Our acoustic environment has a profound impact on how we process and absorb information, both through the affect on our ability to hear and also our ability to concentrate. People can only put up with noise for so long before it becomes extremely annoying and disrupts their cognitive learning process. Noise can be a big problem with open plan classrooms, halls and libraries, with high levels of noise pollution coming from various sources at the one time.
Acoustics and Learning
The acoustic performance of a space can directly impact concentration, information retention and general comfort within the environment. Several studies have shown that poor acoustics inside classrooms negatively affects both the teaching and learning processes. This is especially true at the lowest grades of education, where students are less able to deal with distractions within the learning environment. Classrooms should have acoustic properties that allow at least 90% of useful information leaving a talkers mouth to reach the ears of the listeners within the room.
In the UK, most schools and classrooms were built with no consideration as to how the design would impact the acoustic properties and performance. One of the most common acoustic issues that welcome across is excessive reverberation within schools and classrooms, which arises for various reasons.
The acoustic properties of early Victorian style schools are unsuited to modern teaching methods. High open ceilings, hard walls, floors and even tables all contribute to the reverberation within the space. Open-plan classrooms have also become common in today’s schools, which can make it challenging to control background noise and distractions within the classroom. These distractions can significantly impair students ability to learn and process information, which can negatively impact their success.
In the interior acoustics industry, there are surprisingly few guidelines regarding the levels of noise in different room environments. However, thanks to years of experience working with acoustic issues, we now work within our own set of guidelines which we use in a huge range of room types.
Since 2003, there has been a national standard for acoustics in schools known as the BB93 guidelines. These guidelines set out requirements for both decibel levels and reverberation times within various school spaces. Adherence to BB93 is mandatory in the design of new school spaces, or during refurbishment projects. We aim to meet or in most cases exceed these requirements when completing acoustic installations.
BB93 Decibel Levels
|Room||New Build (dB limit)||Refurbishment (dB limit)|
|General teaching areas (classroom, seminar room, small group room)||35||40|
|Open plan teaching area / breakout area||40||45|
|Primary/secondary music room/ performance/recital room||35||40|
|Special hearing and communication teaching spaces||30||35|
|Science Labs/Design and Tech rooms||40||45|
|Drama Studio/Assembly Hall/ Multi-use Hall||35||40|
|Sports hall/ Dance studio||40||45|
BB93 Reverberation Times
|Room||New Build (seconds)||Refurbishment (seconds)|
|General teaching areas (classroom, seminar room, small group room)||≤ 0.8||≤1.0|
|Open plan teaching area / breakout area||≤ 0.5/≤1.2||≤ 0.5/≤1.2|
|Primary/secondary music room/recital room||≤1.0/≤1.0 /1.0 – 1.5||≤1.0/≤1.0 /1.0 – 1.5|
|Ensemble Room||0.6 – 1.2||0.6 – 1.2|
|Special hearing and communication teaching spaces||≤ 0.4||≤ 0.4|
|Multi-purpose hall||0.8- 1.2||0.8 – 1.5|
|Science Labs/Design and Tech rooms||≤ 0.8||≤1.0|
|Atrium/Circulation Space||≤1.5||≤ 2.0|
|Sports hall/ Dance studio||≤1.5/≤1.2||≤ 2.0/≤1.5|
|Swimming Pool||≤ (1.5 – 2.0)||≤ 2.0|
|Dining Room||≤ 1.0||≤ 1.5|
How can we help?
At Resonics, we focus primarily on reducing the RT or “Reverberation Time” within a variety of spaces, including offices, meeting rooms, restaurants, schools and halls. RT is defined as the time in seconds it takes for the sound pressure to drop below 60dB after the source has stopped generating the sound. With nothing to absorb reverberation within the environment, all sounds will bounce off hard surfaces for a period of time before finally dissipating.
Our treatments can also reduce the decibel levels within the space, but often extra attention will be required to address sound transfer from outside the room. For these issues, soundproofing is often required.
With high reverberation times, teachers will naturally feel the need raise their voice in order to be understood by their students. With a higher output required by the teacher, problems with clarity or strain on the teachers voice can cause further issues with the transmission of information to the student.
Children are much more sensitive to noise and reverberation when performing tasks that involve listening comprehension, but also tasks such as reading and writing. Young children especially are poor listeners due to a lack of neurological development, which can cause issues with academic performance and even poor behaviour. Essentially, children are just much more easily distracted by noise than adults, so proper room treatment is essential to optimise the learning environment.
How do we reduce the RT?
Depending on the requirements of the space, we will design a bespoke acoustic treatment solution which solves the reverberation issues within the room. With so many products available these days, we can supply and install systems to suit the preferred décor or make the acoustic products virtually invisible to the naked eye.
For all projects we will specify the use of acoustic panels on the walls, the use of acoustic ceiling baffles or rafts, or some combination of the two when required.
Acoustic Wall Panels
We install acoustic panels on walls every day, which drastically enhance the acoustic performance and comfort of the space. View some of the options below.
Acoustic Ceiling Rafts & Baffles
We also install hanging acoustic rafts and baffles from ceilings, which can prevent excess noise bouncing around in open ceilings which are very common in modern, open plan classrooms. Below are some of the latest products.
We will design the best solution for the space, and solve the acoustic issues within the classroom, ensuring students can concentrate and learn to the best of their ability.
To sum up:
Acoustics and learning are closely related. The way classrooms are designed acoustically can have a significant impact on learning outcomes. Classrooms and auditoriums which have been correctly treated for both noise transfer and reverberation will allow students to learn comfortably, whilst also making it much easier to concentrate and absorb information from their teachers.
- “Influence of Classroom Acoustics on Noise Disturbance and Well-Being for First Graders”. Front Psychol. N.p., 2019. Web. 8 Nov 2020. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6923245/
- “How classroom acoustics impact learning outcomes” The Educator Australia. N.p., 2019. Web. 7 Nov 2020. URL: https://www.theeducatoronline.com/k12/news/how-classroom-acoustics-impact-learning-outcomes/259959
- “Managing acoustics in learning environments” Informa Connect. N.p. 2019, 5 Nov 2020. URL: https://www.informa.com.au/insight/managing-acoustics-learning-environments/