Acoustics in Schools and Educational Buildings

The constructional standards for acoustics in new school buildings are required to be achieved under the Building Regulations. Since 31 October 2012 the acoustic performance standards for schools specified within Section 1 of Building Bulletin 93 have been replaced with the ‘Acoustic Performance Standards for the Priority Schools Building Programme’. The document specifies the following areas that acoustic performance standards should be achieved in the design of School buildings.

  • Internal ambient noise levels in unoccupied spaces
  • Airborne sound insulation between spaces
  • Impact sound insulation of floors
  • Reverberation in teaching and study spaces
  • Reverberation and acoustic absorption in sports halls
  • Speech intelligibility in open plan teaching spaces

The acoustics conditions of the designs aim to ensure good communication between teacher and pupil, and also between pupils.

Reverberation is controlled in the following ways:

  • Baffles suspended from the exposed soffit, together with absorbent or diffusive sections of wall, in teaching spaces. In some areas, such as halls, the cheaper and more robust solution of acoustic blockwork is provided rather than panel absorbers.
  • Absorptive and diffusive (sound scattering) materials are evenly distributed along the walls and soffit in sports halls.
  • Absorbent finishes reduce the build-up of noise and promote a calm environment in circulation spaces, dining areas and atriums.
  • Enhanced reverberation control in rooms designed specifically for children with special educational needs.

Noise disturbance caused by ventilation and environmental noise has been taken into account:

  • Louvres, ducts and ventilation stacks are attenuated where these could provide a sound path between occupied spaces. For the purposes of the baseline designs, external noise levels and/or air quality were assumed not to prevent the use of opening windows.
  • Building facades and roofs designed to limit the ingress of environmental noise.

The required sound insulation between spaces is provided by robust materials in partitions, floor mass, ceilings (where applicable) and resilient floor finishes. A combination of roof mass and insulation, in conjunction with ceilings (where applicable), is used to control the noise created by heavy rainfall on roofs.

In open plan spaces, layout, room finishes and furniture, fittings and equipment  are used to provide adequate speech intelligibility and privacy between groups of listeners.

The preferred means of demonstrating compliance with Building Regulations on acoustics is to submit to the Building Control Body a set of plans, construction details, material specifications, and calculations, as appropriate for each area of the school that is covered by Requirement E4 of the Building Regulations.

There is no requirement in Building Regulations for acoustic testing although this is normally specified for contractual purposes.

Aran Acoustics provide design advice to achieve the Acoustic Performance Standards for the Priority Schools Building Programme and can carry out acoustic testing to show compliance with the Building Regulations and Employer Requirements.