Enhance Learning Spaces With a Focus on Acoustics – Philip Dilworth

Phillip Dilworth, National Sales Manager – Building Products and Segmental Retaining Walls speaks to Building 4 Education about how well-designed classrooms can boost learning progress.

In recent years, there has been significant investment in build projects in the education sector, driven by an appetite to continually improve the standard of learning environments across the UK.

It has long been proven that well-designed classrooms, which consider air quality, light and acoustics, can boost learning progress and enhance a pupil’s experience, and so measures have been taken to ensure these things are not only considered, but met, by those delivering any new school build.

The Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) sets out, among other things, minimum performance standards for acoustic requirements of school buildings. The overall objective of the performance standards is to ensure that the design and construction of school buildings provide acoustic conditions that enable effective teaching and learning. Because of this, there is now a demand for new and innovative products that can help deliver on the performance requirements for new school building projects.

All parties involved in the build have a responsibility to ensure the products used successfully help to control reverberation time and thereby reduce sound energy – one of the key requirements set out in the PSBP.

The acoustic standard for priority school buildings affects architects, engineers and contractors alike. Architects must now offer an acoustic solution that is visually appealing to the design they want, whilst meeting the performance standards, the contractor’s budget and the engineer’s structural needs. Engineers must ensure the design and products used to meet the structural needs of the building, and contractors must meet all the demands whilst sourcing products that will fit within project budget and deadline.

As it is difficult to accurately predict the final level of acoustic performance that will be achieved on any given project, employing an acoustic consultant may be necessary for impartial advice regarding acoustic expectation. Typically, however, there are two types of acoustic needs to consider for school buildings: Room Acoustics relate to the quality of sound and the needs of the space, and Building Acoustics ensure that sound transfer – from room to room or outside to inside – is kept to a minimum, or eliminated altogether.

High ambient noise levels can have a significant detrimental effect in a learning environment. Each room or space in a school building should be designed and constructed in such a way that it offers the appropriate acoustic conditions and insulation for its intended use.

Having good acoustics reduces distraction from airborne noises and makes it easier to hear people speak, which is critical in a learning environment and helps aid and enhance pupils’ learning capabilities

Achieving the right reverberation characteristics is critical to the acoustic performance of an interior space, particularly in school buildings. Having good acoustics reduces distraction from airborne noises and makes it easier to hear people speak, which is critical in a learning environment and helps aid and enhance pupils’ learning capabilities. Absorbent products and materials, such as ceilings, walls and floors have been designed to effectively reduce sound energy, so the unwanted noise is not reflected back into the space.

‘Multi-functional’ spaces are particularly relevant when considering a room’s acoustic performance, such as sports halls or large classrooms that double as assembly rooms, canteens etc. The acoustic requirements within these spaces need to suit all these events across the spectrum or have as much harmony as possible to meet the different needs.

Specifiers and contractors can choose from an extensive range of acoustic products which can help meet the structural needs of the building and provide a simple and cost-effective solution to reduce airborne noises and excess reverberation.

Quality products such as acoustic blocks, panels and acoustic sheet vinyl ranges, can facilitate the architect’s vision and maximise the project’s opportunities for natural light and incidental social space.

It goes without saying, that the effectiveness of any system will be dramatically influenced by the quality of the products and the installation techniques implemented. Using a company that can show it has achieved professional recognition in its field and demonstrated expertise on industry standards is invaluable in achieving maximum on-site acoustic performance.