

  • Educational 
  • Healthcare 
  • Residential 
  • Industrial
  • Commercial  
  • Sound monitoring and acoustic modelling for live events.

Prism are currently developing the next generation of acoustic prediction software, using virtual reality to demonstrate how the sound will carry before development work has even started! We can carry out environmental noise surveys and will work alongside you to ensure that your acoustic needs are met to the highest standard.

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