Noise and Acoustics in Schools
Noise is an often overlooked environmental concern in schools. The Ted Talk (link below) by Julian Treasure touches on the impact noise has on academic performance, communications and teacher health. He stresses that noise is a highly significant issue in indoor environmental quality (IEQ) and health, especially as schools utilize more open space meeting areas and classrooms. If students can’t hear everything that the teacher is saying, learning will require greater effort.
Hard surfaces, which are highly common in schools, result in greater sound reverberation. A reverberation is generated when a sound or signal is reflected resulting in a large number of reflections that accumulate and then disperse as the sound is absorbed by the surfaces of objects in the space including furniture, people, and air. Reverberation is most apparent when the sound source stops but the noise/reflections continue, reducing gradually in amplitude until zero amplitude is reached. Reverberations depend on the frequency: the length of the decay, or reverberation time, are an important consideration during the architectural design process. Spaces need to achieve specific reverberation times to have optimum performance for their designed use.
Noise has been revealed to be a major concern for productivity in offices, yet many spaces do not take noise and acoustics into consideration. Noise has also been shown to have negatives effects on pregnant women and the fetus. Its important to address noise in the design phase prior to construction. However, if a problem has been identified in an existing building there are solutions that need to be implemented to ensure optimal IEQ.
Acoustical refurbishment can result in a reduction in classroom reverberation time and activity sound levels in schools. Acoustical refurbishment has been associated with a reduction in the teachers’ perceived noise exposure, and a decrease in disturbance reports from equipment in classrooms.