Acoustics with education… explained

It is crucial for modern day education environments have good acoustics within classrooms and other learning areas. Pupils need to be able to listen clearly to their teachers to foster their learning process, and likewise teachers need to be able to clearly communicate to pupils without echoing or reverberation noise levels causing disruption. Poor acoustic performance within classrooms severely hinders the learning and teaching process.

How does noise affect educational environments?
Three main noise sources affect classroom environments – reverberation noise, airborne sound sources and impact sound sources. Reverberation is a common problem within classrooms and has a potentially significant impact on teachers and pupils. Background noise and group work where discussions and debates are encouraged mean that if a classroom isn’t properly soundproofed, noise levels will crescendo to uncomfortable levels and as a result will hinder any learning ability.

Nowadays there are a variety of educational methods and styles presented in the classroom, each with their own sound issues. The more traditional teacher/lecture based classroom is where a teacher is located at the front of a classroom and leads any communication or discussion. This method potentially suffers greatly from reverberation noise levels as pupils who sit toward the back of the classroom will suffer from reflected noise levels, where the teacher’s voice is at the weakest point due to reflected sound waves.

A more modern approach to teaching focuses on a more interactive based learning style where students are encouraged to discuss and work in pairs or groups. This means within a classroom, reverberation and ambient noise levels will increase dramatically, and if a classroom doesn’t have adequate soundproofing the noise levels will hamper concentration levels and learning ability.

Airborne sound sources affect classroom environments where sound travels from different rooms within a building, particularly through internal separating walls or floors. This is particularly relevant where a classroom is situated next to a music room, or a library which is next to a busy corridor.

Impact sound sources are sudden noises that come through a floor or wall construction, for example footsteps on a floor. It is imperative that impact noise is accounted for to ensure pupils’ movements in the classroom above are not heard below.

UK Building Regulations and guidance in Building Bulletin 93 require that these noises are controlled and that every room or space within an education building is designed in such a way as to achieve a certain level of acoustic performance.

What can be done to reduce noise levels?
The most effective way to reduce reverberation, airborne and impact noise levels with educational buildings is to ensure high quality acoustic products and systems are used, and more importantly, are used in the right application. All soundproofing products used should comply with UK Building Regulations Approved Document E (England & Wales), Section 5 of the Scottish Building Standards (Scotland) and Approved Part G (Northern Ireland).

In order to satisfy the requirements of the above building regulations, the Government introduced the guidelines Building Bulletin 93: Acoustic Design of Schools – Performance Standards (BB93), 2015 (latest revision). This document has been created for architects, contractors, acousticians and other professionals to ensure all new school buildings are designed and built to achieve a certain level of acoustic performance.

To ensure compliance with BB93, Hush Acoustics have developed a range of soundproofing products and systems. The Hush HD1054 Double Timber Stud Wall System is an effective system for the reduction of airborne noise sources and can be easily incorporated into early design plans. Hush Slab 100 Sound Absorber insulated the stud frames in the wall cavity and then layered with 15mm Soundblock Plasterboards. This reduces airborne noise levels considerably between classrooms and other internal spaces within an education building and importantly complies with UK Building Regulations.

To reduce reverberation noise levels within classroom environments, one of the most simple and effective products to use is a sound absorber, in the form of the Hush Absorber range. These acoustic absorber panels have a Class A absorption rating and comply with BB93 Standards for Acoustics in Schools. The Hush Absorber range is a popular option among educational buildings as it provides a simple and effective remedial treatment, and a big advantage is that they require no building work to be carried out.

Robert Crampton, Managing Director of Hush Acoustics, reflected on a primary school that suffered from high levels of reverberation noise:

“One of the worst cases of reverberation noise problems I have ever encountered was in the multi-use hall and dining area in a primary school. School assemblies were difficult for teachers to communicate effectively and also for pupils to concentrate, as reverberation noise levels meant speech clarity was poor.

“We carried out a site inspection and as a result of our findings we recommended the use of our Hush Absorber Panels. We then calculated the amount of absorption material needed in order to bring the school hall reverberation levels in line with BB93 guidelines. It only took two days to install the panels and as a result there was a noticeable difference in the levels of reverberation noise. Teachers found it easier to present assemblies and there was a noticeable increase in the pupils concentration levels resulting in a more enjoyable and comprehensive learning experience.”

How to plan for effective soundproofing
Early soundproofing advice is important for acoustics in schools, colleges and universities. Architects, contractors and developers can benefit greatly from gaining expert soundproofing advice in the early design stages of a build project. By doing this, project developers are able to get it right first time and create an education environment that is fit for purpose.

Hush provides comprehensive guidance on education build projects of any size, from a single classroom to an entire school. We explain how individual areas within an education building can be affected by sound and can give expert advice on how to reduce reverberation, airborne and impact noises.

Our easy to install systems are designed to optimise space within a classroom/teaching room for new build, refurbishment and change-of-use buildings. Hush has been involved in the design and manufacture of sound reducing products and systems for over 30 years and have worked on many projects within educational buildings.

If you need any information on Hush’s acoustic products and systems please browse the company website (https://www.hushacoustics.co.uk) or contact one of their experienced acoustic technicians on 0151 933 2026.