It’s no surprise that a lot of time and research goes into studying school acoustics – it’s believed that in severe cases students cannot hear up to 70% of the consonants spoken by a teacher (Source: Department for Education). The learning process is massively hindered by poor room acoustics as it affects the performance of both the teaching staff and the pupils.
BB93 – an overview
Growing awareness of the importance of good acoustics in schools led to the publication of Building Bulletin 93 (or BB93 as it’s more commonly known). Introduced by the Department for Education (DfE) in July 2003 as part of the larger government initiative to provide comprehensive building guidelines for schools, the aim of BB93 regulations was to;
- provide a regulatory framework for the acoustic design in schools
- provide a comprehensive guide for architects, acousticians, building control officers and others involved in the design of new school buildings. (Source: Section 2, BB93)
Whilst BB93 is only specifically applicable in the design and construction of new primary, infant and secondary schools, it has also been adopted by many Further and Higher Education providers to form a practical framework for designing teaching spaces.
Changes to BB93
As it’s now over ten years since BB93 was first introduced, the framework has slowly become dated and certain sections in particular have required refreshing to keep up with the changing way that school spaces are used and designed. Since 2008, the DfE has invested time and resources into improving BB93. Using contributors with first-hand experience of using BB93, the DfE released the first version of the long-awaited ‘Acoustic performance standards for the Priority Schools Building Programme’ (PSBP) in 2013. The intention is that this document will take the place of Section 1 of BB93. It features many amendments to BB93’s original Section 1, including:
- Specific criteria for refurbishments and guidance for compliance
- More comprehensive compliance and extended criteria for open plan spaces
- A more extensive list of area use types
- Comprehensive descriptions of what constitutes Special Educational Needs.
- Revisions to guidance for compliance in sports halls, corridors and ventilation spaces.
It looks as though 2014 will be the year that BB93 will finally get the updates it needs. The Department for Education plans to go to public consultation in early 2014 with the new PSBP document which will ultimately supersede the standards in Section 1 of the current Building Bulletin 93. Once approved, it’s hoped that the revisions to BB93 will mean the framework can overcome any issues it has with being outdated and continue to provide a strong compliance framework for acoustics in schools.