You are on page 1of 219

Building Bulletin 93


Acoustic Design of

Architects and Building Branch

London : The Stationery Office
DfES Project Team
Richard Daniels Building Services Engineer, School Buildings & Design Unit
Alex Freemantle Architect, Formerly of School Buildings & Design Unit
Mukund Patel Head of School Buildings & Design Unit

DfES would like to thank the following:

Bridget Shield, London South Bank University
Carl Hopkins, BRE Acoustics, Building Research Establishment Ltd (BRE)

Principal authors:
Carl Hopkins & Robin Hall, BRE Acoustics, Building Research Establishment Ltd (BRE)
Adrian James, Adrian James Acoustics, Norwich
Raf Orlowski & Sam Wise, Arup Acoustics
David Canning, City University

Other authors and advisors:
Stephen Chiles University of Bath
David Dennis London Borough of Newham
Nigel Cogger The English Cogger Partnership
John Miller &
Theodoros Niaounakis Bickerdike Allen and Partners
Les Fothergill Building Regulations Division, Office of the
Deputy Prime Minister
Guy Shackle Barron and Smith Architects
Julie Dockrell Institute of Education, University of London
Mindy Hadi Building Research Establishment Ltd (BRE)
Matthew Ling Formerly of Building Research Establishment Ltd (BRE)
Russell Brett British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Richard Vaughan National Deaf Children's Society
Roz Comins Voice Care Network UK
Thomas Wulfrank Arup Acoustics
David Coley &
Andrew Mitchell Centre for Energy and the Environment, Exeter University.
Derek Poole Formerly of University of Wales, College of Cardiff
John Lloyd &
Tom Cecil Faber Maunsell
Peter Brailey Hawksmoor Engineering Ltd.
Andrew Parkin RW Gregory LLP
Terry Payne Monodraught Ltd
Wayne Aston Passivent
Tim Spencer Rockwool Rockfon Ltd
David Whittingham Formerly of Ecophon Ltd

Photographer: Philip Locker, Photo Graphic Design, Bolton

Design & Mac file: Malcolm Ward, Malcolm Studio, Croydon.

ISBN 0 11 271105 7

Introduction 1

Scope of Building Bulletin 93
Overview of contents of Building Bulletin 93

1 Section 1: Specification of acoustic performance 7

1.1 Performance standards 8
1.1.1 Indoor ambient noise levels in unoccupied spaces
1.1.2 Airborne sound insulation between spaces
1.1.3 Airborne sound insulation between circulation spaces and
other spaces used by students
1.1.4 Impact sound insulation of floors
1.1.5 Reverberation in teaching and study spaces
1.1.6 Sound absorption in corridors, entrance halls and stairwells
1.1.7 Speech intelligibility in open-plan spaces
1.2 Demonstrating compliance to the Building Control Body 16
1.2.1 Alternative performance standards
1.3 Demonstrating compliance to the client 17
1.3.1 Timetabling of acoustic testing
1.3.2 Remedial treatments
1.3.3 Indoor ambient noise levels in unoccupied spaces
1.3.4 Airborne sound insulation between spaces
1.3.5 Airborne sound insulation between circulation spaces and
other spaces used by students
1.3.6 Impact sound insulation
1.3.7 Reverberation in teaching and study spaces
1.3.8 Sound absorption in corridors, entrance halls and stairwells
1.3.9 Speech intelligibility in open-plan spaces

2 Section 2: Noise control 21

2.1 Choosing a site 21
2.2 Recommendations for external noise levels outside school buildings 21
2.3 Noise survey 22
2.4 Road and rail noise 23
2.5 Aircraft noise 23
2.6 Vibration 23
2.7 Noise barriers 24
2.8 Noise from schools to surrounding areas 24
2.9 Planning and layout 24
2.10 Limiting indoor ambient noise levels 25
2.11 Impact noise 25
2.12 Corridors, entrance halls and stairwells 25
2.13 Masking noise 26
2.14 Low frequency noise and hearing impaired pupils 26


3 Section 3: Insulation from external noise 27

3.1 Roofs 27
3.1.1 Rain noise
3.2 External walls 28
3.3 Ventilation 28
3.3.1 Ventilators
3.4 External windows 30
3.5 External doors 31

Sound insulation of the building envelope 32
3.6 Subjective characteristics of noise 32
3.7 Variation of noise incident on different facades 32
3.8 Calculations 32
3.9 Test Method 32
3.9.1 Conditions for similar constructions
3.9.2 Conditions for similar sources

Sound insulation between rooms 33
3.10 Specification of the airborne sound insulation between rooms using Rw 33
3.10.1 Flanking details
3.10.2 Examples of problematic flanking details
3.10.3 Junction between ceilings and internal walls
3.10.4 Flanking transmission through windows
3.11 Specification of the impact sound insulation between rooms using Ln,w 36
3.12 Internal walls and partitions 37
3.12.1 General principles
3.12.2 Sound insulation of common constructions
3.12.3 Flanking transmission
3.12.4 High performance constructions – flanking transmission
3.12.5 Corridor walls and doors
3.13 Internal doors, glazing, windows and folding partitions 41
3.13.1 Doors
3.13.2 Lobbies
3.13.3 Folding walls and operable partitions
3.13.4 Roller shutters
3.14 Floors and ceilings 45
3.14.1 Impact sound insulation
3.14.2 Voids above suspended ceilings
3.14.3 Upgrading existing wooden floors using suspended plasterboard ceilings
3.14.4 Upgrading existing wooden floors using platform and ribbed floors
3.14.5 Concrete floors
3.15 Design and detailing of building elements 50

4 Section 4: The design of rooms for speech 53

4.1 Approach to acoustic design 53
4.2 Internal ambient noise levels and speech clarity 53
4.3 Reverberation times 54
4.4 Amount of acoustic absorption required 54
4.5 Distribution of absorbent materials 54
4.6 Room geometry 54
4.7 Classrooms 55

4.8 Assembly halls, auditoria and lecture theatres 55
4.8.1 Room geometry
4.8.2 Sound reinforcement
4.9 Open-plan teaching and learning areas 58
4.10 Practical spaces 59
4.10.1 Design and Technology spaces
4.10.2 Art rooms
4.10.3 Floor finishes in practical spaces
4.11 Drama rooms 60
4.12 Multi-purpose halls 61
4.13 Other large spaces 62
4.14 Dining areas 62

5 Section 5: The design of rooms for music 63

5.1 Aspects of acoustic design 63
5.2 Ambient noise 63
5.3 Sound insulation
5.3.1 Sound insulation between music rooms
5.4 Room acoustics 64
5.4.1 Reverberation time, loudness and room volume
5.4.2 Distribution of acoustic absorption
5.4.3 Room geometry
5.4.4 Diffusion
5.5 Types of room 67
5.5.1 Music classrooms
5.5.2 Music classroom/recital room
5.5.3 Practice rooms/group rooms
5.5.4 Ensemble rooms
5.5.5 Control rooms for recording
5.5.6 Recording studios
5.5.7 Audio equipment
5.6 Acoustic design of large halls for music performance 73
5.6.1 Shape and size
5.6.2 Surface finishes
5.7 Design of large auditoria for music and speech 75

6 Section 6: Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
hearing requirements 77

6.1 Children with listening difficulties 77
6.2 Children with hearing impairments and the acoustic environment 77
6.3 Hearing impairment and hearing aids 78
6.4 The speech signal and hearing aids 78
6.5 Listening demands within the classroom 79
6.6 Strategies developed to assist children with hearing and listening difficulties 79
6.7 Individual technology 80
6.7.1 Radio aids
6.7.2 Auditory trainers and hard-wired systems
6.8 Whole class technology 82
6.8.1 Whole classroom soundfield systems
6.8.2 System overview

6.8.3 Personal soundfield systems
6.8.4 Infra red technology
6.8.5 Induction loop systems
6.8.6 Audio-visual equipment
6.8.7 Other assistive devices
6.9 Special teaching accommodation 87
6.10 Beyond the classroom 89

7 Section 7: Case studies 91

7.1 Remedial work to a multi-purpose hall in a county primary school 93
7.2 An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three open-plan primary schools 97
7.3 Remedial work to an open-plan teaching area in a primary school 107
7.4 Conversion of a design and technology space to music accommodation 113
7.5 A purpose built music suite 117
7.6 A junior school with resource provision for deaf children 123
7.7 An all-age special school for hearing impaired children 129
7.8 Acoustic design of building envelope and classrooms at a new secondary school 139
7.9 Acoustically attenuated passive stack ventilation of an extension to an inner city
secondary school 143
7.10 An investigation into acoustic conditions in open-plan learning spaces in
a secondary school 147

Appendices 159

Introduction to appendices 159
1 Basic concepts and units 161
2 Basic principles of room acoustics 165
3 Basic principles of sound insulation 167
4 Classroom sound insulation – sample calculations 171
5 Sound insulation of the building envelope 175
6 Calculation of room reverberation times 177
7 Calculation of sound absorption required in corridors,
entrance halls and stairwells 181
8 Equipment specifications for sound field systems in schools 185
9 Noise at Work Regulations relating to teachers 191
10 Example submission to Building Control Body 193

Bibliography 203

List of organisations 207

Building Bulletin 93 aims to:
• provide a regulatory framework for the acoustic design of schools in support
of the Building Regulations
• give supporting advice and recommendations for planning and design of
• provide a comprehensive guide for architects, acousticians, building control
officers, building services engineers, clients, and others involved in the
design of new school buildings.

The constructional standards for acoustics • Many activities, such as music and
for new school buildings, as given in design technology lessons, can be noisy
Section 1 of this document, are required and will cause problems if there is
to be achieved under the Building inadequate sound insulation between
Regulations. This represents a significant areas for these activities and those
tightening of the regulation of acoustic requiring quieter conditions.
design in schools, to reflect a general Poor acoustic conditions in the
recognition, supported by research, that classroom increase the strain on teachers’
teaching and learning are acoustically voices as most teachers find it difficult to
demanding activities. In particular, there cope with high noise levels. This often
is a consensus that low ambient noise leads to voice problems due to prolonged
levels are required, particularly in view of use of the voice and the need to shout to
the requirements of the Special keep control. Recent surveys in the UK
Educational Needs and Disability Act and elsewhere show that teachers form a
20011 for integration of children with disproportionate percentage of voice clinic 1. Now incorporated as
special needs in mainstream schools. patients. Section IV of the Disability
Unfortunately, a large number of Discrimination Act[1]
Historically, there have been a number
classrooms in the UK currently suffer of factors preventing good acoustic design
from poor acoustics. The most serious and this Building Bulletin addresses these
acoustic problems are due to noise issues.
transfer between rooms and/or excessive • Before 2003, Part E of the Building
reverberation in rooms. There are many Regulations did not apply to schools. It
reasons for the poor acoustics, for example: now includes schools within its scope.
• The acoustics of the stock of old • Although the constructional standards
Victorian schools are often unsuitable for for schools previously quoted Building
modern teaching methods. Bulletin 87[2] as the standard for
• Modern constructions do not always acoustics in schools, many designers were
provide adequate sound insulation and unaware of the requirements of BB87 and
may need special treatment. the standards were rarely enforced. These
• Open plan, or semi-open plan layouts, standards have been updated to reflect
designed to accommodate a number of current research and the relevant
different activities, are areas where requirements of the Disability
background noise and sound intrusion Discrimination Act, and are included in
often cause problems. the compliance section, Section 1, of this
• The acoustics of multi-purpose rooms, bulletin.
such as halls, have to be suitable for a • The pressure on finances has meant in
variety of activities, for example music the past that acoustics came low on the
(which requires a long reverberation list of design priorities. The acoustic
time) and speech (which requires shorter design will now have a higher priority as it
reverberation times). will be subject to building control


approval procedures.
• There has been little guidance available
in the past on how to achieve the right
balance of acoustics in the complex and
dynamic environment of a school.
Architects and designers have had a
difficult time finding information to make
design easy and, in particular, to help
them choose the correct target values of
appropriate parameters.
Overall, Building Bulletin 93
recommends a structured approach to
acoustic design at each stage of the
planning and design process, as shown in
the table below.

A structured approach to acoustic design at each stage of the planning and design process

Feasibility/Sketch Design ■ Selection of the site
■ Noise survey to establish external noise levels
■ Orientation of buildings
■ Massing and form of the buildings
■ Consideration of need for external noise barriers using the buildings, fences and screens and
landscape features
■ Preliminary calculation of sound insulation provided by building envelope including the effect of
ventilation openings

Detailed Design ■ Determine appropriate noise levels and reverberation times for the various
activities and room types
■ Consider the special educational needs of the pupils
■ Consider the design of music, drama and other specialist spaces separately from that of
normal classrooms as the design criteria are very different.
■ Provide the necessary façade sound insulation whilst providing adequate ventilation,
particularly in the case of spaces such as classrooms and science laboratories which require
high ventilation rates
■ Architectural/acoustic zoning: plan the disposition of 'quiet' and 'noisy' spaces, separating
them wherever possible by distance, external areas or neutral 'buffer' spaces such as
storerooms or corridors
■ Consider sound insulation separately from other aspects of room acoustics using walls, floors
and partitions to provide adequate sound insulation
■ Design the acoustics of the rooms by considering their volume and shape, and the
acoustic properties of their surfaces
■ Specify the acoustic performance of doors, windows and ventilation openings
■ Specify any amplification systems

Building Control Approval ■ Submit plans, including specific details of the acoustic design, for approval by
Building Control Body


SCOPE of Building Bulletin 93
Section 1 of Building Bulletin 93 new school buildings, where there is a
supersedes Section A of Building Bulletin need for upgrading the acoustic
87[2] as the constructional standard for performance of an existing building or
acoustics for new school buildings. when refurbishment is happening for
In addition, Part E of the Building other reasons, then the designer should
Regulations includes schools within its aim to meet the acoustic performance
scope and Approved Document E[3] given in Section 1 of BB93 to satisfy the
gives the following guidance: “In the School Premises Regulations and the
Secretary of State’s view the normal way of Disability Discrimination Act.
satisfying Requirement E4 will be to meet The exemption of Local Education
the values for sound insulation, Authority (LEA) maintained schools from
reverberation time and internal ambient the Building Regulations has ended. New
noise which are given in Section 1 of school buildings, including extensions to
Building Bulletin 93 ‘The Acoustic Design existing school buildings and new schools
of Schools’, produced by DfES.” formed by change of use of other
The requirements of Section 1 came buildings, are now included in the
into force on 1st July 2003, at the same Building Regulations and may be subject
time as those contained in the new to detailed design checks and on-site
Approved Document Part E[3], in inspections by Building Control Bodies.
support of the Building Regulations. The Building Regulations and hence
Requirement E4 from Part E of the requirements of BB93 only apply in
Schedule 1 to The Building Regulations England and Wales. They apply to both
2000 (as amended) states that: LEA maintained schools and independent
“Each room or other space in a school schools.
building shall be designed and constructed Temporary buildings are exempt from
in such a way that it has the acoustic the Building Regulations. Temporary
conditions and the insulation against buildings are defined in Schedule 2 to the
disturbance by noise appropriate to its Building Regulations as those which are
intended use.” not intended to remain in place for longer
The Education (School Premises) than 28 days. What are commonly called
Regulations 1999, SI 1999 No.2 which temporary buildings in schools are classed
applies to both new and existing school as prefabricated buildings and are
buildings, contains a similar statement: normally subject to the same Building
“Each room or other space in a school Regulations requirements as other types
building shall have the acoustic conditions of building. Additional guidance is given
and the insulation against disturbance by in Clause 0.6 of Approved Document
noise appropriate to its normal use.” E[3]. A building that is created by
Compliance with the acoustic dismantling, transporting and re-erecting
performance standards specified in the sub-assemblies on the same premises,
Section 1 will satisfy both regulations for or is constructed from sub-assemblies
new schools. obtained from other premises or from
Although Building Regulations do not stock manufactured before 1st July 2003,
apply to all alteration and refurbishment would normally be considered to meet the
work, it is desirable that such work should requirements for schools if it satisfies the
consider acoustics and incorporate relevant provisions relating to acoustic
upgrading of the acoustics as appropriate. standards set out in the 1997 edition of
(In the case of existing buildings, the Building Bulletin 87[2].
Building Regulations apply only to The extension of Part E of Schedule 1
‘material alterations’ as defined in to the Building Regulations 2000 (as
Regulations 3 and 4.) Although it would amended by SI 2002/2871) to schools
be uneconomic to upgrade all existing applies to teaching and learning spaces.
school buildings to the same standards as Therefore the performance standards in


the tables in Section 1 are required for 1995[1], as amended by the Special
compliance with Part E for all teaching Educational Needs and Disability Act
and learning spaces. Part E of the 2001, places a duty on all schools and
Building Regulations is not intended to LEAs to plan to increase over time the
cover the acoustic conditions in accessibility of schools for disabled pupils
administration and ancillary spaces not used and to implement their plans. Schools and
for teaching and learning except in as far as LEAs are required to provide:
they affect conditions in neighbouring • increased access for disabled pupils to
teaching and learning spaces. Therefore the school curriculum. This covers
consideration needs to be given to teaching and learning and the wider
adjoining areas, such as corridors, which curriculum of the school such as after-
might have doors, ventilators, or glazing school clubs, leisure and cultural
separating them from a teaching or activities.
learning space. The performance standards • improved access to the physical
given in the tables for administration and environment of schools, including
ancillary spaces are for guidance only. physical aids to assist education. This
Rooms used for nursery and includes acoustic improvements and aids
adult/community education within school for hearing impaired pupils.
complexes are also covered by Part E. Part When alterations affect the acoustics of
E does not apply to nursery schools which a space then improvement of the acoustics
are not part of a school, sixth form colleges to promote better access for children with
which have not been established as schools, special needs, including hearing
and Universities or Colleges of Further impairments, should be considered.
and Higher Education2. However, many Approved Document M: 1999 – Access
of the acoustic specifications are desirable and facilities for disabled people, in
and can be used as a guide to the design support of the Building Regulations[4]
of these buildings. The standards are includes requirements for access for
particularly appropriate for nursery children with special needs. See also BS
schools as figures are quoted for nursery 8300: 2001 Design of buildings and their
spaces within primary schools. approaches to meet the needs of disabled
The Disability Discrimination Act people[5].

2. Part E of the Building Regulations quotes the definition of school given in Section 4 of the
1996 Education Act. In the case of sixth form colleges Section 4 of the 1996 Act should be read
in conjunction with Section 2 of the same Act, in particular subsections (2), (2A) and (4) which
deal with the definition of secondary education.
If a sixth form college is established as a school under the 1998 School Standards and
Framework Act then it will be classed as a school under Section 4 of the 1996 Education Act and
Part E of the Building Regulations on acoustics will apply. Only one sixth form college has been
established in this way up until now.
Therefore, most sixth form colleges are institutions in the Further Education sector and not
schools, and Part E of the Building Regulations will not apply.
In the case of a new sixth form college it will be necessary to contact the LEA to enquire if the
sixth form college has been established as a school or as an Institute of Further Education.


Overview of contents of Building Bulletin 93

Section 1: Specification of Acoustic Appendices 2 and 3 describe the basic
Performance consists of three parts. principles of room acoustics and sound
Section 1.1 gives the performance insulation.
standards for new school buildings to
Appendices 4 to 7 give examples of
comply with the Building Regulations.
calculations of sound insulation,
These provide a good minimum standard
reverberation time and absorption.
for school design. However, on occasion
higher standards will be necessary. Appendix 8 gives equipment specifications
Section 1.2 sets out the preferred for sound field systems to guide those
means of demonstrating compliance to who need to specify this type of equipment.
the Building Control Body. Appendix 9 gives an overview of the
Section 1.3 gives the tests Noise at Work Regulations as they relate
recommended to be conducted as part of to teachers.
the building contract.
Appendix 10 gives an example of a
Section 2: Noise Control describes how submission for approval by a Building
to conduct a site survey and to plan the Control Body.
school to control noise. It also includes
recommendations on maximum external The DfES acoustics website
noise levels applying to playing fields, contains
recreational areas and areas used for further reference material which expands
formal and informal outdoor teaching. on the source material for acousticians
External levels are not covered by and designers. For example, it links to a
Building Regulations but are taken into spreadsheet which can be used to calculate
consideration in planning decisions by the sound insulation of the building
local authorities[6]. envelope and the reverberation time of
internal rooms. The website will be
Section 3: Sound Insulation gives detailed regularly updated with new information,
guidance on constructions to meet the discussion papers and case studies. The
performance standards for sound website also contains complete downloads
insulation specified in Section 1.1. of BB93.
Section 4: The Design of Rooms for
Speech and Section 5: The Design of
Rooms for Music give guidance on
various aspects of acoustic design relevant
to schools.
Section 6: Acoustic Design and
Equipment for Pupils with Special
Hearing Requirements discusses design
appropriate for pupils with hearing
impairments and special hearing
requirements. It discusses the necessary
acoustic performance of spaces and
describes the range of aids available to
help these pupils.
Section 7 contains 10 case studies
illustrating some of the most important
aspects of acoustic design of schools.
Appendix 1 defines the basic concepts and
technical terms used in the Bulletin.


[1] Disability Discrimination Act (1995) Part IV
[2] Building Bulletin 87, Guidelines for
Environmental Design in Schools
(Revision of Design Note 17),
The Stationery Office, 1997.
ISBN 011 271013 1. (Now superseded by
2003 version of BB87, which excludes
acoustics, and is available on
[3] Approved Document E – Resistance to the
passage of sound. Stationery Office, 2003.
ISBN 0 11 753 642 3.
[4] Approved Document M:1999 Access and
facilities for disabled people, in support of the
Building Regulations, Stationery Office, 1999
ISBN 0 11 753469. To be replaced shortly by
Approved Document M, Access to and use of
[5] BS 8300: 2001 Design of buildings and
their approaches to meet the needs of disabled
people, Code of Practice.
[6] PPG 24, Planning Policy Guidance: Planning
and Noise, Department of the Environment, The
Stationery Office, September 1994. To be
replaced by revised Planning Policy documents.

This file contains notes on the following revisions to Section 1 of
Building Bulletin 93.

Version 1.1 12.6.03
Version 1.2 20.11.03

BB93 Section 1 Version 1.1 (12.6.03)

The changes were:

1. Table 1.1 of Section 1 of BB93 has been amended: The noise tolerance of
Music small practice/group rooms has been changed from very low to low.
This will make the construction of walls to these rooms much more practical.

2. Section 1.1.1 of Building Bulletin 93 as originally published on the DfES
website stated:
“If a room is naturally ventilated, the ventilators or windows should be
assumed to be open as required to provide background ventilation.”

The revision of 12/6/03 changed this to read: “If a room is naturally ventilated,
the ventilators or windows should be assumed to be open as required to
provide adequate ventilation for normal operating conditions.”

This last change is complicated and its implications are discussed in the
following pages.

1. Acoustic and ventilation requirements of the Building Envelope of
new school buildings

Building Regulations Parts E, The Education (School Premises Regulations)
1999, SI 1999 No.2, Building Bulletin 93 and Building Bulletin 87 all contain
requirements with respect to ventilation openings and the sound insulation of
the building envelope of schools.

BB93 Section 1 was published on the DfES website in March 2003 and came
into effect on 1st. July 2003. The revised Building Bulletin 87 was published
on the DfES website on 23rd May 2003.
The parts of Building Bulletin 87 relating to Approved Document L2 2002
came into effect immediately whereas parts relating to Approved Document F
1995 will not come into mandatory effect until Approved Document F is
revised. The revision of Approved Document F is expected to happen during

Requirement F1 of the Building Regulations states "There shall be adequate
means of ventilation provided for people in the building."

Approved Document F in support of the Building Regulations 1995 edition (as
amended in 2000) gives guidance on ventilation in schools in Section 2.7a:
“Ventilation provisions can be made either in accordance with the guidance in
DfEE Building Bulletin 87, or in accordance with Table 2, with the exception of
sanitary accommodation where six air changes per hour are desirable. In
spaces where noxious fumes may be generated additional provision for
ventilation should be made and may require the use of fume cupboards
designed in accordance with DFE Design Note 29." (Note: DfE Design Note
29 has since been replaced by Building Bulletin 88 published by the
Stationery Office.)

Confusion is occurring over the choice in AD F between two alternative
means of compliance and the use in AD F of the term “background

Usually, background ventilation is taken to be that which is maintained at all
times even when an area is not occupied. However, the previous 1997
version of BB87 contained the recommended constructional standard:
“The heating system shall be capable of maintaining the required room air
temperatures with the minimum average background ventilation of 3 litres per
second of fresh air per person”.

Table 2 of AD F quotes figures for the size of vents required for occupiable
rooms which includes classrooms:
an area of 1/20th of the floor area is required for rapid ventilation (eg opening
windows); and
an area of 400mm2 per square metre of floor area is required for background

Furthermore Diagram 4 of AD F states that for background ventilation “the
ventilation opening should be located (typically 1.75m above floor level) so as
to avoid discomfort due to cold draughts.”

Table 2 does not consider whether the background vents provide single sided
ventilation or cross ventilation nor is any mention made of the use of stack
ventilation. If the openings are all at high level, as suggested in Diagram 4,
the effect of the background ventilation alone (in the absence of passive stack
chimneys or cross ventilation) would be limited to the wind effect and any
infiltration into the space. The effect of this background ventilation might be
enough to allow the dilution of water vapour and some background off gassing
of volatile organic compounds. Hence the use of the term background
ventilation in Approved Document F is consistent with the usual use of the
term to mean the ventilation that should be provided when the building is
unoccupied. This background ventilation rate will not be sufficient when the
spaces are occupied.

The ventilation rates required when the spaces in a school are occupied are
given in The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999, which states:
“(1). All occupied areas in a school building shall have controllable ventilation
at a minimum rate of 3 litres of fresh air per second for each of the maximum
number of persons the area will accommodate.
(2). All teaching accommodation, medical examination or treatment rooms,
sick rooms, isolation rooms, sleeping and living accommodation shall also be
capable of being ventilated at a minimum rate of 8 litres of fresh air per
second for each of the usual number of people in those areas when such
areas are occupied.”

The ventilation design of new schools should comply with the School
Premises Regulations, whichever of the two alternative design approaches
regarding background ventilation quoted in Approved Document F is used.
The simple use of trickle ventilators as proposed in Table 2, unless combined
with a cross ventilation or passive stack ventilation strategy, will not provide
an adequate minimum ventilation rate for a classroom when occupied.

Section 1.1.1 of Building Bulletin 93 as originally published in March 2003 on
the DfES website stated:
“If a room is naturally ventilated, the ventilators or windows should be
assumed to be open as required to provide background ventilation.”

BB93 does not define background ventilation. Hence it has been taken by
some designers to mean the background ventilation as defined in Approved
Document F, Table 2. This is not a great problem if the outside noise levels
are low. But in most urban schools as well as a large proportion of rural
locations the external noise levels are such that if the windows are opened to
provide 3l/s/person or higher ventilation rates the indoor ambient noise levels
quoted in BB93 and now enforced by Building Regulations would be

The way forward
1. DfES issued a revision to Building Bulletin 93 on12/6/03 in which Section
1.1.1 was changed to “If a room is naturally ventilated, the ventilators or
windows should be assumed to be open as required to provide adequate
ventilation for normal operating conditions.”

2. When Approved Document F is revised the reference to Table 2 for schools
should be clarified as being a reference to the background ventilation required
when the building is unoccupied and reference made only to the revised BB87
for ventilation rates when the school is occupied.

3. For a transition period up until the implementation date of the revised
Approved Document F, acoustic designs of building envelopes should be
considered adequate by Building Control Bodies if the sound levels of Building
Bulletin 93 are achieved with the background ventilation areas given in Table
2 of Approved Document F.

4. For new build projects, including PFI projects, clients are urged to include
specific references in their project specifications to:
a. Section 1.1.1 of Building Bulletin 93 for the acoustic design of the building
b. Section 3 of Building Bulletin 87 for the design of the ventilation system and
sizing of ventilation openings; and

c. The Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999 for the minimum
ventilation rate during occupied periods.

The project specification should also define the required sound insulation of
the building envelope as being that required when the ventilators or windows
are open as designed for normal operating conditions during occupied

Natural ventilation solutions
The new Building Bulletin 93 includes case studies of schools which have
combined good sound insulation and high standards of ventilation.

There are a number of ways of achieving this, for example ‘natural
background’ ventilation could be achieved by combining louvres or trickle
ventilators set within the external wall with high-level louvres or roof lights.
'Boost' ventilation could be provided by opening of windows in external
façades, typically during non-teaching periods.

Top down balanced flue type ventilation systems have been used successfully
as have acoustically attenuated perimeter inlets with central passive stacks.

Where natural ventilation alone has insufficient driving force a hybrid solution
should be considered before adopting a mechanical ventilation system.

Whatever the ventilation solution, it is recommended that services engineers
and acousticians are involved at the concept stage of the project, to facilitate
the incorporation of simple cost-effective schemes of ventilation and sound

BB93 Section 1 Version 1.2 (20.11.03)

The changes are:

1. Section 1.1 now clarifies the status of the notes accompanying Tables
1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.5. This is to make it clear that the notes are good
practice guidance, but will not be enforced under the Building
2. Note 2 on Table 1.1 no longer refers to the use of masking noise. The
previous version of the note was incompatible with the performance
standards for indoor ambient noise levels.
3. Tables 1.1, 1.4, 1.5 have re-classified ‘Metalwork/woodwork
classrooms, resource/light craft and practical work’ as ‘Design and
Technology’ and ‘Art rooms’ using the following two sub-categories for
Design and Technology: ‘Resistant materials, CADCAM areas’ and
‘Electronics/control, textiles, food, graphics, design/resource areas’.
This is to ensure compatibility with future DfES guidance on these
4. Table 1.1 has re-classified the ancillary space, ‘Toilets’ as ‘Average’
activity noise to ensure that the sound insulation classification is
5. Table 1.5 has a new note, Note 3, giving guidance on retractable
seating in assembly halls, multi-purpose halls, lecture rooms and music
performance/recital rooms.
6. Section 1.2 now refers to a sample submission to a Building Control
Body in Appendix 10 of BB93.
7. Section 1.2.1 has been renamed ‘Alternative performance standards’
and has been rewritten to specify the information that should be
provided to the Building Control Body when alternative performance
standards are to be used for particular educational, environmental or
health and safety reasons.
8. Section 1.3.3 guidance on indoor ambient noise level testing in
naturally ventilated rooms has been changed from requiring
‘background’ to ‘adequate’ ventilation so that it is aligned with the
performance standards in Section 1.1.1.
Specification of acoustic performance

Section 1 of Building Bulletin 93 sets the performance standards for the
acoustics of new buildings, and describes the normal means of demonstrating
compliance with The Building Regulations.
1.1 Performance standards 9
1.1.1 Indoor ambient noise levels in unoccupied spaces 9
1.1.2 Airborne sound insulation between spaces 12
1.1.3 Airborne sound insulation between circulation spaces and
other spaces used by students 12
1.1.4 Impact sound insulation of floors 13
1.1.5 Reverberation in teaching and study spaces 14
1.1.6 Sound absorption in corridors, entrance halls and stairwells 15
1.1.7 Speech intelligibility in open-plan spaces 16
1.2 Demonstrating compliance to the Building Control Body 17
1.2.1 Alternative performance standards 17
1.3 Demonstrating compliance to the client 18
1.3.1 Timetabling of acoustic testing 18
1.3.2 Remedial treatments 18
1.3.3 Indoor ambient noise levels in unoccupied spaces 18
1.3.4 Airborne sound insulation between spaces 18
1.3.5 Airborne sound insulation between circulation spaces and
other spaces used by students 18
1.3.6 Impact sound insulation 18
1.3.7 Reverberation in teaching and study spaces 18
1.3.8 Sound absorption in corridors, entrance halls and stairwells 19
1.3.9 Speech intelligibility in open-plan spaces 19
References 19

The normal way of satisfying construction is the best practical means of
Requirement E4 of The Building ensuring that it achieves the design intent.
Regulations is to demonstrate that all the In all but the simplest of projects it is
performance standards in Section 1.1, as advisable to appoint a suitably qualified
appropriate, have been met. acoustic consultant1 at an early stage of
1 The primary professional
Section 1.2 sets out the preferred the project, before the outline design has
body for acoustics in the
means for demonstrating compliance of been decided. This will prevent simple UK is the Institute of
the design to the Building Control Body. mistakes which can be costly to design out Acoustics. An experienced
Section 1.3 describes acoustic tests that at a later stage. An acoustic consultant will professional acoustician
can be used to demonstrate compliance normally be needed to check the design who is competent to be
with the performance standards in Section details and on-site construction, and to responsible for the
acoustic design of school
1.1. It is strongly recommended that the carry out acoustic tests to confirm that
buildings would normally be
client require acoustic testing to be the building achieves the required a corporate member of the
carried out as part of the building acoustic performance. Institute of Acoustics.
contract, because testing of the completed

1 Specification of acoustic performance

1.1 Performance standards plant, etc). If a room is naturally
The overall objective of the performance ventilated, the ventilators or windows
standards in Section 1.1 is to provide should be assumed to be open as required
acoustic conditions in schools that (a) to provide adequate ventilation. If a room
facilitate clear communication of speech is mechanically ventilated, the plant
between teacher and student, and should be assumed to be running at its
between students, and (b) do not maximum operating duty.
interfere with study activities. The indoor ambient noise level
Performance standards on the excludes noise contributions from:
following topics are specified in this • teaching activities within the school
section to achieve this objective: premises, including noise from staff,
• indoor ambient noise levels students and equipment within the
• airborne sound insulation between building or in the playground. Noise
spaces transmitted from adjacent spaces is
• airborne sound insulation between addressed by the airborne and impact
corridors or stairwells and other spaces sound insulation requirements.
• impact sound insulation of floors • equipment used in the space (eg
• reverberation in teaching and study machine tools, CNC machines, dust and
spaces fume extract equipment, compressors,
• sound absorption in corridors, entrance computers, overhead projectors, fume
halls and stairwells cupboards). However, these noise sources
• speech intelligibility in open-plan should be considered in the design
spaces. process.
All spaces should meet the • rain noise. However, it is essential that
performance standards defined in Tables
1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.5 for indoor
ambient noise level, airborne and impact
sound insulation, and reverberation time.
Open-plan spaces should additionally
meet the performance standard for speech 1 Research indicates that teaching can be
intelligibility in Table 1.6. disrupted by individual noisy events such as
The notes accompanying Tables 1.1, aircraft flyovers, even where the noise level is
1.2, 1.3 and 1.5 contain additional below the limits in Table 1.1. For rooms
guidance that should be considered when identified in Table 1.1 having limits of 35 dB or
less the noise level should not regularly exceed
designing the spaces to meet the
55 dB LA1,30min.
performance standards in these tables. 2 Acoustic considerations of open-plan areas
Although good practice, this guidance are complex and are discussed in Section
will not be enforced under the Building 1.1.7 and Section 4.
Regulations. 3 Studios require specialised acoustic
environments and the noise limits for these will
vary with the size, intended use and type of
1.1.1. Indoor ambient noise levels in room. In some cases noise limits below
unoccupied spaces 30 dB LAeq may be required, and separate
The objective is to provide suitable limits for different types of noise may be
indoor ambient noise levels (a) for clear appropriate; specialist advice should be sought.
communication of speech between 4 Halls are often multi-functional spaces
(especially in primary schools) used for
teacher and student, and between
activities such as dining, PE, drama, music,
students and (b) for study activities. assembly, and performing plays and concerts.
The indoor ambient noise level In such multi-functional spaces the designer
includes noise contributions from: should design to the lowest indoor ambient
noise level for which the space is likely to be
• external sources outside the school
used. For large halls used for formal drama and
premises (including, but not limited to,
music performance lower noise levels than
noise from road, rail and air traffic, those in Table 1.1 are preferable, and levels of
industrial and commercial premises) 25 dB LAeq,30min may be appropriate. In these
• building services (eg ventilation system, cases specialist advice should be sought.

Specification of acoustic performance 1
Type of room Room classification for the purpose of Upper limit for the
airborne sound insulation in Table 1.2 indoor ambient
noise level
Activity noise Noise tolerance LAeq,30min (dB)
(Source room) (Receiving room)
Nursery school playrooms High Low 351
Nursery school quiet rooms Low Low 351
Primary school: classrooms, class bases, general
teaching areas, small group rooms Average Low 351
Secondary school: classrooms, general teaching areas,
seminar rooms, tutorial rooms, language laboratories Average Low 351
Teaching areas Average Medium 401
Resource areas Average Medium 401
Music classroom Very high Low 351
Small practice/group room Very high Low 351
Ensemble room Very high Very low 301
Performance/recital room Very high Very low 301
Recording studio3 Very high Very low 301
Control room for recording High Low 351
Lecture rooms
Small (fewer than 50 people) Average Low 351
Large (more than 50 people) Average Very low 301
Classrooms designed specifically for use by hearing
impaired students (including speech therapy rooms) Average Very low 301
Study room (individual study, withdrawal, remedial
work, teacher preparation) Low Low 351
Quiet study areas Low Low 351
Resource areas Average Medium 40
Science laboratories Average Medium 40
Drama studios High Very low 301
Design and Technology
• Resistant materials, CADCAM areas High High 40
• Electronics/control, textiles, food,
graphics, design/resource areas Average Medium 40
Art rooms Average Medium 40
Assembly halls4, multi-purpose halls4 (drama, PE,
audio/visual presentations, assembly, occasional music) High Low 351
Audio-visual, video conference rooms Average Low 351
Atria, circulation spaces used by students Average Medium 45
Indoor sports hall High Medium 40
Dance studio High Medium 40
Gymnasium High Medium 40
Swimming pool High High 50
Interviewing/counselling rooms, medical rooms Low Low 351
Dining rooms High High 45
Ancillary spaces Kitchens* High High 50
Offices*, staff rooms* Average Medium 40
Corridors*, stairwells* Average - High High 45
Coats and changing areas* High High 45
Toilets* Average High 50

* Part E of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations 2000 (as amended by Table 1.1: Performance standards
SI 2002/2871) applies to teaching and learning spaces and is not intended to cover for indoor ambient noise levels - upper
administration and ancillary spaces (see under Scope in the Introduction). For these limits for the indoor ambient noise
level, LAeq,30min
areas the performance standards are for guidance only.

1 Specification of acoustic performance

Table 1.2: Performance Minimum DnT (Tmf,max),w (dB) Activity noise in source room (see Table 1.1)
standards for airborne
sound insulation between Low Average High Very high
spaces - minimum weighted
BB93 standardized level
difference, DnT (Tmf,max),w High 30 35 45 55

in receiving room
Noise tolerance

(see Table 1.1)
Medium 35 40 50 55

Low 40 45 55 55

Very low 45 50 55 60

1 Each value in the table is the minimum required to comply with the Building Regulations. A value
of 55 dB DnT (Tmf,max),w between two music practice rooms will not mean that the music will be
inaudible between the rooms; in many cases, particularly if brass or percussion instruments are
played, a higher value is desirable.
2 Where values greater than 55 dB DnT (Tmf,max),w are required it is advisable to separate the rooms
using acoustically less sensitive areas such as corridors and storerooms. Where this is not possible,
high performance constructions are likely to be required and specialist advice should be sought.
3 It is recommended that music rooms should not be placed adjacent to design and technology
spaces or art rooms.
4 These values of DnT (Tmf,max),w include the effect of glazing, doors and other weaknesses in
the partition. In general, normal (non-acoustic) doors provide much less sound insulation than the
surrounding walls and reduce the overall DnT (Tmf,max),w of the wall considerably, particularly for
values above 35 dB DnT (Tmf,max),w. Therefore, doors should not generally be installed in
partitions between rooms requiring values above 35 dB DnT (Tmf,max),w unless acoustic doors,
door lobbies, or double doors with an airspace are used. This is not normally a problem as rooms
are usually accessed via corridors or circulation spaces so that there are at least two doors
between noise-sensitive rooms. For more guidance see Section 3.

this noise is considered in the design of LAeq,30min, likely to occur during normal
lightweight roofs and roof lights as it can teaching hours. The levels due to external
significantly increase the indoor ambient sources will depend on weather
noise level (see the design guidance in conditions (eg wind direction) and local
Section 3.1.1). It is intended that a activities. High noise levels due to
performance standard for rain noise will exceptional events may be disregarded.
be introduced in a future edition of The indoor ambient noise levels in
BB93. To satisfy this edition of BB93 it Table 1.1 apply to finished but
should be demonstrated to the Building unoccupied and unfurnished spaces.
Control Body that the roof has been Tonal and intermittent noises are
designed to minimise rain noise (see generally more disruptive than other
Section 1.2). types of noise at the same level. Noise
Table 1.1 contains the required upper from plant, machinery and equipment in
limits for the indoor ambient noise levels noise–sensitive rooms should therefore be
for each type of unoccupied space. The constant in nature and should not contain
noise levels in Table 1.1 are specified in any significant tonal or intermittent
terms of LAeq,30min. This is an average characteristics. Noise from building
noise level over 30 minutes, as explained services which is discontinuous, tonal, or
in Appendix 1. The specified levels refer impulsive (ie noise which can be
to the highest equivalent continuous A- distracting) should be reduced to a level at
weighted sound pressure level, least 5 dB below the specified maximum.

Specification of acoustic performance 1
In rooms with very low noise tolerance, T is the reverberation time in the
including music rooms, studios and receiving room (s)
rooms used for formal music and drama Tmf,max is the reference reverberation
performance, any audible intermittent time equal to the upper limit of the
noise source of this type is likely to cause reverberation time, Tmf, given in Table
problems and specialist advice should be 1.5 for the type of receiving room. This
sought. reference reverberation time shall be used
for all frequency bands.
1.1.2. Airborne sound insulation The BB93 standardized level
between spaces difference, DnT (Tmf,max),w, is measured
The objective is to attenuate airborne in accordance with BS EN ISO 140-
sound transmitted between spaces 4:1998[1] in octave or one-third octave
through walls and floors. bands, the results are weighted and
Table 1.2 contains the required expressed as a single-number quantity,
minimum airborne sound insulation DnT (Tmf,max),w, in accordance with BS
values between rooms. These values are EN ISO 717-1:1997[2].
defined by the activity noise in the source The prediction and measurement of
room and the noise tolerance in the DnT (Tmf,max),w between two rooms
receiving room. The activity noise and must be carried out in both directions as
noise tolerance for each type of room are its value depends upon the volume of the
given in Table 1.1. The airborne sound receiving room, see the example below.
insulation is quoted in terms of the
weighted BB93 standardized level 1.1.3 Airborne sound insulation
difference, DnT (Tmf,max),w, between two between circulation spaces and other
rooms. spaces used by students
The BB93 standardized level The objective is to attenuate airborne
difference, DnT (Tmf,max), is the level sound transmitted between circulation
difference, in decibels, corresponding to a spaces (eg corridors, stairwells) and other
BB93 reference value of the reverberation spaces used by students.
time in the receiving room: Table 1.3 contains the required
minimum airborne sound insulation for
DnT(Tmf,max) = D+10 lg T dB the separating wall construction, any
doorset in the wall and any ventilators in
where the wall. The airborne sound insulation
D is the level difference (dB) for walls and doorsets is quoted in terms

Example to determine the performance standards for airborne sound insulation between a music classroom and a
secondary school general teaching area.

From the music classroom (source room) to the general teaching area (receiving room):
Table 1.1 shows that music classrooms have ‘very high’ activity levels and that general teaching areas have ‘low’
tolerance. Table 1.2 shows that at least 55 dB DnT (0.8s),w is required.

From the general teaching area (source room) to the music classroom (receiving room):
Table 1.1 shows that general teaching areas have ‘average’ activity levels and that music classrooms have ‘low’ tolerance.
Table 1.2 shows that at least 45 dB DnT (1.0s),w is required.

In this example the requirement to control noise from the music classroom to the general teaching area is more stringent.

The construction should be designed to achieve at least 55 dB DnT (0.8s),w from the music classroom (source room) to
the general teaching area (receiving room), and at least 45 dB DnT (1.0s),w from the general teaching area (source room)
to the music classroom (receiving room).

1 Specification of acoustic performance

Table 1.3: Performance Type of space used by students Minimum Rw (dB) Minimum
standards for airborne
Dn,e,w –10lgN
sound insulation between
circulation spaces and Wall including Doorset1 (dB)
other spaces used by any glazing
students - minimum sound
reduction index, Rw and All spaces except music rooms 40 30 39
minimum Dn,e,w –10lgN
(laboratory measurements}
Music rooms2 45 35 453

1 The Rw ratings are for the doorset alone. a laboratory measurement because of the
Manufacturers sometimes provide doorset difficulty in accurately measuring the
sound insulation data as a combined rating for airborne sound insulation between rooms
the wall and doorset where the Rw refers to the and corridors, or rooms and stairwells in
performance of an ≈10 m2 high-performance the field. Therefore it is crucial that the
wall containing the doorset. This is not airborne sound insulation of the wall
appropriate as it gives higher figures than the
and/or doorset is not compromised by
Rw of the doorset itself. However, with
flanking sound transmission, eg sound
knowledge of the wall and doorset areas the
Rw of the doorset can be calculated from these
transmission across the junction between
test results. the ceiling and the corridor wall (see
2 Special design advice is recommended. guidance in Section 3.10.3).
3 Wherever possible, ventilators should not be
installed between music rooms and circulation 1.1.4. Impact sound insulation of
spaces. floors
The objective is to attenuate impact
sound (eg footsteps) transmitted into
spaces via the floor.
of the weighted sound reduction index, Table 1.4 contains the recommended
Rw, which is measured in the laboratory. maximum weighted BB93 standardized
The airborne sound insulation for impact sound pressure level,
ventilators is quoted in terms of the L′nT (Tmf,max),w, for receiving rooms of
weighted element-normalized level different types and uses.
difference, Dn,e,w. The performance The BB93 standardized impact sound
standard for ventilators is quoted in terms pressure level, L′nT (Tmf,max), is the
of Dn,e,w –10lgN where N is the number impact sound pressure level in decibels
of ventilators with airborne sound corresponding to a BB93 reference value
insulation Dn,e,w. of the reverberation time in the receiving
The weighted sound reduction index is room:
measured in accordance with BS EN ISO
140-3:1995[3] and rated in accordance L′nT(Tmf,max) = Li – 10 lg T dB
with BS EN ISO 717-1:1997[2].
The weighted element-normalized level where
difference is measured in accordance with L i is the impact sound pressure level (dB)
BS EN 20140-10:1992[4] and rated in T is the reverberation time in the
accordance with BS EN ISO 717- receiving room (s)
1:1997[2]. Tmf,max is the reference reverberation
Table 1.3 excludes: time equal to the upper limit of the
• service corridors adjacent to spaces that reverberation time, Tmf , given in Table
are not used by students 1.5 for the type of receiving room. This
• lobby corridors leading only to spaces reference reverberation time shall be used
used by students that have a high for all frequency bands.
tolerance to noise as defined in Table 1.1. The BB93 standardized impact sound
The performance standard is set using pressure level, L′nT (Tmf,max), is measured

Specification of acoustic performance 1
in accordance with BS EN ISO 140-
Table 1.4: Performance standards for impact sound insulation of floors -
7:1998[5] in octave or one-third octave maximum weighted BB93 standardized impact sound pressure
bands, the results are weighted and level L′nT (Tmf,max),w
expressed as a single-number quantity,
L′nT (Tmf,max),w, in accordance with Maximum weighted
BS EN ISO 717-2:1997[6]. BB93 standardized
Type of room
impact sound
Impact sound insulation should be (receiving room)
pressure level
designed and measured for floors without L′nT (Tmf,max),w (dB)
a soft covering (eg carpet, foam backed
Nursery school playrooms 65
vinyl) except in the case of concrete
Nursery school quiet rooms 60
structural floor bases where the soft
Primary school: classrooms, class bases,
covering is an integral part of the floor. general teaching areas, small group rooms 60
Secondary school: classrooms, general teaching
1.1.5. Reverberation in teaching and areas, seminar rooms, tutorial rooms,
study spaces language laboratories 60
The objective is to provide suitable Open-plan
reverberation times for (a) clear Teaching areas 60
communication of speech between Resource areas 60
teacher and student, and between Music
students, in teaching and study spaces and Music classroom 55
(b) music teaching and performance. Small practice/group room 55
Ensemble room 55
Table 1.5 contains the required mid-
Performance/recital room 55
frequency reverberation times for rooms
Recording studio 55
which are finished but unoccupied and Control room for recording 55
unfurnished. The reverberation time is Lecture rooms
quoted in terms of the mid-frequency Small (fewer than 50 people) 60
reverberation time, Tmf , the arithmetic Large (more than 50 people) 55
average of the reverberation times in the Classrooms designed specifically for use by hearing
500 Hz, 1 kHz and 2 kHz octave bands. impaired students (including speech therapy rooms) 55
Sound absorption from pinboards and Study room (individual study,
noticeboards can change when they are withdrawal, remedial work,
covered up or painted. Absorption teacher preparation) 60
coefficients for pinboards and noticeboards Libraries 60
Science laboratories 65
used in design calculations should be for
Drama studios 55
fully covered or painted boards, as
Design and Technology
appropriate. If these data are not available • Resistant materials, CADCAM areas 65
then the absorption coefficient for the • Electronics/control, textiles, food,
board area used in the design calculation graphics, design/resource areas 60
should be the absorption coefficient of Art rooms 60
the wall to which the board is attached. Assembly halls, multi-purpose halls
(drama, PE, audio/visual presentations, assembly,
occasional music) 60
Audio-visual, video conference rooms 60
Atria, circulation spaces used by students 65
Indoor sports hall 65
Gymnasium 65
Dance studio 60
Swimming pool 65
Interviewing/counselling rooms, medical rooms 60
* Part E of Schedule 1 to the Building
Dining rooms 65
Regulations 2000 (as amended by
Ancillary spaces Kitchens* 65
SI 2002/2871) applies to teaching and
Offices*, staff rooms* 65
learning spaces and is not intended to cover
Corridors*, stairwells* 65
administration and ancillary spaces (see under
Coats and changing areas* 65
Scope in the Introduction). For these areas the
Toilets* 65
performance standards are for guidance only.

1 Specification of acoustic performance

Type of room Tmf1 (seconds) 1.1.6. Sound absorption in corridors,
Nursery school playrooms <0.6 entrance halls and stairwells
Nursery school quiet rooms <0.6 The objective is to absorb sound in
Primary school: classrooms, class bases, general corridors, entrance halls and stairwells so
teaching areas, small group rooms <0.6 that it does not interfere with teaching
Secondary school: classrooms, general teaching and study activities in adjacent rooms.
areas, seminar rooms, tutorial rooms, The requirement is to provide
language laboratories <0.8 additional sound absorption in corridors,
Open-plan entrance halls and stairwells. The amount
Teaching areas <0.8
of additional absorption should be
Resource areas <1.0
calculated according to Approved
Music classroom
Document E[7], Section 7. This describes
Small practice/group room <0.8 two calculation methods, A and B, for
Ensemble room 0.6 - 1.2 controlling reverberation in the common
Performance/recital room3 1.0 - 1.5 internal parts of domestic buildings. One
Recording studio 0.6 - 1.2 of these methods should be used to
Control room for recording <0.5 determine the amount of absorption
Lecture rooms3 required in corridors, entrance halls and
Small (fewer than 50 people) <0.8 stairwells in schools. (See sample
Large (more than 50 people) <1.0 calculations using calculation methods A
Classrooms designed specifically for use by hearing and B in Appendix 7.)
impaired students (including speech therapy rooms) <0.4
Sound absorption from pinboards and
Study room (individual study,
noticeboards can change when they are
withdrawal, remedial work, teacher preparation) <0.8
covered up or painted. Absorption
Science laboratories <0.8 coefficients for pinboards and
Drama studios <1.0 noticeboards used in design calculations
Design and Technology should be for fully covered or painted
• Resistant materials, CADCAM areas <0.8 boards, as appropriate. If these data are
• Electronics/control, textiles, food, not available then the absorption
graphics, design/resource areas <0.8
Art rooms <0.8
Assembly halls, multi-purpose halls (drama, PE,
audio/visual presentations, assembly,
1 Common materials often absorb most sound
occasional music)2,3 0.8 - 1.2 at high frequencies. Therefore reverberation
Audio-visual, video conference rooms <0.8 times will tend to be longer at low frequencies
Atria, circulation spaces used by students <1.5 than at high frequencies. In rooms used
Indoor sports hall <1.5 primarily for speech, the reverberation times in
Gymnasium <1.5 the 125 Hz and 250 Hz octave bands may
Dance studio <1.2 gradually increase with decreasing frequency to
Swimming pool <2.0 values not more than 30% above Tmf.
Interviewing/counselling rooms, medical rooms <0.8 2 For very large halls and auditoria, and for
Dining rooms <1.0 halls designed primarily for unamplified music
rather than speech, designing solely in terms
Ancillary spaces
of reverberation time may not be appropriate
Kitchens* <1.5
and specialist advice should be sought. In large
Offices*, staff rooms* <1.0 rooms used primarily for music, it may be
Corridors, stairwells See Section 1.1.6 appropriate for the reverberation times in the
Coats and changing areas* <1.5 125 Hz and 250 Hz octave bands to gradually
Toilets* <1.5 increase with decreasing frequency to values
up to 50% above Tmf. For more guidance see
Section 5.
Table 1.5: Performance * Part E of Schedule 1 to the Building
3 Assembly halls, multi-purpose halls, lecture
standards for reverberation Regulations 2000 (as amended by SI
rooms and music performance/recital rooms
in teaching and study 2002/2871) applies to teaching and learning may be considered as unfurnished when they
spaces – mid-frequency spaces and is not intended to cover contain permanent fixed seating. Where
reverberation time, Tmf, in administration and ancillary spaces (see under retractable (bleacher) seating is fitted, the
finished but unoccupied
Scope in the Introduction). For these areas the performance standards apply to the space with
and unfurnished rooms
performance standards are for guidance only. the seating retracted.

Specification of acoustic performance 1
coefficient for the board area used in the
Room type Speech Transmission Index (STI)
design calculation should be the
absorption coefficient of the wall to which
Open-plan teaching and study spaces >0.60
the board is attached.

1.1.7 Speech intelligibility in open-
plan spaces equipment, computers, printers, AVA) Table 1.6: Performance
The objective is to provide clear operating in the open-plan space. standard for speech
intelligibility in open-plan
communication of speech between teacher The expected open-plan layout and
spaces – Speech
and student, and between students, in activity plan should be agreed as the basis Transmission Index (STI)
open-plan teaching and study spaces. on which compliance with BB93 can be
For enclosed teaching and study spaces demonstrated to the Building Control
it is possible to achieve good speech Body.
intelligibility through specification of the The activity plan should be used to
indoor ambient noise level, sound establish the overall noise level due to the
insulation and reverberation time. Open- combination of the indoor ambient noise
plan spaces require extra specification as level, all activities in the open-plan space
they are significantly more complex (including teaching and study), and
acoustic spaces. The main issue is that the transmitted noise from adjacent spaces. A
noise from different groups of people computer prediction model should be
functioning independently in the space used to calculate the Speech Transmission
significantly increases the background Index (STI)[8] in the open-plan space,
noise level, thus decreasing speech using the overall noise level as the
intelligibility. background noise level. Other methods of
Open-plan spaces are generally estimating STI may also be applicable.
designed for high flexibility in terms of The performance standard for speech
the layout of teaching and study spaces. intelligibility in open-plan spaces is
In addition, the layout is rarely finalised described in terms of the Speech
before the school is operational. This Transmission Index in Table 1.6. The
increases the complexity of assessing calculated value of STI should be between
speech intelligibility in the open-plan 0.60 and 1.00, which gives an STI rating
space. Therefore, at an early stage in the of either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. This
design, the designer should establish the performance standard applies to speech
expected open-plan layout and activity transmitted from teacher to student,
plan with the client. student to teacher and student to student.
The open-plan layout should include: The performance standard in Table 1.6
• the positions at which the teacher will is intended to ensure that open-plan
give oral presentations to groups of spaces in schools are only built when
students suited to the activity plan and layout.
• the seating plan for the students and With some activity plans, room layouts
teachers in each learning base and open-plan designs it will not be
• the learning base areas. possible to achieve this performance
The activity plan should include: standard. At this point in the design
• the number of teachers giving oral process the decision to introduce an
presentations to groups of students at any open-plan space into the school should be
one time thoroughly re-assessed. If, after
• the number of students engaged in re-assessment, there is still a need for the
discussion at any one time open-plan space, then the inclusion of
• the number of people walking through operable walls between learning bases
the open-plan space (eg along corridors should be considered. These operable
and walkways) during teaching and study walls will form classrooms and be subject
periods to the airborne sound insulation
• any machinery (eg engraving machines, requirements in Table 1.2. It is not
CNC machines, dust and fume extract appropriate to simply adjust the activity

1 Specification of acoustic performance

plan until the performance standard for ventilators between circulation spaces and
speech intelligibility is met. other spaces used by students, and the
Computer prediction software capable appropriate minimum values from
of simulating an impulse response should Table 1.3
be used to create a three-dimensional • the estimated weighted BB93
geometric model of the space, comprising standardized impact sound pressure level,
surfaces with scattering coefficients and L′nT (Tmf,max),w, of floors above spaces
individually assigned absorption and the appropriate maximum values
coefficients for each frequency band. The from Table 1.4
model should allow for the location and • the estimated value of mid frequency
orientation of single and multiple sources reverberation time Tmf in each space and
with user-defined sound power levels and the appropriate range of values from
directivity. (See guidance on computer Table 1.5
prediction models on the DfES acoustics • the proposed absorption treatments in
website corridors, entrance halls and stairwells
Assumptions to be made in the • for open plan spaces, the estimated
assessment of speech intelligibility are: range of STI values for speech
• for students, when seated, the head communication from teacher to student,
height (for listening or speaking) is 0.8 m student to teacher and student to student.
for nursery schools, 1.0 m for primary The supporting information should
schools and 1.2 m for secondary schools include:
• for students, when standing, the head • construction details and material
height (for listening or speaking) is 1.0 m specifications for the external building
for nursery schools, 1.2 m for primary envelope
schools and 1.65 m for secondary schools • construction details and material
• for teachers, when seated, the head specifications for all wall and floor
height (for listening or speaking) is 1.2 m constructions, including all flanking
• for teachers, when standing, the head details
height (for listening or speaking) is 1.65 m • calculations of the sound insulation
• the background noise level is the overall DnT (Tmf,max),w and L′nT (Tmf,max),w
noise level due to all activities (including • calculations of reverberation times in
teaching and study) in the open-plan space. teaching and study spaces
• calculations of the absorption area to
1.2 Demonstrating compliance to be applied in corridors, entrance halls and
the Building Control Body stairwells
The preferred means of demonstrating • measurements and/or calculations
compliance to the Building Control Body demonstrating how rain noise has been
is to submit a set of plans, construction controlled
details, material specifications, and • sound insulation test reports
calculations, as appropriate for each area (laboratory and/or field)
of the school which is covered by • sound absorption test reports
Requirement E4 of the Building (laboratory)
Regulations. • activity plan and layout for open-plan
The plans should identify: spaces.
• the highest estimate for the indoor An example of a submission to a
ambient noise level, LAeq,30min, in each Building Control Body, with explanatory
space and the appropriate upper limit notes, is contained in Appendix 10.
from Table 1.1
• the estimated weighted BB93 1.2.1 Alternative performance
standardized level difference, standards
DnT (Tmf,max),w, between spaces and the In some circumstances alternative
appropriate minimum value from Table 1.2 performance standards may be
• the proposed values of Rw for partition appropriate for specific areas within
walls and for doors, Dn,e,w –10lgN for individual schools for particular

Specification of acoustic performance 1
educational, environmental or health and changes to other parts of the building.
safety reasons. In these cases, the For this reason it is desirable, where
following information should be provided possible, to complete a sample set of
to the Building Control Body: rooms in the school for advance testing.
• a written report by a specialist acoustic
consultant, clearly identifying (a) all areas 1.3.2 Remedial treatments
of non-compliance with BB93 Where the cause of failure is attributed to
performance standards (b) the proposed the construction, other rooms that have
alternative performance standards and (c) not been tested may also fail to meet the
the technical basis upon which these performance standards. Therefore,
alternative performance standards have remedial treatment may be needed in
been chosen rooms other than those in which the tests
• written confirmation from the were conducted. The efficacy of any
educational provider (eg school or Local remedial treatment should be assessed
Education Authority) of areas of non- through additional testing.
compliance, together with the justification
for the need and suitability of the 1.3.3 Indoor ambient noise levels in
alternative performance standards in each unoccupied spaces
space. To demonstrate compliance with the
values in Table 1.1, measurements of
1.3 Demonstrating compliance to indoor ambient noise levels should be
the client taken in at least one in four rooms
To ensure that the performance standards intended for teaching and/or study
are met, it is recommended that the client purposes, and should include rooms on
should include a requirement for acoustic the noisiest façade. These rooms should
testing in the building contract. be finished and unoccupied but may be
The design calculations submitted to either furnished or unfurnished.
the Building Control Body demonstrate Measurements should be made when
only that the construction has the external noise levels are representative of
potential to meet the performance conditions during normal school
standards in Section 1.1. In practice, the operation.
performance of the construction is During measurements, the following
strongly influenced by workmanship on should apply:
site. If the design calculations and • Building services (eg ventilation system,
detailing are correct, the most likely plant) should be in use during the
causes of failure to meet the performance measurement period.
standards will be poor workmanship, • For mechanically ventilated rooms, the
product substitution and design changes plant should be running at its maximum
on site. Therefore, acoustic testing is design duty.
recommended. • For naturally ventilated rooms, the
The DfES acoustics website ventilators or windows should be open as
( will be required to provide adequate ventilation.
used to encourage manufacturers and • There should be no more than one
others to disseminate acoustic test results person present in the room. (The values
alongside construction details for in Table 1.1 allow for one person to be
constructions that consistently satisfy the present in the room during the test)
performance standards. • There should be dry weather
conditions outside.
1.3.1 Timetabling of acoustic testing Measurements of LAeq,T should be
Timetabling of acoustic testing is made at least 1 m from any surface of the
important because any test that results in room and at 1.2 m above floor level in at
a failure to satisfy the performance least three positions that are normally
standards will require remedial work to occupied during teaching or study
rectify the failure and potential design periods. A sound level meter complying

1 Specification of acoustic performance

with BS EN 60804:2001 (IEC presented as evidence of compliance with
60804:2001)[9] should be used. Further the values in Table 1.3.
information on noise measurement
techniques is available in the Association 1.3.6 Impact sound insulation
of Noise Consultants Guidelines on Noise To demonstrate compliance with the
Measurement in Buildings[10]. values in Table 1.4, measurements of
Where there is negligible change in impact sound insulation should be taken
noise level over a teaching period, between vertically adjacent rooms, where
measurements of LAeq,T over a time the receiving room is intended for
period much shorter than 30 minutes (eg teaching and study purposes. At least one
LAeq,5min) can give a good indication of in four teaching/study rooms below a
whether the performance standard in separating floor should be tested.
terms of LAeq,30min is likely to be met. Measurements should be made in
However, if there are significant variations accordance with BS EN ISO 140-
in noise level, for example due to 7:1998[5]. Performance should be rated
intermittent noise events such as aircraft in accordance with BS EN ISO 717-
or railways, measurements should be 2:1997[6].
taken over a typical 30 minute period in Impact sound insulation should be
the school day. measured on floors without a soft
covering (eg carpet, foam backed vinyl),
1.3.4 Airborne sound insulation except in the case of concrete structural
between spaces floor bases where the soft covering is an
To demonstrate compliance with the integral part of the floor.
values in Table 1.2, measurements of
airborne sound insulation should be taken 1.3.7 Reverberation in teaching and
between vertically and horizontally study spaces
adjacent rooms where the receiving room To demonstrate compliance with the
is intended for teaching and/or study values in Table 1.5, measurements of
purposes. At least one in four rooms reverberation time should be taken in at
intended for teaching and study purposes least one in four rooms intended for
should be tested. Measurements should teaching and study purposes.
be taken in the direction with the more One person may be present in the
stringent airborne sound insulation room during the measurement.
requirement. Depending upon the completion
During measurements, the ventilators sequence for spaces within the school, it
or windows should be open as required to may be possible to reduce the
provide adequate ventilation in both the measurement effort by utilising
source room and the receiving room. measurements of reverberation time that
Measurements should be made in are required as part of airborne or impact
accordance with BS EN ISO 140- sound insulation measurements. For this
4:1998[1] and the additional guidance in reason, two measurement methods,
Approved Document E[7] Annex B, described below, are proposed for the
paragraphs B2.3 – B2.8. Performance measurement of reverberation time. For
should be rated in accordance with BS the purpose of demonstrating compliance,
EN ISO 717-1:1997[2]. either method can be used to assess
whether the performance standards have
1.3.5 Airborne sound insulation been met. If one method demonstrates
between circulation spaces and other compliance with the performance
spaces used by students standard and the other demonstrates
It is not intended that field measurements failure, then the performance standard
should be taken between circulation should be considered to have been met.
spaces and other spaces used by students. Measurement method 1: Measurements
Laboratory data for the wall, doorsets (if should be made in accordance with either
any) and ventilators (if any) should be low coverage or normal coverage

Specification of acoustic performance 1
measurements described in BS EN ISO References
3382:2000[11]. [1] BS EN ISO 140-4:1998 Acoustics –
Measurement method 2: Reverberation Measurement of sound insulation in buildings
and of building elements. Part 4. Field
time measurements should be made in
measurements of airborne sound insulation
accordance with BS EN ISO 140- between rooms.
4:1998[1] (airborne sound insulation) or [2] BS EN ISO 717-1:1997 Acoustics – Rating
BS EN ISO 140-7:1998[5] (impact sound of sound insulation in buildings and of building
insulation) in octave bands. elements. Part 1. Airborne sound insulation.
[3] BS EN ISO 140-3:1995 Acoustics –
Measurement of sound insulation in buildings
1.3.8 Sound absorption in corridors, and of building elements. Part 3. Laboratory
entrance halls and stairwells measurement of airborne sound insulation of
It is not intended that field measurements building elements.
of reverberation time should be taken in [4] BS EN 20140-10:1992 Acoustics –
corridors, entrance halls and stairwells. Measurement of sound insulation in buildings
and of building elements. Part 10. Laboratory
measurement of airborne sound insulation of
1.3.9 Speech intelligibility in open- small building elements.
plan spaces [5] BS EN ISO 140-7:1998 Acoustics –
To demonstrate compliance with the Measurement of sound insulation in buildings
values in Table 1.6, measurements of the and of building elements. Part 7. Field
Speech Transmission Index (STI) should measurements of impact sound insulation of
be taken in at least one in ten student [6] BS EN ISO 717-2:1997 Acoustics – Rating
positions in the open-plan spaces. of sound insulation in buildings and of building
Measurements should be made in elements. Part 2. Impact sound insulation.
accordance with BS EN 60268- [7] Approved Document E – Resistance to the
16:1998[8]. passage of sound. Stationery Office 2003.
ISBN 0 11 753 642 3.
Measurements should be made using
the following heights for listening or [8] BS EN 60268-16:1998 Sound system
speaking: equipment – Part 16: Objective rating of
• to represent seated students, a head speech intelligibility by speech transmission
height of 0.8 m for nursery schools, 1.0 m index.
for primary schools and 1.2 m for [9] BS EN 60804:2001 (IEC 60804:2001)
Integrating-averaging sound level meters.
secondary schools [10] Guidelines on Noise Measurement in
• to represent standing students, a head Buildings, Part 1: Noise from Building Services
height of 1.0 m for nursery schools, 1.2 m and Part 2: Noise from External Sources.
for primary schools and 1.65 m for Association of Noise Consultants.
secondary schools [11] BS EN ISO 3382:2000 Acoustics –
Measurement of the reverberation time of
• to represent seated teachers, a head rooms with reference to other acoustical
height of 1.2 m parameters.
• to represent standing teachers, a head
height of 1.65 m.
Simulation of the estimated occupancy
noise should be carried out in the STI
measurement. This noise level will have
been established at the design stage (see
Section 1.1.7) and is defined as the noise
level due to the combination of the
indoor ambient noise level, all activities in
the open-plan space (including teaching
and study), and transmitted noise from
adjacent spaces.

Noise control

Section 2 gives recommendations and guidance concerning noise control,
starting with the choice of a site and the control of external noise. Local
government planning policy will be influenced by the recommendations on
maximum external noise levels in playing fields and other external areas used
by the school. Section 2 also includes discussion of the means of controlling
indoor ambient noise.

2.1 Choosing a site conditions outside school buildings.
The acoustic design of a school starts with For new schools, 60 dB LAeq,30min
the selection of the site, a noise survey of should be regarded as an upper limit for
the site and planning the layout of the external noise at the boundary of external
school buildings. premises used for formal and informal
Economic sites for new schools with outdoor teaching, and recreational areas.
easy access to transport often suffer from Under some circumstances it is possible
traffic noise and pollution. In the past, to meet the specified indoor ambient
schools have sometimes been built on noise levels on sites where external noise
sites which would not normally have been levels are as high as 70 dB LAeq,30min but
considered suitable for housing. This has this will require considerable building
been in part because schools have not envelope sound insulation, screening or
always been recognised as requiring barriers.
particularly high environmental standards, Noise levels in unoccupied
and in part because there has been less playgrounds, playing fields and other
formal control or regulation of noise outdoor areas should not exceed 55 dB
levels in schools than for housing. LAeq,30min and there should be at least
Where school sites are adjacent to busy one area suitable for outdoor teaching
roads they will require the use of activities where noise levels are below
intelligent design, zoning, noise screening 50 dB LAeq,30min. If this is not possible
and, if necessary, sound insulating due to a lack of suitably quiet sites,
building envelopes together with acoustic screening should be used to
mechanical ventilation or acoustically reduce noise levels in these areas as much
designed passive ventilation. as practicable, and an assessment of
Many of the acoustic problems in predicted noise levels and of options for
existing schools derive directly from the reducing these should be carried out.
school’s location in a noisy area. For Playgrounds, outdoor recreation areas
existing schools, noise from road traffic is and playing fields are generally considered
a common problem, but in some areas to be of relatively low sensitivity to noise,
noise from railways and aircraft is and indeed playing fields may be used as
intrusive[1]. Noise from industrial and buffer zones to separate school buildings
leisure sources is a less frequent problem from busy roads where necessary.
and can normally be dealt with at source However, where used for teaching, for
by the Local Authority using their powers example sports lessons, outdoor ambient
under the Environmental Pollution Act. noise levels have a significant impact on
communication in an environment which
2.2 Recommendations for external is already acoustically less favourable than
noise levels outside school buildings most classrooms. Ideally, noise levels on
Although Requirement E4 does not apply unoccupied playing fields used for
to external noise, the following teaching sport should not exceed 50 dB
recommendations are considered good LAeq,30min. If this is not possible at all
practice for providing good acoustic locations, there should be at least one area

2 Noise control

at which noise levels are below 50 dB typical school hours and include noisy
LAeq,30min so that some outdoor events (eg road traffic at peak hours,
teaching is possible. worst case runway usage in the case of
Acoustic screening from fences, walls airports, etc). The measurements must
or buildings may be used to protect also take account of the weather
playgrounds from noise. At positions near conditions. For long-distance propagation
the screen, traffic noise can be reduced by of noise, the measured level is affected by
up to 10 dB(A). wind gradients, temperature gradients and
All external noise levels in this section turbulence. With wind, the noise level is
apply to measurements made at generally increased downwind or reduced
approximately head height and at least 3 m upwind. (Note that temperature
from any reflecting surface other than the inversions can radically change noise
ground. propagation, but tend to occur only at
night-time, outside school hours.)
2.3 Noise survey A noise measurement survey must
Figure 2.1 shows typical external and include octave or one-third octave
internal sources of noise which can affect frequency band levels. This is because the
noise levels inside a school. attenuation of sound, for example by a
In order to satisfy the limits for the sound insulating wall or noise barrier,
indoor ambient noise levels in Table 1.1, depends upon the frequency of sound. In
it is necessary to know the external noise general materials and barriers are less
level so that the building envelope can be effective at controlling low frequency
designed with the appropriate sound noise than mid and high frequency noise.
insulation. Although overall noise levels and
The external noise level should be performance standards can be quoted as
established by carrying out a noise overall A-weighted levels, calculations
measurement survey. (Note that a brief must be carried out in octave or one-third
survey is advisable even if the site appears octave bands (see Appendix 1) and the
to be quiet, in case there are noisy events results converted into overall A-weighted
at certain times of the day.) The levels.
measurements should be taken during In addition to the noise measurement
Figure 2.1: Typical
sources of noise






Noise control 2
survey, consideration should be given to 2.5 Aircraft noise
predicting the potential increases in noise Where a school is to be located in an area
levels due to future developments (eg affected by aircraft noise, special measures
increases in traffic flows, new transport are necessary and an acoustic consultant
schemes, changes in flight paths). The should be appointed.
local highway authority should be able to
advise on whether significant changes in 2.6 Vibration
road traffic noise are expected in the Railways, plant and heavy vehicles close to
future. This is likely to be relevant for a school can lead to vibration within the
developments near new or recently school buildings. This vibration can re-
improved roads. Where road traffic noise radiate as audible noise, even when the
levels are likely to increase, it is reasonable vibration itself is not perceptible as
to base the sound insulation requirements shaking in the building. The propagation
on the best estimate of noise levels in 15 of vibration depends on ground
years time. Similar information is likely to conditions but in general when planning a
be available from railway operators, and new school building it is advisable for the
airports. The prediction[2,3] of future noise survey to include vibration
external noise levels should be carried out measurements when there is a railway
by an acoustic consultant. within 30 m of a building, or a road with
If the noise measurement survey shows significant HGV traffic within 20 m. In
that the ambient external noise levels on these cases airborne noise is also likely to Figure 2.2: Attenuation
the site are below 45 dB LAeq,30min, and be a problem. by a noise barrier as a
prediction work shows that they will function of path difference
remain below 45 dB LAeq,30min in the
future, no special measures are likely to be
necessary to protect the buildings or
playing fields from external noise.

2.4 Road and rail noise
Sources of road and rail noise require b
individual assessment because of their Sound a
source Receiver
characteristics. c
Road traffic noise is a function of traffic Barrier
flow, percentage of heavy goods vehicles, Ground
traffic speed gradient (rate of acceleration),
Path difference = a + b – c
road surface and propagation path of the
Rail noise is a function of train type,
number, speed, rail type and propagation
path of the noise.
In general it is advisable to locate a 2000 Hz
school at least 100 m away from busy 1000 Hz
roads and railways, but in towns and cities 500 Hz
Attenuation, dB

this is often not possible. However, the 250 Hz
use of distance alone is a relatively 15
125 Hz
ineffective way to reduce noise. Simple
rules of thumb are that the noise level 10
from a busy road increases by 3 dB(A) for
a doubling of the traffic flow and 5
decreases by 3 dB(A) for a doubling of
distance from the road (over hard
ground). 0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
Path difference, m

2 Noise control

2.7 Noise barriers be affected by whether the road or railway
Noise barriers are much more effective is in a cutting or on an embankment.
than distance in reducing noise from road
or rail traffic. In its simplest form a noise 2.8 Noise from schools to
barrier can be a continuous close-boarded surrounding areas
wooden fence, with a mass of not less Noise from schools to the surrounding
than 12 kg/m2. There is relatively little area can also be a problem, and
point in increasing the weight of the consideration should be given to nearby
barrier beyond this because a significant residential and other noise-sensitive
proportion of the noise passes over the developments which could be disturbed
top (or round the ends) of the barrier. by noise from playgrounds, playing fields,
The attenuation of a barrier is a music rooms and halls used for events
function of the path difference, that is the such as after school concerts and discos.
extra distance that the sound has to travel The local planning authority will normally
to pass over the top of the barrier, see consider this in assessing any planning
Figure 2.2. Barriers are less effective at application for new schools or extensions
reducing low frequency noise than mid to existing premises.
and high frequency noise. Hence, to The effect of playground noise on
calculate the effectiveness of a noise children inside parts of the school near
barrier it is necessary to know the source the playground should also be considered
noise levels in octave or one-third octave as part of the design.
bands (see Appendix 1).
Hedges or single trees (or rows of 2.9 Planning and layout
trees) do not in themselves make effective Among the most common problems
noise barriers. A common and effective found in schools is noise transfer between
solution is a wooden fence to act as a rooms. To a large extent this can be
noise barrier, located within a band of designed out without resort to very high
trees to create an acceptable visual effect. performance sound insulating walls or
Barriers can also be formed by other floors, but by good planning and zoning
buildings or by landscaping using earth of the building at the earliest stages of
bunds, see Figure 2.3. The path design. At this stage it is possible to
difference, and hence the attenuation, will identify noise-sensitive areas and to

Figure 2.3: Traffic noise
barriers No acoustical shielding
from landscaping

Shielding from
embankment would be
improved by a fence
within the trees

Earth bund acts as
acoustic barrier, planting
acts as visual barrier

Noise control 2
separate these from noisy areas using To other
buffer zones such as storerooms, departments
corridors or less sensitive rooms, or by Acoustic separation
locating buildings a suitable distance for ensemble room and
group rooms
apart. See Figure 2.4 for an example of Other
room layout in a music department using classroom Ensemble
buffer zones. Room
When considering external noise such
as that from roads, it is sensible to locate Instrument
noise-sensitive rooms, such as classrooms, Stores store
away from the source.
Store Store
Tables 1.1 and 1.2 give the required buffer
maximum indoor ambient noise levels and
the minimum sound insulation levels
between rooms. The performance
Music Store
standards in these tables should be used
in the early planning stages of a project to
determine (a) the layout of the school
Corridor Group
(b) the constructions needed to provide creates
sound insulation and (c) the compatibility
of school activities in adjacent rooms. separation


2.10 Limiting indoor ambient noise Group
levels Room
The total indoor ambient noise level is Group
determined by combining the noise levels Store Room
from all the known sources. The indoor
ambient noise level due to external
sources such as traffic must be added to
the noise from mechanical ventilation, Music Base
heating systems, lighting and other classroom access to
building services. Unless care is taken, support Group
these individual sources can be loud spaces
enough to cause disturbance, particularly
in spaces where low indoor ambient noise Group Group Group
levels are required. Store
Room Room Room
It should be noted that noise levels in
dB or dB(A) cannot be simply added
together. For example, two noise levels of
40 dB(A) when combined will produce a to clean and are sometimes not used Fig 2.4: Planning acoustic
level of 43 dB(A). The addition of noise because of their effect on indoor air ‘buffer zones’
levels is explained in Appendix 1. quality and resultant health implications.
Resilient feet can also be fitted to
2.11 Impact noise furniture to reduce impact noise within a
Impact noise within a space from footfalls space.
on balconies, stairs and circulation routes,
or from movement of furniture or other 2.12 Corridors, entrance halls and
class activities, can be a significant stairwells
distraction to teaching and learning. Noise in corridors, entrance halls and
Carpets and other soft yet resilient stairwells can cause disturbance to
floor finishes such as resilient backed vinyl neighbouring classrooms and other
or rubber type flooring materials can be teaching spaces. It is therefore important
useful in limiting this impact noise within that reverberation in corridors, entrance
a space. However, carpets may be difficult halls and stairwells is kept as low as

2 Noise control

possible in order to minimise noise levels 2.14 Low frequency noise and
in these areas. The requirement is to hearing impaired pupils
provide sound absorption in accordance Many hearing impaired pupils make use
with Section 1.1.6. To satisfy this of low frequencies below 500 Hz to
requirement, corridors outside classrooms obtain information from speech.
typically need acoustically absorbent Therefore, for hearing impaired pupils to
ceilings and/or wall finishes. Carpets and be included in classes with pupils having
other soft floor finishes can also help to normal hearing, special care should be
reduce reverberation and the noise from taken to minimise low frequency indoor
footfalls. However, as discussed in Section ambient noise levels. Given the prevalence
2.11, the use of carpets may not be of infections leading to temporary hearing
appropriate in all schools. loss, it is advisable to minimise low
frequency indoor ambient noise levels in
2.13 Masking noise all classrooms, especially those used by
The audibility and intrusiveness of noise younger pupils.
from other areas (break-in noise) is a The indoor ambient noise levels in
function of both the level of the break-in Table 1.1 are given in terms of
noise and the noise level in the room LAeq,30min which is an A-weighted noise
under consideration (the receiving room). level. This is a convenient and widely-
If the ambient noise level in the receiving used parameter but is not a good
room is unnecessarily low, break-in noise indicator of low frequency noise. To
will be more audible. Hence where rooms assess indoor noise there are other rating
are mechanically ventilated, the noise systems in use which address low
from the ventilation system can be used frequency noise but these are beyond the
to mask the noise from activities in scope of this document. In cases where
neighbouring rooms. In these cases low frequency noise is likely to be a
ventilation noise should not be more than problem, specialist advice from an
5 dB below the maximum ambient noise acoustics consultant should be sought.
levels listed in Table 1.1. For this type of Such cases include schools exposed to
masking to work it is important to ensure high levels of external noise (in excess of
that the ventilation noise follows a specific 60 dB LAeq,30min, see Section 2.2),
masking noise curve and has no tonal or where sound insulation may reduce high
intermittent characteristics. Specialist frequency noise while leaving
acoustic advice is required before using comparatively high levels of low
building services noise for masking. frequency noise.
Other possible sources of masking More information is given in CIBSE
noise are fan convectors, electric lighting Guide B5 Noise and Vibration Control
circuits, and constant levels of road traffic for HVAC.[4]
noise, for example from distant arterial
roads. However it should be noted that
the noise from some sources (eg fans and
other mechanical equipment) may cause References
annoyance to individuals, particularly [1] B Shield, J Dockrell, R Jeffery and
hearing impaired people, in some I Tachmatzidis. The effects of noise on the
attainments and cognitive performance of
circumstances. Also, some building
primary school children. Department of Health,
services systems may only operate at 2002.
certain times of the year. [2] Calculation of road traffic noise (CRTN),
Department of Transport, The Stationery
Office, 1988.
[3] Calculation of railway noise (CRN),
(Supplement 1), Department of Transport,
The Stationery Office, 1995.
[4] CIBSE Guide B5, Noise and vibration
control for HVAC, CIBSE, 2002
ISBN 1 903287 2 51.

Sound insulation

General principles of sound insulation and typical constructions are discussed in
this section. Space does not allow all details for each type of construction to be
shown. Many such details are illustrated and discussed in greater detail in
Approved Document E[1]. Further guidance and illustrations are also available in
Sound Control for Homes[2] and in manufacturers’ literature for proprietary
materials and systems.

3.1 Roofs Section 1.1, it is a potentially important
The sound insulation of a pitched roof noise source which must be considered at
depends upon the mass of the ceiling and an early point in the roof design to
the roof layers and the presence of a minimise disturbance inside the school.
sound absorbing material in the roof Excessive noise from rain on the roof
space. Mineral wool, used as thermal can occur in spaces (eg sports halls,
insulation in the ceiling void, will also assembly halls) where the roof is made
provide some acoustic absorption, which from profiled metal cladding and there is
will have a small effect on the overall no sealed roof space below the roof to
sound insulation of a roof. A denser attenuate the noise before it radiates into
specification of mineral wool, as the space below. With profiled metal
commonly used for acoustic insulation, cladding, the two main treatments that
would have a greater effect on the overall should be used in combination to provide
sound insulation of the roof. sufficient resistance to impact sound from
Where it is necessary to ventilate the rain on the roof are:
roof space, it is advisable to make any • damping of the profiled metal cladding
necessary improvements to the sound (eg using commercial damping materials)
insulation by increasing the mass of the • independent ceilings (eg two sheets of
ceiling layer, which should be airtight. 10 kg/m2 board material such as
Recessed light fittings can make this plasterboard, each supported on its own
difficult and sometimes it is better to frame and isolated from the profiled metal
place the sound insulating material below cladding, with absorptive material such as
the roof covering and to extend partition mineral fibre included in the cavity.)
walls up to the roof layer (providing Profiled metal cladding used without a
adequate ventilation can be maintained). damping material and without an
independent ceiling is unlikely to provide
3.1.1 Rain noise sufficient resistance to impact sound from
The impact noise from rain on the roof rain on the roof. A suitable system that
can significantly increase the indoor noise could be used in schools is shown in
level; in some cases the noise level inside a Figure 3.1. The performance of such a
school due to rain can be as high as system was measured by McLoughlin et
70 dB(A). al[3].
Although rain noise is excluded from Prediction models are available to
Figure 3.1: Profiled metal
clad roof incorporating the definition of indoor ambient noise in predict the noise radiated from a single
acoustic damping sheet of material; however, a single sheet
will not provide sufficient attenuation of
impact noise from rain. Suitable
Damped aluminium tiles lightweight roof constructions that do
Plasticised steel top sheet provide sufficient attenuation will consist
50 – 100 mm mineral fibre of many layers. For these multi-layer roof
Two sheets of Fermacell board constructions, laboratory measured data
50 – 100 mm mineral fibre for the entire roof construction is needed.
Steel liner panel At the time of writing, a new laboratory

3 Sound insulation

measurement standard for impact sound 70 dB LAeq,30min.
from rain on the roof, ISO 140-18[4], is The School Premises Regulations[6]
under development. In the future this will require that:
allow comparison of the insulation “All occupied areas in a school building
provided by different roof, window and shall have controllable ventilation at a
glazing elements and calculation of the minimum rate of 3 litres of fresh air per
sound pressure level in the space below second for each of the maximum number of
the roof. persons the area will accommodate.
When designing against noise from rain All teaching accommodation, medical
on the roof, consideration should also be examination or treatment rooms, sick
given to any glazing (eg roof lights) in rooms, sleeping and living accommodation
the roof. Due to the variety of different shall also be capable of being ventilated at a
roof constructions, advice should be minimum rate of 8 litres of fresh air per
sought from an acoustic consultant who second for each of the usual number of
can calculate the sound pressure level in people in those areas when such areas are
the space due to typical rainfall on the occupied.”
specific roof. In densely occupied spaces such as
classrooms, 8 litres per second per person
3.2 External Walls is the minimum amount of fresh air that
For masonry walls, such as a 225 mm should be provided by a natural or
solid brick wall, a brick/block cavity wall mechanical ventilation system under
or a brick-clad timber frame wall, the normal working conditions, in order to
sound insulation performance will maintain good indoor air quality.
normally be such that the windows, In order to satisfy the limits for the
ventilators and, in some cases, the roof indoor ambient noise levels in Table 1.1,
will dictate the overall sound insulation of it is necessary to consider the sound
the building envelope. attenuation of the ventilation openings so
Timber frame walls with lightweight that the building envelope can be
cladding and other lightweight systems of designed with the appropriate overall
construction normally provide a lower sound insulation. In calculations of overall
standard of sound insulation at low sound insulation the attenuation assumed
frequencies, where road traffic and aircraft for the ventilation system should be for
often produce high levels of noise. This normal operating conditions.
can result in low airborne sound The main choices for the natural
insulation against these noise sources ventilation of typical classrooms are
unless the cladding system has sufficient shown in Figure 3.2. Case Studies 7.8
low frequency sound insulation. The and 7.9 describe the recent application of
airborne sound insulation can be assessed two of these design solutions in new
from laboratory measurements carried out secondary school buildings.
according to BS EN ISO 140-3:1995[5]. Additional ventilation such as openable
windows or vents may be required to
3.3 Ventilation prevent summertime overheating.
The method of ventilation as well as the
type and location of ventilation openings 3.3.1 Ventilators
will affect the overall sound insulation of Passive ventilators normally penetrate the
the building envelope. When external walls, but in some cases they penetrate the
noise levels are higher than 60 dB window frames (eg trickle ventilators) or
LAeq,30min , simple natural ventilation the windows themselves. Often windows
solutions may not be appropriate as the are not used as intended as they cause
ventilation openings also let in noise. uncomfortable draughts. For this reason,
However, it is possible to use acoustically increased use is being made of purpose
attenuated natural ventilation rather than designed ventilation systems with or
full mechanical ventilation when external without acoustic attenuation.
noise levels are high but do not exceed Many proprietary products are

Sound insulation 3

2.7 m Secondary glazing with
staggered openings
Acoustically treated high
capacity air inlet


2.7 m

Secondary glazing with
staggered openings


Absorbent duct lining
Acoustic louvres on outside
plus secondary glazing with
2.7 m staggered openings and
acoustically treated high
capacity air inlet


Absorbent duct lining
Acoustic louvres on outside
2.7 m Secondary glazing with
staggered openings
Attenuator plenum box
Electronic noise

Figure 3.2: Possible
types of natural ventilation

3 Sound insulation

designed for the domestic sector and in difference for cavity widths between 6 mm
some cases they do not have large enough and 16 mm. Wider cavity widths perform
openings for classrooms and other large significantly better.
rooms found in schools. The acoustic In existing buildings, secondary glazing
performance of any ventilator can be may be installed as an alternative to
assessed with laboratory sound insulation replacing existing single glazing with
test data measured according to BS EN double glazing. The effectiveness of
20140-10:1992[7]. Because of the secondary glazing will be determined by
complexity of the assessment of the the thickness of the glass and the width of
acoustic performance of a ventilator, the air gap between the panes. Another
advice may be needed from a specialist alternative may be to fit a completely new
acoustic consultant. To maintain adequate double-glazed window on the inside of
ventilation, it is essential that the effective the existing window opening, leaving the
area of the ventilator is considered as it original window intact. The use of sound
may be smaller than the free area absorbing reveal linings improves the
(see prEN 13141-1[8]). performance of double-glazed windows,
It is important, particularly in the case but the improvement is mainly in the
of sound-attenuated products, that a good middle to high frequency region, where it
seal is achieved between the penetration has little effect on road traffic and aircraft
through the wall or window and the noise spectra.
ventilator unit. Where through-the-wall To achieve their optimum
products are used, the aperture should be performance, it is essential that the
cut accurately and the gap around the glazing in windows makes an airtight seal
perimeter of the penetrating duct should with its surround, and that opening lights
be packed with sound insulating material have effective seals around the perimeter
prior to application of a continuous, of each frame. Neoprene compression
flexible, airtight seal on both sides. seals will provide a more airtight seal than
In some schools bespoke ventilator brush seals. The framing of the window
designs, such as that shown in Figure 3.3, should also be assembled to achieve an
are needed. For more examples of airtight construction.
ventilator solutions see Case Studies 7.8 It is equally important that an airtight
and 7.9. seal is achieved between the perimeter of
the window frame and the opening into
3.4 External Windows which it is to be fixed. The opening
The airborne sound insulation of should be accurately made to receive the
windows can be assessed from laboratory window, and the perimeter packed with
measurements of the sound reduction sound insulating material prior to
index according to BS EN ISO 140- application of a continuous seal on both
3:1995[5]. When choosing suitable sides.
windows using measured data, care must For partially open single-glazed
be taken to differentiate between windows or double-glazed windows with
measured data for glazing and measured opposite opening panes, the laboratory
data for windows. The reason is that the measured airborne sound insulation is
overall sound insulation performance of a approximately 10-15 dB Rw . This
window is affected by the window frame increases to 20-25 dB Rw in the open
and the sealing as well as the glazing. position for a secondary glazing system
To achieve the required sound with partially open ventilation openings,
insulation with thin glass it is often with the openings staggered on plan or
necessary to use two panes separated by elevation, and with absorbent lining of
an air (or other gas) filled cavity. In the window reveals (see Figure 3.3). In
theory, the wider the gap between the situ, the degree of attenuation provided
panes, the greater the sound insulation. by an open window also depends on the
In practice, the width of the cavity in spectrum of the noise and the geometry
double glazing makes relatively little of the situation.

Sound insulation 3

Softwood framing to
extend reveals
Sound absorbing reveal
Existing inward opening light, linings to head and sides
movement to be restricted

Second casement openable
for cleaning only
Retrofit secondary glazing producing
a staggered air flow path. Designed
to limit aircraft noise intrusion to
science laboratories at a secondary 300 mm nominal
school near an airport.
Bottom hung casement,
A sound reduction of approximately openable for ventilation,
20-25 dB Rw was achieved using this fitted with secure adjustable stay
design. 200 mm nominal

Existing brickwork wall Supporting framing below cill

The spreadsheet of sound reduction seals can however be effective and tend to Figure 3.3: Secondary
glazing producing a
indices on the DfES acoustic website be more hard wearing than compression
staggered air flow path
gives values of Rw for various types of seals.
window, glazing thickness, and air gap. It is also important that an airtight seal
Indications are also given of the sound is achieved between the perimeter of the
reduction indices of open windows. door frame and the opening into which it
is to be fixed. The opening should be
3.5 External Doors accurately made to receive the door frame
For external doors the airborne sound and any gaps around the perimeter packed
insulation is determined by the door set, with insulating material prior to
which is the combination of door and application of a continuous, airtight seal
frame. The quality of the seal achieved on both sides.
around the perimeter of the door is A high level of airborne sound
crucial in achieving the potential insulation is difficult to provide using a
performance of the door itself. Effective single door; however, it can be achieved
seals should be provided at the threshold, by using a lobby with two sets of doors,
jambs and head of the door frame. As as often provided for energy efficiency, or
with windows, neoprene compression a specialist acoustic doorset.
seals are more effective than brush seals,
but their effectiveness will be strongly
influenced by workmanship on site. Brush

3 Sound insulation

SOUND INSULATION OF THE building, and to assume this exposure for
BUILDING ENVELOPE other elements too. This may be suitable
There are two methods by which it is at the early design stage for large schools.
possible to calculate the indoor ambient However, where external noise levels vary
noise levels due to external noise. significantly, this approach can lead to
The first method is to calculate the over-specification and unnecessary cost.
indoor ambient noise level according to
the principles of BS EN 12354-3:2000[9]. 3.8 Calculations
An Excel spreadsheet to calculate the A calculation of the internal noise level
sound insulation of building envelopes, according to BS EN 12354-3:2000 can
based on BS EN 12354-3:2000 is be used to estimate whether, for the levels
available via the DfES acoustics website. of external noise at any particular site, a
The principles of this calculation proposed construction will achieve the
spreadsheet are given in Appendix 5. levels in Table 1.1. By estimating the
The second method is to calculate the internal levels for various different
indoor ambient noise level using the constructions, designers can determine
measured façade sound insulation data the most suitable construction in any
from an identical construction at another given situation. BS EN 12354-3:2000
site. allows the effects of both direct and
flanking transmission to be calculated, but
3.6 Subjective characteristics of in many cases it is appropriate to consider
noise only direct transmission.
The indoor ambient noise levels in Table
1.1 provide a reasonable basis for 3.9 Test method
assessment, but some noises have tonal or Field testing of an existing building
intermittent characteristics which make envelope should be conducted according
them particularly noticeable or disturbing, to BS EN ISO 140-5:1998[10], with
even below the specified levels. This is reference to the clarifications given in this
most common with industrial noise. At a section.
minority of sites, achieving the levels in BS EN ISO 140-5:1998 sets out
Table 1.1 will not prevent disturbance various test methods. The three ‘global’
from external industrial sources, and tests using the prevailing external noise
additional noise mitigation may be source(s) (road traffic, railway traffic, air
required. In these cases advice from an traffic) are preferable. At most sites road
acoustic consultant should be sought. traffic is likely to be the dominant source
The potentially beneficial masking of noise, and the corresponding
effect of some types of continuous standardised level difference is denoted
broadband external noise (such as road Dtr,2m,nT . Where aircraft noise is the
traffic noise) must also be borne in mind, major concern measurements should be
see Section 2.12. This noise may partially made accordingly, and the standardised
mask other sounds, such as from level difference denoted Dat,2m,nT .
neighbouring classrooms, which may be Similarly the standardised level difference
more disturbing than the external noise. using railway noise as the source is
There are acoustic benefits, as well as cost denoted Drt,2m,nT .
benefits, in ensuring that the level of The global loudspeaker test method
insulation provided is not over-specified (which generates Dls,2m,nT values) may
but is commensurate with the external be used only if the prevailing external
noise. noise sources are insufficient to generate
an adequate internal level.
3.7 Variation of noise incident on It is reasonable, under certain
different facades conditions as specified below, to use the
It may be convenient to determine the test results to indicate the likely
external noise level at the most exposed performance of building envelopes of a
window (or part of the roof) of a similar construction, exposed to similar

Sound insulation 3
sources. If the conditions are not met
then it is not reasonable to infer the
performance from existing sound
insulation test results and the calculation
procedure should be used.
airborne sound
3.9.1 Conditions for similar
The following features of any untested
construction should be similar to those of
the tested construction:
• type and number of ventilators
• glazing specification, frame
construction and area of windows
impact sound
• type and number of doors
• external wall construction and area
• roof construction and area.

3.9.2 Conditions for similar sources
Only test results in terms of Dtr,2m,nT , rooms in terms of DnT (Tmf,max),w. Figure 3.4: Sound
However, manufacturers provide transmission paths
Dat,2m,nT , Drt,2m,nT and Dls,2m,nT
between adjacent rooms:
values are applicable, and these should information for individual building
direct sound paths through
not be used interchangeably. The elements based on laboratory airborne the wall and floor and
following features concerning the sound insulation data measured according flanking paths through the
prevailing sources of noise should be to BS EN ISO 140-3:1995[5], in terms of surrounding ceiling, wall
similar to those of the previously tested the sound reduction index, Rw. Figure and floor junctions
construction: 3.5 shows the values of Rw for some
• relative contributions of road traffic, typical building elements.
railway and aircraft noise This section provides some basic
• orientation of the building relative to guidance for the designer on how to use
the main noise source(s) laboratory Rw values to choose a suitable
• ground height of the building relative separating wall or floor for the initial
to the main noise source(s). design. However, specialist advice should
always be sought from an acoustic
SOUND INSULATION BETWEEN consultant early on in the design stage to
ROOMS assess whether the combination of the
This section describes constructions separating and flanking walls is likely to
capable of achieving the different levels of achieve the performance standard in Table
sound insulation specified in Tables 1.2 1.2. An acoustic consultant can use
and 1.4. advanced methods of calculation to
Appendix 3 describes how sound predict the sound insulation (eg Statistical
insulation between adjacent rooms is Energy Analysis or BS EN 12354-
measured and calculated. 1:2000[11]). The correct specification of
In addition to the transmission of flanking walls and floors is of high
direct sound through the wall or floor, importance because incorrect specification
additional sound is transmitted into the of flanking details can lead to reductions in
receiving room via indirect, or 'flanking' the expected performance of up to 30 dB.
paths, see Figure 3.4.

3.10 Specification of the airborne
sound insulation between rooms
using Rw
Table 1.2 describes the minimum
weighted sound level difference between

3 Sound insulation

100 mm slab
150 mm with resilient
60 staggered stud hangers
6 mm with 12 mm 100 mm slab
glass plasterboard with rigid
55 200 mm hangers

45 225 mm
115 mm brickwork
6 mm
Sound reduction index, dB

40 glass concrete slab plastered
6 mm 25 mm 10 mm with 50 mm
glass wall board 100 mm breeze screed
35 space
one side 115 mm
30 12 mm brickwork
12 mm plasterboard plastered
glass with
25 3 mm 50 x 100 studs 100 mm breeze
glass plastered
20 100 mm breeze both sides
15 Solid core
timber door
10 Hollow core
panel door

1 10 20 50 100 200 400
Mass per unit area, kg/m2

Figure 3.5: Typical sound
reduction indices for
construction elements The following procedure can be used element (m2)
to choose an appropriate type of Tmf,max is the maximum value of the
separating wall or floor before seeking reverberation time Tmf for the receiving
specialist advice on appropriate flanking room from Table 1.5 (s)
details. V is the volume of the receiving room
1. From Table 1.2 determine the
b. Estimate the likely reduction, X dB, in
required minimum weighted BB93
the airborne sound insulation that would
standardized sound level difference
occur in the field, to account for less
between rooms, DnT(Tmf,max),w .
favourable mounting conditions and
workmanship than in the laboratory test.
2. Estimate the required weighted sound
X can be estimated to be 5 dB assuming
reduction index for the separating wall or
that flanking walls and floors are specified
floor, as follows:
with the correct junction details.
a. Use the following formula to provide However, if flanking walls and floors are
an initial estimate of the measured not carefully designed then poor detailing
sound reduction index (Rw,est) that can cause the airborne sound insulation to
should be achieved by the separating wall be reduced by up to 30 dB. To allow the
or floor in the laboratory. designer to choose a suitable separating
wall for the initial design it is
Rw,est = recommended that X of 5 dB is assumed
DnT(Tmf,max),w +10 lg ( V
) +8 dB and an acoustic consultant is used to
check the choice of separating element
where DnT(Tmf,max),w is the minimum and ensure that the correct flanking
weighted BB93 standardized level details are specified.
difference between rooms from Table 1.2
S is the surface area of the separating c. Calculate the final estimate for the

Sound insulation 3
weighted sound reduction index Rw that
Figure 3.6: The main
should be used to select the separating flanking transmission paths
wall or floor from laboratory test data:
Rw = Rw,est + X dB

3.10.1 Flanking details Through the junction
with the external walls
A simplified diagram indicating the main
flanking transmission paths is shown in
Figure 3.6. General guidance on flanking
details for both masonry and framed
constructions can be found in Approved
Document E[1]. Specific guidance on
Through the junction
flanking details for products can also with the internal walls
sometimes be found from manufacturers'
data sheets, or by contacting
manufacturers’ technical advisers.

3.10.2 Examples of problematic
flanking details Through the junction
with the ceiling and
In some buildings it is considered floor slab above
desirable to lay a floating screed (eg a
sand-cement screed laid upon a resilient
material) across an entire concrete floor
and build lightweight partitions off the
screed to form the rooms, see Figure Through the junction
3.7(a). This allows the flexibility to with the floor slab below
change the room spaces. However, a
continuous floating screed can transmit a
significant quantity of structure-borne
flanking sound from one room to do not leave air paths between the top of
another. the partition wall and the roof.
For example, if a lightweight partition
with 54 dB Rw was built off a continuous 3.10.3 Junctions between ceilings and
floating screed the actual sound insulation internal walls
could be as low as 40 dB Ceilings should be designed in relation to
DnT(Tmf,max),w. In fact, even if a more internal walls to achieve the required
expensive partition with a higher combined performance in respect of
sound insulation, fire compartmentation Figure 3.7: Flanking
performance of 64 dB Rw was built, the transmission via floating
actual sound insulation would still be and support. screed
40 dB DnT(Tmf,max),w, because the In the case of suspended ceiling systems (a) Incorrect detail
majority of sound is being transmitted via the preferred construction is one in which (b) Correct detail
the screed, which is the dominant flanking
path. This demonstrates the importance
of detailing the junction between the
(a) (b)
screed and the lightweight partition. To
reduce the flanking transmission, the
floating screed should stop at the
lightweight partition, see Figure 3.7(b).
Another flanking detail that can cause
problems is where a lightweight profiled
metal roof deck runs across the top of a
separating partition wall. With profiles
such as trapezoidal sections, it is very
difficult for builders to ensure that they

3 Sound insulation

partitions or walls pass through the to BS EN ISO 140-6:1998[13], in terms
suspended ceiling membrane, do not of Ln,w.
require support from the ceiling system, This section provides some basic
and combine with the structural soffit guidance for the designer on how to use
above to provide fire resisting laboratory Ln,w values to design a suitable
compartmentation and sound insulation. separating floor. However, specialist
The alternative construction in which advice should always be sought from an
partitions or walls terminate at, or just acoustic consultant early on in the design
above the soffit of a suspended ceiling, is process to assess whether the combination
not recommended as it demands a ceiling of the separating floor and flanking walls
performance in respect of fire resistance is likely to achieve the performance
and sound insulation which is difficult to standard in Table 1.4. An acoustic
achieve and maintain in practice in school consultant can use advanced methods of
buildings. This is because the number of calculation to predict the sound insulation
fittings required at ceiling level is (eg Statistical Energy Analysis or BS EN
incompatible with testing of fire resistance 12354-2:2000[14]).
to BS 476[12], which is based on a test The following procedure can be used
specimen area of ceilings without fittings. to choose an appropriate type of
Furthermore, the scale and frequency of separating floor before seeking specialist
access to engineering services in the advice on flanking details from an
ceiling void through the membrane (in acoustic consultant.
respect of fire) and through insulation
backing the membrane (in respect of 1. Determine the maximum weighted
sound) is incompatible with maintenance BB93 standardized impact sound pressure
of these aspects of performance. level, L′nT(Tmf,max),w from Table 1.4.

3.10.4 Flanking transmission through 2. Estimate the required weighted
windows normalized impact sound pressure level
Flanking transmission can occur between for the separating floor, as follows:
adjacent rooms via open windows in the
external walls. Side opening casement a. Use the following formula to provide
windows near the separating wall should an initial estimate of the weighted
have their hinges on the separating wall normalized impact sound pressure level
side to minimise airborne sound (Ln,w,est) that should be achieved by the
transmitted from one room to another. separating floor in the laboratory:
Where possible, windows in external walls Ln,w,est =
should be located away from the junction L′nT(Tmf,max),w + 10 lg –18 dB
between the external walls and the
separating wall or floor. In particular, where L′nT(Tmf,max),w is the maximum
windows in the external walls of noise weighted BB93 standardized impact
sensitive rooms and in the external walls sound pressure level from Table 1.4
of rooms adjacent to them should be as V is the volume of the receiving room
far as possible from the separating wall or (m3)
floor. Tmf,max is the maximum value of the
reverberation time Tmf for the receiving
3.11 Specification of the impact room from Table 1.5 (s).
sound insulation between rooms
b. Estimate the likely increase, X dB, in
using Ln,w
the impact sound pressure level that
Table 1.4 describes the minimum impact
would occur in the field to account for
sound insulation between rooms in terms
less favourable mounting conditions and
of L′nT(Tmf,max),w. However,
good workmanship than in the laboratory
manufacturers usually provide information
for floors based on laboratory impact
X can be 5 dB assuming that flanking
sound insulation data measured according
walls are specified with the correct

Sound insulation 3
junction details. However, if flanking The solid line shows the theoretical
walls are not carefully designed the impact value based purely on the mass law. For
sound pressure level can increase by up to single leaf elements (eg walls, single
10 dB. To allow the designer to choose a glazing, doors, etc) the mass law states
suitable separating floor for the initial that doubling the mass of the element
design it is suggested that X of 5 dB is will give an increase of 5 to 6 dB in Rw .
assumed and an acoustic consultant is When constructions provide less sound
used to check the choice of separating insulation than predicted by the mass law
floor and ensure that the correct flanking it is usually because they are not airtight.
details are specified. In general, lightweight double-leaf
constructions such as double glazing,
c. Calculate the final estimate for the
cavity masonry or double-leaf
weighted normalised impact sound
plasterboard partitions provide better
pressure level Ln,w that should be used to
sound insulation than the mass law would
select the separating wall or floor from
indicate. At medium and high
laboratory test data.
frequencies, double-leaf constructions
Ln,w = Ln,w,est – X dB
benefit from the separation of the two
leaves, with performance increasing with
3.12 Internal walls and partitions
the width of the air gap between the
leaves and the physical separation of the
3.12.1 General principles
leaves. (Note that for double-leaf
Figure 3.5 shows typical values of the
plasterboard constructions, timber
sound reduction index (Rw) for different Figure 3.8: Chart to
studwork is rarely used to achieve high
wall constructions. For comparison the estimate Rw for a
standards of sound insulation because composite wall consisting
performance of other constructions
lightweight metal studs provide better of two elements with
including doors, glazing and floors is
mechanical isolation between the leaves.) different transmission
included. losses

The percentage of the total area of the wall occupied
14.0 by the element with the lower transmission loss, eg a
Area 5% door, and the difference between the higher Rw and
the lower Rw, are used to calculate the correction in
dB which is added to the lower Rw to give the Rw of
11.0 the whole wall.
10.0 For example: Assume a classroom to corridor wall
9.0 has an Rw of 45 dB and a door in the wall has an Rw
Correction, dB

of 30 dB. If the area of the door is 0.85 m x 2.1 m =
1.785 m2 and the area of the wall is 7 m x 2.7 m =
7.0 18.9 m2, then the percentage of the wall occupied by
the door is 1.785/18.9 x 100 = 9.4%
5.0 The difference in Rw = 15 dB.
4.0 Therefore reading from the chart gives a correction of
50% about 9 dB to be added to the lower Rw, giving a
60% composite Rw of 39 dB.
If a higher performance door of say 35 dB had been
used, the composite Rw would be 35 + 7 = 42 dB.
2 6 10 14 18 22 26 30
Transmission loss difference, dB

3 Sound insulation

At low frequencies the performance of The values in Figure 3.9 are necessarily
plasterboard partitions is limited by the approximate and will depend on the
mass and stiffness of the partition. precise constructions and materials used.
Masonry walls can provide better low Many blockwork and plasterboard
frequency sound insulation simply manufacturers provide data for specific
because of their mass. This is not obvious constructions.
from the Rw figures, as the Rw rating More sound reduction indices, both
system lends more importance to single value and octave band data, and
insulation at medium and high further references to specific
frequencies rather than low frequencies. manufacturers’ data are in the sound
This is not normally a problem in general reduction indices spreadsheet included on
classroom applications where sound the DfES acoustics website.
insulation is mainly required at speech
frequencies. However, it can be important 3.12.3 Flanking transmission
in music rooms and in other cases where In general, a weighted sound level
low frequency sound insulation is difference of up to 50 dB DnT(Tmf,max),w
important. can be achieved between adjacent rooms
A combination of masonry and dry- by a single partition wall using one of the
lining can be very effective in providing constructions described above, provided
reasonable low frequency performance that there are no doors, windows or other
with good sound insulation at higher weaknesses in that partition wall, and that
frequencies. This combination is often flanking walls/floors with their junction
useful when increasing the sound details are carefully designed. Flanking
insulation of existing masonry walls. transmission is critical in determining the
While partition walls may be provided actual performance and specialist advice
as a means of achieving sound reduction, should be sought from an acoustic
it should be remembered that sound consultant.
insulation is no better than that provided
by the weakest element. 3.12.4 High performance
Figure 3.8 can be used to assess the constructions – flanking transmission
overall effect of a composite construction High-performance plasterboard partitions
such as a partition with a window, door, or masonry walls with independent linings
hole or gap in it. The sound insulation of can provide airborne sound insulation as
the composite structure is obtained by high as 70 dB Rw in the laboratory.
relating the areas and sound insulation However, to achieve high performance in
values of the component parts using the practice (ie above 50 dB DnT(Tmf,max),w),
graph. flanking walls/floors with their junction
Partitions should be well sealed, as details must be carefully designed.
small gaps, holes, etc. significantly reduce Airborne sound insulation as high as 65 dB
sound insulation. (Note that this applies DnT(Tmf,max),w can be achieved on site
to porous materials, eg porous blockwork, using high performance plasterboard
which can transmit a significant amount partitions, or masonry walls with
of sound energy through the pores.) independent linings with lightweight
isolated floors and independent ceilings to
3.12.2 Sound insulation of common control flanking transmission. This will
constructions require specialist advice from an acoustic
Figure 3.9 shows the approximate consultant.
weighted sound reduction index Rw for For rooms which would otherwise
masonry and plasterboard constructions. need high-performance partitions it may
Using the procedures given in Section be possible to use circulation spaces,
3.10, it is possible to determine which stores and other less noise-sensitive rooms
constructions are capable of meeting the to act as buffer zones between rooms
requirements between different types of such that partitions with lower levels of
rooms. sound insulation can be used. Case Study

Sound insulation 3
Figure 3.9: Walls -
airborne sound insulation
for some typical wall

Performance Rw (dB) Walls - typical forms of construction

35–40 1x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a metal
stud (total width 75 mm)

100 mm block (low density 52 kg/m2)
plastered/rendered 12 mm one side

40–45 1x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a 48 mm metal stud with
glass fibre/mineral wool in cavity (total width 75 mm)

100 mm block (medium density 140 kg/m2)
plastered/rendered 12 mm one side

45–50 2x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a 70 mm
metal stud (total width 122 mm)

115 mm brickwork plastered/rendered 12 mm both sides

100 mm block (medium density 140 kg/m2)
plastered/rendered 12 mm both sides

50–55 2x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a 150 mm
metal stud with glass fibre/mineral wool in
cavity (total width 198 mm)

225 mm brickwork plastered/rendered 12 mm both sides

215 mm block (high density 430 kg/m2)
plastered/rendered 12 mm both sides

55–60 2x12.5 mm plasterboard each side of a staggered
60 mm metal stud with glass fibre/mineral wool in
cavity (total width 178 mm)

100 mm block (high density 200 kg/m2) with 12 mm plaster on
one side and 1x12.5 mm plasterboard on metal frame with a
50 mm cavity filled with glass fibre/mineral wool on other side

3 Sound insulation

Figure 3.10: Glazing - airborne sound insulation for some typical glazing constructions

Performance Rw (dB) Glazing - typical forms of construction

25 4 mm single float (sealed)

28 6 mm single float (sealed)

4/12/4: 4 mm glass/12 mm air gap/4 mm glass

30 6/12/6: 6 mm glass/12 mm air gap/6 mm glass

10 mm single float (sealed)

33 12 mm single float (sealed)

16/12/8: 16 mm glass/12 mm air gap/8 mm glass

35 10 mm laminated single float (sealed)

4/12/10: 4 mm glass/12 mm air gap/10 mm glass

38 6/12/10: 6 mm glass/12 mm air gap/10 mm glass

12 mm laminated single float (sealed)

40 10/12/6 lam: 10 mm glass/12 mm air gap/6 mm laminated glass

19 mm laminated single float (sealed)

10/50/6: 10 mm glass/50 mm air gap/6 mm glass

43 10/100/6: 10 mm glass/100 mm air gap/6 mm glass

12 lam/12/10: 12 mm laminated glass/12 mm
air gap/10 mm glass

45 6 lam/200/10: 6 mm laminated glass/200 mm
air gap/10 mm + absorptive reveals

17 lam/12/10: 17 mm laminated glass/12 mm
air gap/10 mm glass

Sound insulation 3
7.5 (see also Figure 2.4) describes a around 15 dB Rw which is about 30 dB
purpose built music suite which uses less than for a typical masonry wall (see
buffer zones effectively. In some cases, Figure 3.5). The sound insulation of an
such as the refurbishment of music existing door can be improved by
facilities in existing buildings, room increasing its mass (eg by adding two
layout may not allow this, and in these layers of 9 mm plywood or steel facings)
cases high levels of sound insulation as long as the frame and hinges can
between adjacent rooms will be required. support the additional weight. However,
it is often simpler to fit a new door.
3.12.5 Corridor walls and doors The mass of a door is not the only
The Rw values in Table 1.3 should be variable that ensures good sound
used to specify wall (including any glazing) insulation. Good sealing around the frame
and door constructions between corridors is crucial. Air gaps should be minimised
or stairwells and other spaces. To ensure by providing continuous grounds to the
that the door achieves its potential in frame which are fully sealed to the
terms of its airborne sound insulation, it masonry opening. There should be a
must have good perimeter sealing, generous frame rebate and a proper edge
including the threshold where practical. seal all around the door leaf. Acoustic
Note that a lightweight fire door will seals can eliminate gaps between the door
usually give lower sound insulation than a and the door frame to ensure that the
heavier, sealed acoustic door. door achieves its potential in terms of its
Greatly improved sound insulation will airborne sound insulation.
be obtained by having a lobby door As a rule of thumb, even a good
arrangement between corridors or quality acoustically sealed door in a 55 dB
stairwells and other spaces. However, this Rw wall between two classrooms will
is not often practicable between classrooms reduce the Rw of the wall so that the
and corridors. Some noise transmission DnT(Tmf,max),w is only 30-35 dB. Two
from corridors into classrooms is such doors, separated by a door lobby, are
inevitable, but this may not be important necessary to maintain the sound
if all lesson changes occur simultaneously. insulation of the wall. Figure 3.12 shows
For some types of room, such as music the effect of different doors on the overall
rooms, studios and halls for music and sound insulation of different types of wall.
drama performance, lobby doors should In a conventional layout with access to
generally be used. classrooms from a corridor, the corridor
acts as a lobby between the two classroom
3.13 Internal doors, glazing, windows doors.
and folding partitions
Internal doors, glazing and windows are 3.13.2 Lobbies
normally the weakest part of any The greater the distance between the
separating wall. Figures 3.10 and 3.11 lobby doors, the better the sound
show the performance of a number of insulation, particularly at low frequencies.
different types of window and door. In Maximum benefit from a lobby is
general, rooms which require at least 35 associated with offset door openings as
dB DnT(Tmf,max),w should not have shown in Figure 3.13(a) and acoustically
doors or single glazing in the separating absorbent wall and/or ceiling finishes.
wall or partition. A lobby is useful between a
performance space and a busy entrance
3.13.1 Doors hall. Where limitations of space preclude a
The choice of appropriate doors with lobby, a double door in a single wall will
good door seals is critical to maintaining be more effective than a single door; this
effective sound reduction, and controlling configuration is illustrated in Figure
the transfer of sound between spaces. 3.13(b).
Internal doors are often of lightweight Inter-connecting doors between two
hollow core construction, providing only music spaces should be avoided and a

3 Sound insulation

Acoustic performance Typical construction
30 dB Rw This acoustic performance can be achieved by a well fitted
solid core doorset where the door is sealed effectively
around its perimeter in a substantial frame with an effective
stop. A 30 minute fire doorset (FD30) can be suitable.

Timber FD30 doors often have particle cores or laminated
softwood cores with a mass per unit area ≈ 27 kg/m2 and a
thickness of ≈ 44 mm.

Frames for FD30 doors often have a 90 mm x 40 mm
section with a stop of at least 15 mm.
44 mm
Compression or wipe seals should be used around the door’s
perimeter along with a threshold seal beneath. A drop-down
44 mm thick timber door, half hour fire rated or wipe type threshold seal is suitable.

Doors incorporating 900 mm x 175 mm vision panels
comprising 7 mm fire resistant glass can meet this acoustic

35 dB Rw This acoustic performance can be achieved by specialist
doorsets although it can also be achieved by a well fitted
FD60 fire doorset where the door is sealed effectively
around its perimeter in a substantial frame with an effective

Timber FD60 doors often have particle core or laminated
softwood cores with a mass per unit area ≈ 29 kg/m2 and a
thickness of ≈ 54 mm. Using a core material with greater
density than particle or laminated softwood can result in a
door thickness of ≈ 44 mm.

54 mm Frames for FD60 doors can have a 90 mm x 40 mm section
with stops of at least 15 mm.

Compression or wipe seals should be used around the door’s
54 mm thick timber door, one hour fire rated perimeter along with a threshold seal beneath. A drop-down
or wipe type threshold seal is suitable.

Doors incorporating 900 mm x 175 mm vision panels
comprising 7 mm fire resistant glass can meet this

NOTES ON FIGURE 3.11 Figure 3.11: Doors -
1 Care should be taken to ensure that the force required to open doors used in schools is not airborne sound insulation
excessive for children. To minimise opening forces, doors should be fitted correctly and good for some typical door
quality hinges and latches used. Door closers should be selected with care. constructions
2 The opening force at the handles of doors used by children aged 5–12 should not exceed 45 N.
3 Manufacturers should be asked to provide test data to enable the specification of doorsets.
4 Gaps between door frames and the walls in which they are fixed should be ≤ 10 mm.
5 Gaps between door frames and the walls in which they are fixed should be filled to the full depth
of the wall with ram-packed mineral wool and sealed on both sides of the wall with a non-
hardening sealant.
6 Seals on doors should be regularly inspected and replaced when worn.

Sound insulation 3
Sound insulation of wall
with door (dB) Double doors, ie one door either side
of a lobby (the diagonal straight line
50 illustrates how the insulation value of
the original partition can only be
maintained at 100% by incorporating a
'very good'
set of double doors with a lobby)
Heavy door with edge seal
Light door with edge seal
Any door (gaps round edges)

20 30 40 50 Sound insulation of wall
without door (dB)
eg 100 mm: stud work with plasterboard
and skin both sides (no insulation)

eg 300 kg/m2 150 mm 'high' density
blockwork, plastered at least one side

eg 225 mm common brick plastered
both sides

lobby used to provide the necessary 3.13.4 Roller shutters Figure 3.12: Reduction
airborne sound insulation. Roller shutters are sometimes used to of sound insulation of a
wall incorporating different
separate kitchens from multi-purpose
types of door
3.13.3 Folding walls and operable spaces used for dining. Because roller
partitions shutters typically only provide sound
Folding walls and operable partitions are insulation of around 20 dB Rw it is
sometimes used to provide flexibility in common for noise from the kitchen to
teaching spaces or to divide open plan disturb the teaching activities. One
areas. A standard folding partition with
no acoustic seals or detailing may provide
a value as low as 25 dB Rw . However,
folding partitions are available that can
provide up to 55 dB Rw . The sound
insulation depends on effective acoustic
sealing and deteriorates if seals or tracks
are worn or damaged.
It is important that the specification of
folding partitions takes into account their
weight, ease of opening and maintenance.
Regular inspection and servicing will
extend the life of a partition and ensure
that it achieves the required sound (a)
Folding partitions are useful in many Figure 3.13: Use of
applications but they should only be used lobbies and double doors
when necessary and not as a response to a (a) Lobbied doorway
(b) Double door
non-specific desire for flexibility in layout
of teaching areas.

3 Sound insulation

Figure 3.14: Existing timber floors - airborne and impact sound insulation for some typical floor/ceiling constructions

Option Construction - timber floors Rw Ln,w Depth
(dB) (dB) (mm)
1 Basic timber floor consisting of 15 mm floorboards 35–40 80–85 180–
on 150-200 mm wooden joists, plaster or 230
plasterboard ceiling fixed to joists

2 As 1, ceiling consisting of one layer of 15 mm 50–55 65–70 220–
plasterboard and one layer of 12.5 mm dense 270
plasterboard fixed to proprietary resilient bars on
underside of joists

3 As 1, ceiling retained, with suspended ceiling 55–60 60–65 450–
consisting of 2 layers of 15 mm wallboard or 2 500
layers of 12.5 mm dense plasterboard, suspended
on a proprietary metal ceiling system to give
240 mm cavity containing 80-100 mm mineral
wool (>10 kg/m3)

4 As 1, ceiling removed, with suspended ceiling 55–60 60–65 450–
consisting of 2 layers of 15 mm wallboard or 2 500
layers of 12.5 mm dense plasterboard, suspended
on a proprietary metal ceiling system to give
275 mm cavity containing 80-100 mm mineral
wool (>10 kg/m3)

5 As 1, ceiling removed, with suspended ceiling
consisting of 2 layers of 15 mm wallboard or 2 60–65 55–60 450–
layers of 12.5 mm dense plasterboard, suspended 500
special resilient hangers to give 275 mm cavity
containing 80-100 mm mineral wool (>10 kg/m3)

6 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor using
resilient pads or strips (eg 15 mm tongue-and-
groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood, 50–55 60–65 270–
chipboard or fibre-bond board supported on 320
45 mm softwood battens laid on 25 mm thick
open-cell foam pads). 80-100 mm mineral wool
(>10 kg/m3) laid on top of existing floorboards

7 As 1, floorboards removed and replaced with 55–60 55–60 240–
15 mm tongue-and-groove floorboards on a 15 mm 290
plywood, chipboard or fibre-bond board supported
on 12 mm softwood battens laid on 25 mm thick
open-cell foam pads bonded to the joists,
80-100 mm mineral wool (>10 kg/m3) laid on top
of existing ceiling

Sound insulation 3
Option Construction - timber floors Rw Ln,w Depth
(dB) (dB) (mm)

8 As 7 but mineral wool replaced by 100 mm 55–60 50–55 240–
pugging (80 kg/m2) on lining laid on top of ceiling 290

9 As 8 but with 75 mm pugging laid on top of board 50–55 55–60 240–
fixed to sides of joists 290

10 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 50–55 55–60 220–
using a continuous layer (eg 15 mm tongue-and- 270
groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 6-12 mm thick
continuous open-cell foam mat)

11 As 10, ceiling removed and replaced with 60–65 50–55 360–
suspended ceiling consisting of 2 layers of 15 mm 410
wallboard or 2 layers of 12.5 mm dense
plasterboard, suspended on a proprietary metal
ceiling system to give 275 mm cavity containing
80-100 mm mineral wool (>10 kg/m3)

NOTES ON FIGURE 3.14 Figure 3.14 Continued
1 Where resilient floor materials are used, the material must be selected to provide the necessary
sound insulation under the full range of loadings likely to be encountered in that room and must
not become over-compressed, break down or suffer from long-term ‘creep’ under the higher loads
likely to be encountered. Where large ranges of loading are encountered, or where there are high
point loads such as pianos, heavy furniture or operable partitions, the pad stiffness may have to
be varied across the floor to take account of these.
2 All figures are approximate guidelines and will vary between different products and
constructions. Manufacturers' data should be obtained for all proprietary systems and
constructions. These must be installed in accordance with good practice and manufacturers'
recommendations and all gaps sealed.

solution is to provide doors in front of buildings. Both airborne noise and impact
the shutters to improve the sound noise can be problematic with wooden
insulation. floors, and both problems need to be
considered when dealing with vertically
3.14 Floors and ceilings adjacent spaces. Adding carpets or other
Both airborne and impact noise can be soft coverings to wooden floors reduces
transmitted between vertically adjacent impact noise but has very little effect on
rooms through the separating floor and airborne noise transmission.
its associated flanking constructions. Impact noise can also be a problem
Vertical noise transmission between with concrete floors (although airborne
classrooms can be a problem in older noise may not be a problem); this can
multi-storey buildings with wooden sometimes be solved by adding a carpet.
floors, such as traditional Victorian school Where the use of carpet is proposed

3 Sound insulation

Option Construction - lightweight concrete floors Rw Ln,w Depth
(dB) (dB) (mm)

1 Lightweight floor consisting of concrete planks 35–40 90–95 100–
(solid or hollow) or beam and blocks, with 30-50 150
mm screed, overall weight approximately
100 kg/m2, no ceiling or floor covering

2 As 1 with soft floor covering >5 mm thick 35–40 75–85 105–

3 As 1 with suspended ceiling consisting of 2 layers 60–65 55–60 370–
of 15 mm wallboard or 2 layers of 12.5 mm 420
dense plasterboard, suspended on a proprietary
metal ceiling system to give 240 mm cavity
containing 80-100 mm lightweight mineral wool
(>10 kg/m3)

4 As 3 with soft floor covering >5 mm thick 60–65 50–55 375–

5 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 50–60 50–60 155–
using resilient pads or strips (eg 15 mm tongue- 205
and-groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 25 mm thick
open-cell foam pads)

6 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 50–55 55–60 150–
using a continuous layer (eg 15 mm tongue-and- 200
groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 6-12 mm thick
continuous open-cell foam mat)

7 As 1 with heavyweight proprietary suspended 45–55 60–70 250–
sound insulating ceiling tile system 500

Figure 3.15: Lightweight issues of cleaning, maintenance and • areas for dance or movement
concrete floors - airborne effects on air quality may need to be
and impact sound
• loading/unloading areas (eg in
considered. kitchens and workshops)
insulation of some typical
constructions • machinery.
3.14.1 Impact sound insulation Where possible, impact noise should be
Impact noise on floors may arise from: reduced at source through use of soft
• foot traffic, particularly in corridors at floor coverings or floating floors. Carpets
break times/lesson changeover are not an option in practical spaces but
• percussion rooms other soft floor coverings, such as acoustic

Sound insulation 3
Option Construction - heavyweight concrete floors Rw Ln,w Depth
(dB) (dB) (mm)

1 Solid concrete floor consisting of reinforced 50–55 60–65 150–
concrete with or without shuttering, concrete 200
beams with infill blocks and screed, hollow or
solid concrete planks with screed, of thickness
and density to give a total mass of at least 365
kg/m2, with soft floor covering >5 mm thick

2 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 55–60 50–55 200–
using resilient pads or strips (eg 15 mm tongue- 250
and-groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 25 mm thick
open-cell foam pads)

3 As 1 with proprietary lightweight floating floor 55–60 50–60 175–
using a continuous layer (eg 15 mm tongue-and- 230
groove floorboards on a 15 mm plywood,
chipboard or fibre-bond board on 6-12 mm thick
continuous open-cell foam mat)

4 As 1 with suspended ceiling consisting of 2 layers 60–70 55–60 420–
of 15 mm wallboard or 2 layers of 12.5 mm 470
dense plasterboard, suspended on a proprietary
metal ceiling system to give 240 mm cavity
containing 80-100 mm mineral wool (>10 kg/m3)

5 As 4 with soft floor covering >5 mm thick 60–70 50–55 425–

NOTES ON FIGURES 3.15 AND 3.16 Figure 3.16: Heavyweight
1 Where soft floor covering is referred to this should be a resilient material or a material with a concrete floors - airborne
resilient base, with an overall uncompressed thickness of at least 4.5 mm ; or any floor covering and impact sound insulation
with a weighted reduction in impact sound pressure level of not less than 17 dB when measured of some typical
in accordance with BS EN ISO 140-8:1998[15] and calculated in accordance with BS EN ISO 717- constructions
2 Where resilient floor materials are used, the material must be selected to provide the
necessary sound insulation under the full range of loadings likely to be encountered in that room
and must not become over-compressed, break down or suffer from long-term ‘creep’ under the
higher loads likely to be encountered. Where large ranges of loading are encountered, or where
there are high point loads such as pianos, heavy furniture or operable partitions, the pad stiffness
may have to be varied across the floor to take account of these.
3 All figures are approximate guidelines and will vary between different products and
constructions. Manufacturers' data should be obtained for all proprietary systems and
constructions. These must be installed in accordance with good practice and manufacturers'
recommendations and all gaps sealed.

3 Sound insulation

vinyl floor or vinyl flooring laid on an performance, special flexible ceiling hangers.
acoustic mat, may be suitable. The major manufacturers of dry-lining
Planning and room layout can be used systems all provide their own systems for
to avoid impact noise sources on floors these options, and provide sound
above noise-sensitive rooms. Soft floor insulation data and specifications for a
coverings and floating floor constructions variety of configurations. The performance
and independent ceilings are the most for both airborne and impact sound
effective means of isolation, and resilient improves with the depth of the ceiling
floor finishes are also appropriate for void, with the mass of the ceiling and
some sources. with the deflection of the ceiling hangers
Typical airborne and impact noise under the mass of the ceiling. Adding a
performance are listed for a number of layer of lightweight acoustically absorbent
constructions in Figures 3.14, 3.15 and glass wool or mineral wool in the ceiling
3.16. Note that, unlike airborne sound void increases the sound insulation,
insulation, impact sound insulation is typically by 2-3 dB, but there is no point
measured in terms of an absolute sound in adding more than specified.
level, so that a lower figure indicates a Performance on site is strongly
better standard of insulation. dependent on good workmanship to
avoid air gaps, so careful attention should
3.14.2 Voids above suspended be given to ensuring that joints are close-
ceilings butted, taped and filled and that all gaps
Where partitions run up to the underside are properly sealed. At the perimeter a
of lightweight suspended ceilings, the small gap should be left between the
airborne sound insulation will be limited plasterboard and the walls, and this
by flanking transmission across the ceiling should be sealed using non-setting mastic
void, which will often prevent the to allow a small amount of movement
minimum values for airborne sound without cracking.
insulation in Table 1.2 being achieved. Penetrations through the ceiling need
Therefore, partitions should either be to be properly detailed to maintain an
continued through the ceiling up to the airtight seal while allowing movement,
soffit, or a plenum barrier should be used. and services should not be allowed to
provide a rigid link between the ceiling
3.14.3 Upgrading existing wooden and the floor above. This can be a
floors using suspended plasterboard particular problem with sprinkler pipes. A
ceilings problem with these constructions is that
Figure 3.14 shows the airborne and recessed light fittings, grilles and diffusers
impact noise performance of a standard significantly reduce the sound insulation so
wooden floor with various forms of any services should be surface-mounted.
suspended plasterboard ceiling. A plasterboard finish is acoustically
Option 2 is possibly the most widely reflective whereas in some rooms an
used system of increasing both impact acoustically absorbent ceiling is required,
and airborne sound insulation, with or to meet the specifications for room
without the original plaster ceiling. In acoustics and reverberation times. One
small rooms good results can be achieved solution to this, if there is sufficient
using timber studs fixed only to the walls, height, is to suspend a separate
but large timber sections are needed to lightweight sound absorbing ceiling under
span wider rooms. the sound insulating plasterboard ceiling.
In wider span rooms it is generally more This can be a standard lightweight
convenient to suspend the plasterboard composite or perforated metal tile system.
from the floor joists above, fixing through These lightweight, acoustically absorbent,
the existing ceiling if this is retained, ceilings add very little to the sound
using a proprietary suspension and grid insulation but do provide acoustic
system (option 4). The grid can be hung absorption. Lights and services can be
from simple metal strips or, for higher recessed in the absorbent ceiling.

Sound insulation 3
The term ‘acoustic ceiling’ generally the increase in both airborne and sound
refers to lightweight acoustically insulation relies on the mechanical
absorbent ceiling tile systems, designed to isolation of the floor from the joists using
provide acoustic absorption. Note that resilient material.
these systems do not always increase the Figure 3.14 shows a number of typical
sound insulation as well. lightweight floating floor constructions
There are, however, some systems and indicative sound insulation figures.
which use relatively heavy ceiling tiles There are many proprietary systems using
which are designed to fit into ceiling grids a wide range of isolating materials and
to provide a reasonably airtight fit. These manufacturers should supply test data in
may consist of dense plasterboard or accordance with ISO 140 measurements.
mineral fibre products, or perforated The isolating layer will typically consist
metal tiles with metal or plasterboard of rubber, neoprene, open-cell or closed-
backing plates. If properly installed and cell foams, mineral fibre or composite
maintained these can provide a useful materials. The isolating layer can be in the
increase in sound insulation as well as form of individual pads, strips or a
acoustic absorption. Manufacturers of continuous layer of material.
these systems can provide both airborne The sound insulation increases with the
and impact sound insulation figures, as deflection of the resilient layer (up to the
well as acoustic absorption coefficients. If limit of elasticity for the material), with
no measured sound insulation data are the mass of the floating layer and with the
provided, it is better to err on the side of depth of the cavity. Adding a layer of
caution and assume that the tile will not lightweight acoustically absorbent glass
provide a significant increase in sound wool or mineral wool in the ceiling void
insulation. increases the sound insulation, typically by
The sound insulation performance 2-3 dB, but there is no point in adding
figures quoted in Figure 3.14 all assume more than specified. In each case the
that the floorboards are in good deflection of the material under the
condition and reasonably airtight, with permanent ‘dead’ load of the floating
thin carpet laid on top. If retaining the layer and the varying ‘live’ loads of
original floorboards it is good practice to occupants and furniture must be
fill in any gaps with glued wooden strips, considered. If the material is too resilient
caulking or mastic, or to lay hardboard on and the floating layer is insufficiently
top, to provide an airtight seal. If not heavy or rigid, the floor will deflect under
retaining the original boards, 18 mm the varying loads as people move about
tongue-and-grooved chipboard can be the room. For this reason it is
used to achieve the same effect, with all advantageous for the floating layer to be
joints and gaps properly sealed, especially as heavy and as stiff as practicable, in
at the perimeters. some cases using ply or fibre-bond board
(for mass) laid on top of the resilient
3.14.4 Upgrading existing wooden layer, with tongue-and-grooved chipboard
floors using platform and ribbed floors on top of this.
The systems discussed in Section 3.14.3 If there are likely to be very heavy local
all maintain the original wooden floor loads in the room (eg pianos) it may be
mounted directly on joists. This has the necessary to increase the stiffness of the
advantage of maintaining the original resilient material, or, in the case of pads,
floor level at the expense of loss of ceiling to space the pads more closely together to
height below. An alternative approach is support these loads.
to provide a floating floor system either Junctions with walls and at doors need
on top of the existing floorboards (a to be designed to maintain an effectively
platform floor) or to remove the existing airtight seal while allowing movement of
floorboards and build a new floor on the floating layer. Manufacturers generally
resilient material placed on top of the provide their own proprietary solutions
floor joists (a ribbed floor). In both cases for this, with or without skirtings.

3 Sound insulation

partitions should extend
Figure 3.17: Possible up to the soffit
sound transmission paths
and their prevention
connections walls must be of
for plant and adequate weight airborne sound transmited through ceiling,
machinery and all gaps sealed light fittings, and lightweight partitions and gaps
plantroom should be can be dealt with by sealing gaps and increasing mass
should have flexible
floor mass
and elasticity, sound can be transmitted along the structure
or floating

ceiling below plant may need
to be isolated from floor all gaps for
above and from ductwork as ducts and pipes airborne sound transmitted
suspended ceiling can be in walls and floor through ductwork
a good amplifier for should be well sealed
structure-borne noise
created by badly isolated

Lightweight floating floors are quite sound insulation and impact sound
specialist constructions, and achieving the transmission data for a number of typical
correct deflection under varying live loads concrete floor constructions, with and
without overloading the resilient material without suspended ceilings and floating
can be difficult. Most materials suffer floors.
from long term loss of elasticity or ‘creep’
under permanent loads and this should be 3.15 Design and detailing of
taken into account in the design and building elements
selection of materials. The system Important points to remember when
manufacturer should normally be provided designing constructions to achieve
with all of the relevant information and adequate sound insulation are:
required to specify a system to meet all of • Weak elements (eg doors and glazing,
the acoustic and structural requirements service penetrations, etc) will reduce the
over the expected lifetime of the floor. In effectiveness of the walls in which they are
difficult cases the advice of an acoustics located.
consultant and/or structural engineer • Impact sound will travel with little
should be sought. reduction through a continuous member
such as a steel beam or servicing pipe.
3.14.5 Concrete floors • Partitions between sensitive spaces
In general, concrete floors provide much should normally continue beyond the
greater low frequency airborne sound ceiling up to the structural soffit or roof
insulation than wooden floors by virtue of layer, to prevent noise passing over the
their greater mass. There are, however, top of the partition above the ceiling or
considerable variations in performance through a loft space.
between dense poured concrete floors and • Openings in walls caused by essential
comparatively lightweight precast concrete services passing through should be
plank floors. Impact sound transmission acoustically sealed. Pipework passing
can be a problem even in heavy concrete between noise sensitive spaces should be
floors because of the lack of damping in appropriately boxed-in (see Approved
concrete, and a soft or resilient floor Document E[1]).
covering is generally required. This may Figure 3.17 shows how possible
simply be carpet on suitable underlay. transmission paths through the structure
Figures 3.15 and 3.16 show airborne of a building can be prevented.

Sound insulation 3
[1] Approved Document E - Resistance to the [9] BS EN 12354-3:2000 Building Acoustics -
passage of sound. The Stationery Office, Estimation of acoustic performance in buildings
2003, ISBN 01 753 642 3 from the performance of elements. Part 3. Airborne sound insulation against outdoor
[2] Sound Control for Homes (BRE report 238, sound.
CIRIA report 127), 1993. Available from CRC [10] BS EN ISO 140-5: 1998 Measurement of
Ltd. 1993, BRE ISBN 0 85125 559 0, CIRIA sound insulation in buildings and of building
ISBN 0 86017 362 3, CIRIA ISBN 0305 408 X. elements. Part 5. Field measurements of
[3] J McLoughlin, D J Saunders and R D Ford. airborne sound insulation of façade elements
Noise generated by simulated rainfall on and facades.
profiled steel roof structures. Applied Acoustics [11] BS EN 12354–1: 2000 Building
42 239-255, 1994 Acoustics. Estimation of acoustic performance
[4] ISO 140-18 Acoustics - Measurement of in building from the performance of elements.
sound insulation in buildings and of building Part 1. Airborne sound insulation between
elements - Part 18: Laboratory measurement rooms.
of sound generated by rainfall on building [12] BS 476 Fire tests on building materials
elements (in preparation). and structures.
[5] BS EN ISO 140-3: 1995 Measurement of [13] BS EN ISO 140-6: 1998, Acoustics -
sound insulation in buildings and of building Measurement of sound insulation in buildings
elements. Part 3. Laboratory measurement of and of building elements. Part 6. Laboratory
airborne sound insulation of building elements. measurement of impact sound insulation of
[6] The Education (School Premises) floors.
Regulations 1999. (Statutory Instrument 1999 [14] BS EN 12354-2: 2000 Building Acoustics.
No 2, Education, England & Wales). The Estimation of acoustic performance in building
Stationery Offiice, 1999. ISBN 0 11 080331 0 from the performance of elements. Part 2. Impact sound insulation between rooms.
[7] BS EN 20140-10: 1992 Acoustics - [15] BS EN ISO 140-8: 1998 Acoustics.
Measurement of sound insulation in buildings Measurements of sound insulation in buildings
and of building elements. Part 10. Laboratory and of building elements. Part 8. Laboratory
measurement of airborne sound insulation of measurements of the reduction of transmitted
small building elements. impact noise by floor coverings on a
[8] BS 98/704582 DC. Ventilation for buildings. heavyweight standard floor.
Performance testing of components/products [16] BS EN ISO 717-2: 1997 Acoustics - Rating
for residential ventilation. Part 1. Externally and of sound insulation in buildings and of building
internally mounted air transfer devices. Draft elements. Part 2. Impact sound insulation.
for public comment (prEN 13141-1 Current
Euronorm under approval).

The design of rooms for speech

The design of rooms for speech is a critical aspect of the acoustic design of a
school. Rooms must be designed to facilitate clear communication of speech
between teachers and students, and between students.
4.1 Approach to acoustic design 4.2 Internal ambient noise levels
The vast majority of rooms in schools are and speech clarity
designed for speech. A structured The internal ambient noise level is very
approach to the acoustic design of these important in teaching spaces as the
rooms would consider the following teacher’s voice needs to be clearly heard
subjects in the order given: above the background noise. The sound
1 Indoor ambient noise levels power output of conversational speech is
(Table 1.1) typically 10 microwatts which results in a
2 Room size - floor area, shape and sound pressure level of about 60 dB at 1 m
volume and hence, required in front of the speaker. This output power
reverberation time (Table 1.5) can be raised to around 100 microwatts
3 Amount of acoustic absorption when the speaker talks as loudly as
required for reverberation time possible without straining the voice,
4 Type, location, and distribution of which increases the sound pressure level at
that acoustic absorption 1m to about 70 dB. By shouting, the
5 Special considerations for non- output power can be further raised to
standard rooms (eg reflectors and around 1000 microwatts with a
diffusers) consequent further increase in sound
Figure 4.1: Sound
6 Use of electronic sound reinforcement pressure level to about 80 dB. In
pressure levels of speech
at 1 m systems. subjective terms, this means that a speaker
can approximately double the loudness of
the voice by speaking very loudly, and
then double it again by shouting, see
Figure 4.1.
Normal voice It is also desirable to preserve the
60 dB at 1 m character, or nuances and intonations, of
speech. This is particularly relevant to
language teaching and to the performance
of drama. The frequencies of sound in
speech range from bass to treble, that is
Raised voice from below 125 Hz to above 8 kHz.
70 dB at 1 m Vowels have a sustained, tonal sound
which contains characteristics of the
speaker’s voice. Men’s voices have the
lowest characteristic pitch (120 Hz),
women an intermediate pitch (225 Hz),
Shouting and children the highest pitch (265 Hz).
80 dB at 1 m Vowels contain most of the sound energy
in speech but recognition of the
consonants, whose energy is generally
concentrated towards the higher
frequency end of the speech spectrum, is
the key factor for high intelligibility.
The intelligibility of speech depends
upon its audibility as well as its clarity.
Audibility is affected by the loudness of
the speech relative to the background

4 The design of rooms for speech

noise level. An increase in the background In general, in rooms for music
noise will cause greater masking of speech performance, the reverberation time
and hence will decrease intelligibility. It is calculations will show that relatively little
possible to speak louder but this effect is absorption is required in addition to that
limited and can also lead to voice strain. provided by the audience.
The indoor ambient noise levels for In classrooms and other rooms for
different rooms specified in Table 1.1 speech, however, larger amounts of fixed
have been chosen to ensure that an acoustic absorption are often required,
adequate signal to noise ratio can be particularly where rooms have high
achieved without undue strain on the ceilings as often occurs in older buildings.
teacher’s voice, and to minimise the When calculating reverberation times
effects of distraction from other sources. to comply with the specified values in
Table 1.5 in rooms for speech, the
4.3 Reverberation times absorption due to furnishings such as
A classroom with a long reverberation chairs, school desks and benches, may be
time of several seconds will cause syllables ignored. Accurate absorption data for
to be prolonged so that they overlap and such items can be difficult to identify and
hence degrade speech intelligibility. Long if the furnishings have any effect it is
reverberation times occur in large rooms likely to result in shorter, rather than
with hard wall and ceiling surfaces. longer, reverberation times.
Adding acoustic absorption and reducing
the ceiling height will reduce the 4.5 Distribution of absorbent
reverberation time and will improve materials
speech intelligibility. Table 1.5 specifies The location of acoustic absorption within
the reverberation times required for a room is important. The traditional
various teaching spaces ranging from calculation of reverberation time assumes
teaching classrooms to assembly halls. that the absorbent surfaces in a room are
Appendix 2 describes the theory and reasonably evenly distributed. If this is not
terminology of reverberation time, so, the reverberation time equation is not
acoustic absorption and enclosed volume. valid and undesirable local variations in
The methodology for calculation of the acoustics can occur, particularly in
reverberation time in rooms other than large rooms or halls. Large areas of
corridors, entrance halls and stairwells is acoustically reflective material can also
described in Appendix 6, together with lead to echoes, focusing and standing
some worked examples. There is a link to waves.
a façade sound insulation and reverberation
time computer spreadsheet for schools, 4.6 Room geometry
from the DfES acoustics website. To achieve adequate loudness for all
Long reverberation times also increase listeners in a room, it is necessary that the
reverberant noise levels within a room, direct sound from speaker to listener has a
which further decrease speech clear unobstructed path. The loudness of
intelligibility. To compensate for this, in the direct sound can be enhanced by
reverberant rooms people tend to increase strong, short delay reflections from room
their voice levels to make themselves surfaces. These short delay reflections
heard over the reverberant noise, which should arrive at the listener within one
further exacerbates the situation. This is a twentieth of a second (50 milliseconds) of
common feature of many school dining the direct sound, which is approximately
rooms and sports halls. the time required for the ear to integrate
such reflections with the direct sound.
4.4 Amount of acoustic absorption Strong reflections after 50 milliseconds
required tend to be detrimental to speech
The method described in Appendix 6 intelligibility, and ultimately, if the delay is
allows the amount and type of acoustic long enough, they will be perceived as
absorption to be calculated. distinct echoes.

The design of rooms for speech 4
e b e

d a d d a d

c c
(a) Surface finishes in classroom or lecture theatre: (b) Surface finishes in classroom or lecture theatre:
a. Rear wall - sound absorbing or diffusing a. Rear wall - sound absorbing or diffusing
b. Ceiling - sound reflective (eg plasterboard) b. Ceiling - sound reflective (eg plasterboard)
c. Floor - sound absorbing (eg carpet) c. Floor - sound absorbing (eg carpet)
d. Walls - sound reflective d. Walls - sound reflective
e. Ceiling - sound absorbing e. Top of walls - sound absorbing or diffusing

4.7 Classrooms There are instances where provision of Figure 4.2: Surface
For classrooms and other rooms for sound field amplification can improve finishes in classroom or
lecture theatre
speech, there are two approaches to speech intelligibility, see Section 6.
locating the acoustic absorption:
4.8 Assembly halls, auditoria and
1. To make the ceiling predominantly lecture theatres
absorbent. In most cases a standard Most school halls are used primarily for
acoustically absorbent suspended ceiling speech functions such as assemblies,
will provide all of the necessary meetings and drama, and use for music is
absorption. In the case of rooms with less frequent. The most common problem
exposed concrete soffits (providing in school halls is excessive reverberation
thermal mass to limit overheating in resulting in high noise levels and poor
summertime) acoustically absorbent speech intelligibility.
suspended baffles may be used. The ideal
case is often to have the central part of
4.8.1 Room geometry
the ceiling reflective with absorption at
The direct sound from speaker to listener
the edges, see Figure 4.2(a)
must be as strong as possible at all
2. To leave the ceiling acoustically positions. Because this sound weakens
reflective (plaster, plasterboard, concrete, rapidly with distance according to the
etc) and to add acoustic absorption to the inverse square law (the intensity is
walls. In these cases it is advisable to reduced by a factor of four and the sound
locate most of the absorption at high level level falls by 6 dB when the speaker to
and some on the back wall facing the receiver distance is doubled), the average
teacher to prevent "slap echo" off the distance between speaker and listener
back wall. This is particularly important if should be kept as small as possible.
the rear wall is concave or the distance Furthermore, there should be no
from the speaker to the rear wall is obstructions along the direct sound path.
greater than 8.5 m. see Figure 4.2(b).
speaker Figure 4.3: Ideal seating
In large rooms, reflections from the plan
rear wall can be disturbing for a speaker if
they arrive later than 50 milliseconds after
the speech has been voiced. This can 140°
occur if the speaker to rear wall distance is
greater than 8.5 m. To avoid this problem, audience
the rear wall should be made acoustically
absorbent, or acoustically diffusing.

4 The design of rooms for speech

(a) Adequate loudness is essential, direct sound must (b) Loudness of direct sound towards rear is
have a clear unobstructed path. increased with raked seating.

(c) Loudness of direct sound can be increased by (d) Reflected sound enhances direct sound if time
putting the speaker on a platform. delay is less than 50 milliseconds.

b c

(e) For useful sound reflections, additional path (f) Rear wall can cause a disturbing echo for speakers
travelled by reflected sound must be less than 17 m: if over 8.5 m away. Rear wall should be absorbing
b+c – a<17 m. or diffusing.

Figure 4.4: Effects of For large rooms such as school halls, see the speaker well, they will not hear
room geometry on speech. well either. It is frequently necessary in
additional factors need to be considered
in relation to the direct sound. First, the schools to have a flat floor in a school
seating plan should be arranged to fall hall. In these cases, speakers should be
within an angle of about 140° subtended raised on a platform which is sufficiently
at the position of the speaker, see Figure high to ensure that minimum clearance is
4.3. This is because speech is directional, obtained at the rear rows of the hall, see
and the power of the higher frequencies Figure 4.4(c).
on which intelligibility largely depends The direct sound from speaker to
falls off fairly rapidly outside this angle. listener can be enhanced by strong early
Secondly, sound is weakened as it passes reflections that arrive within 50
over seated people at grazing incidence. milliseconds, see Figure 4.4(d). These
Therefore, if possible, listeners should be early reflections increase the loudness of
seated on a rake where a clearance of the direct sound and therefore increase
around 100 mm is provided between the speech intelligibility. They are particularly
sightline from one row and the sightline useful at the furthest seats where the
from the next, see Figures 4.4(a) and loudness of the direct sound has been
4.4(b). It is known that if people can not reduced by distance. To provide

The design of rooms for speech 4
reflections within 50 milliseconds of the
Figure 4.5: Room shapes
direct sound, hard surfaces must be which can cause focusing
located within a certain distance of the and echoes
speaker and listener. In most rooms, the
centre part of the ceiling is the most
important reflecting surface and should
be of hard, sound-reflecting material. section
Other useful surfaces providing early
reflections are side walls near the speaker, (a) Barrel vault can cause focusing
overhead reflecting panels and angled and flutter echoes
ceiling panels.
The additional path travelled by the
reflected sound should be no greater than
17 m more than the direct sound path
between speaker and the seating area
where the reflection arrives, see Figure
Any reflection that arrives at a listener,
or back at the speaker, more than 50 (b) Shallow hipped roof can cause
milliseconds after the direct sound is likely focusing and flutter echoes
to be disturbing, see Figure 4.4(f). These
are most probable in school halls where
late reflections can occur from the rear
wall or a control room window at the
rear. Rear walls can be rendered sound
absorbing or sound diffusing to avoid plan
this. In the case of control room
windows, these can be tilted to direct the
reflection away from speakers and
Focusing of sound by domes or barrel (c) Curved rear wall can cause focusing
vaults illustrated in Figure 4.5(a), can be a
serious fault which can cause strong late
reflections or echoes. If the dome or
barrel vault is above a flat, hard floor as in
a school hall, flutter echoes can occur The key aim of such a system is to
which can be disturbing for speaker and increase the loudness of the direct sound,
listener alike. This effect can also occur particularly for more distant listeners,
with shallow pitched reflective roofs whilst keeping the sound as natural as
above a flat floor, see Figure 4.5(b) and possible.
the assembly hall in Case Study 7.1. The The distribution of loudspeakers and
same effect can also occur on plan where their directional characteristics is a key
a room has a curved or segmented rear issue in achieving high speech
wall opposite a flat front wall, see Figure intelligibility. For large teaching rooms
4.5(c). and lecture theatres, loudspeakers can be
distributed in the ceiling or on the walls
4.8.2 Sound reinforcement at high level. In school halls, column
With an acoustically well designed room loudspeakers can be located on sidewalls,
it is possible for strong speakers to achieve or in a central cluster as shown in
good speech intelligibility for large Figure 4.6.
audiences. Quieter and untrained The design of sound reinforcement
speakers, however, will not be able to do systems is a specialist field and specialist
this and a speech reinforcement system is advice should be sought.
likely to be required for some functions.

4 The design of rooms for speech

central cluster



Figure 4.6: An 4.9 Open-plan teaching and and effort required to open and close
arrangement of
loudspeakers in a school learning areas them. While in theory it is possible to
hall In open-plan areas it is essential to achieve adequate sound insulation
provide good speech intelligibility and to between classrooms using high-
secure freedom from aural distraction by performance moveable walls, there are
more distant sound sources and by issues of cost, weight, complexity of
background noise. Section 1 contains installation and maintenance to consider.
performance standards for speech Specialist advice from an independent
intelligibility in open-plan spaces. Some consultant should always be sought if
degree of acoustic privacy is also desirable. using such partitions to comply with the
This can be difficult to achieve in practice sound insulation requirements set out in
and there have been many instances of Section 1 of this document.
distraction and disturbance between class Research has shown that in many large
groups in open plan areas. Case Studies open-plan ‘flexible’ areas certain activities
7.2, 7.3 and 7.10 describe surveys of the are severely restricted or have to be
acoustics of open-plan teaching areas in dropped because of noise interference.
primary and secondary schools. Indeed, it must be recognised that there
In open-plan areas, a carpeted floor is are but a small number of activities that
recommended together with a sound can share a degree of acoustic linkage and
absorbing ceiling. In addition, sound even then the timetable has to be
absorbing screens should be interposed designed to allow this.
between class groups. Screens should be Those plans which provide a generous
at least 1.7 m high and ideally should range of spaces in a variety of sizes can be
reach to within 0.5 m of the ceiling, see seen to give far more opportunities in
Figure 4.7. teaching than those with large open
A major improvement in the acoustic spaces and moveable screens, because in
privacy between spaces in open-plan areas the former it is possible to achieve good
can be realised by installing full height sound insulation standards between
moveable walls which, if fitted with seals, spaces.
can provide a moderate degree of sound When designing open-plan areas it is
insulation between the divided spaces. In important to provide plenty of acoustically
general however it is found that such absorbent surfaces and to use screens to
screens are rarely used because of the time block direct sound paths.

The design of rooms for speech 4
4.10 Practical spaces
Spaces for teaching practical subjects have
particular requirements which need
careful design in order to comply with the Screens should be as high as possible
acoustic requirements for teaching and and the ceiling must be absorbent
learning. This section addresses the needs
of Design and Technology spaces and Art
rooms. Music rooms are considered
separately in Section 5. Although Science
involves a significant amount of practical
activity, the general approach described
for classrooms (Section 4.7) can be
applied to spaces for the teaching of
If a screen is not high enough, direct sound paths or paths with only
Science. For further information on small angular changes are possible. If the angle is small, more low
Design and Technology spaces see and mid frequency sound will diffract over the top of the screen.
Building Bulletin 81[1] and the DfES If the ceiling is not absorbent, sound can be reflected over the screen.

acoustics website.

4.10.1 Design and Technology spaces
Design and Technology departments in Surrounding surfaces must be absorbent
secondary schools contain timetabled
spaces for a variety of practical activities,
eg graphics, resistant materials (wood,
metal and plastics), electronics/control,
food and textiles. They also include non-
timetabled learning spaces, typically
shared design/ ICT resource areas.
The equipment and the activities in
these spaces can vary widely depending
on the type and size of department.
Activity noise and noise tolerance
classifications for different spaces are PLAN
Screens near windows have little
given in Table 1.1. It is important to effect because of flanking reflections
establish what activities will take place in off the windows.
any one space and what equipment will
be used before calculating required levels
of sound insulation to minimise the
background noise in nearby spaces.
Resistant materials areas containing reduce the noise level. Figure 4.7: Positioning
wood or metal working machinery can The effect of noise from machines of indoor screens
produce high noise levels. Machines within the space is not required to be
extracting dust particles, CADCAM and included in the indoor ambient noise level
other noisy equipment will increase the calculations submitted for approval by
activity noise level of a space. It is Building Control Bodies, except in the
important to consider the effects of such case of open plan arrangements. Often
equipment on teaching activities both machines can be switched off when
within the space containing the quieter learning activities such as group
equipment and in adjoining rooms. presentations are taking place, but this
Where possible, it is advisable to locate may not always be possible. The location
noisy equipment in spaces away from and use of noisy equipment needs to be
rooms housing quieter activities. discussed and agreed with the user.
CADCAM equipment is sometimes Partially glazed partitions have
housed in a separate room or within commonly been used between design and
purpose designed enclosures which can technology spaces, particularly between

4 The design of rooms for speech

timetabled and non-timetabled spaces. art departments tend to have a more
This is both for ease of supervision and to informal environment reflecting the
emphasise the link between related design nature of the activity, and are often of
activities. However, these considerations open-plan design. There may be more
must be balanced against the acoustic glazing in partitions in art departments
requirements. Large areas of glazing will than in other parts of the school, to
both increase the reverberation time emphasise the importance of the visual
within a space and reduce the sound environment.
insulation of a partition. Both of these
factors will have a detrimental effect upon 4.10 3 Floor finishes in practical
the speech intelligibility within the space spaces
and other nearby spaces. Carpets are not appropriate for most
Similarly, if interconnecting doors are practical areas and so cannot be used as a
used between neighbouring rooms the way of increasing sound absorption or
doorsets must be chosen to provide reducing the impact sound transmission
adequate sound insulation. through floors in science, art and design
Central resource areas are often located and technology spaces. They may however
adjoining the circulation spaces of design be suitable in some design/resource areas.
and technology departments. A common Acoustic vinyl flooring or a vinyl floor
arrangement uses the central resource laid on top of an acoustic mat may be
area predominantly for individual and suitable for practical spaces where
small group work but such areas are not improved impact sound insulation is
generally suitable for whole class teaching. required. Resistance to indentation will
Usually, there are areas of glazing and need to be considered and a change of
doors between the central resource area flooring may be necessary underneath
and adjacent practical spaces. The central fixed heavy machinery such as floor
area should be suitable for most mounted machine tools.
design/resource activities as long as the
circulation is restricted to the department 4.11 Drama rooms
and does not include access to other parts There are three types of drama room in
of the school. common use:
Where spaces are open plan or divided 1 Rooms for small scale drama teaching
by moveable or extensively glazed and practical work
partitions, it may be appropriate to adopt 2 Drama studios – for rehearsal, teaching
alternative acoustic performance standards and small-scale performance
in accordance with Section 1.2.1. This 3 Theatres and flexible spaces primarily
will need to be based on an activity plan for performance.
for the area which has been agreed with Rooms for small scale drama teaching
the user. and practical work are usually little more
The speech intelligibility in open plan than classrooms, which may be fitted with
spaces will need to be assessed using curtains both for blackout and to reduce
computer prediction models, as described reverberation time. They may also be
in Section 1.1.7. This may apply to a provided with a basic set of lights and
shared design/ICT resource area where dimmable main lighting.
group presentation could take place at the Drama studios tend to be larger spaces
same time as other activities. dedicated to drama, with special
equipment such as moveable staging,
4.10.2 Art rooms seating rostra, lighting and sound systems.
Art classes in secondary schools involve They do not normally have fixed stages or
independent and group activities which platforms and the acoustics will tend to
are in general quieter than those in other change with the layout, seating and
practical areas. Noise levels in secondary audience. They may be fitted with heavy
school art spaces are likely to be similar to curtains on some or all walls, to allow
those in a general classroom. However, some control of reverberation time, for

The design of rooms for speech 4
blackout, and to allow some flexibility in
the room’s appearance. In this case the
wall finishes will generally be hard
(masonry or plasterboard). Studios
Proscenium opening with a
generally have wooden floors and
fore stage projecting in front
acoustically absorbent ceilings, although
of it
large amounts of permanent lighting and
rigging also provide useful diffusion.
Theatres and spaces primarily for
performance vary considerably in form
and size from the conventional assembly
Proscenium opening at the
hall to adaptable theatres. They can be
front of the stage, making a
traditional theatres with fixed proscenium
frame between audience and
and stage, open stages, thrust stages or in
the round, see Figure 4.8. Adaptable
theatres can be converted from one
arrangement to another depending on the
type of performance.
Each type has different acoustic
characteristics. The basic acoustic
requirements for auditoria are discussed
Three-sided arrangement
in Section 4.8, however spaces designed
specifically for public performance are
specialised rooms and the advice both of
an acoustician and a theatre consultant
should normally be sought.
For successful drama it is necessary for
the audience to see and hear considerably
better than in most school halls, because
of the close relationship between actors
and their audience. In principle, to
In the round arrangement
achieve close communication between
actor and the audience it is necessary to
restrict the size of the auditorium so that
the maximum distance from any member
of the audience to the stage does not
exceed 20 m. In small theatres this is not
generally a problem, but for larger
audiences it may require the use of 4.12 Multi-purpose halls
balconies and galleries, giving rise to the In large schools the multi-purpose space, Figure 4.8: Typical
performance spaces for
traditional fan-shaped theatre (which is, intended to act as assembly hall, theatre,
however, very bad acoustically for music). concert hall and gymnasium, is passing
Deep balconies are to be avoided as the out of favour as it is difficult for a single
space under these can be acoustically hall to fulfil all of these functions well.
‘dead’ and considerable care is required to None the less, in some cases a single
ensure that reflections from the ceilings flexible hall is required for a variety of
and walls compensate for the lack of uses and this gives rise to specific acoustic
direct sound in such areas. problems.
It is common for theatres in schools to The different uses of multi-purpose
be used not only for drama, but also for halls often have conflicting acoustic
lectures, films, meetings and music, which requirements, making it difficult to
all have different acoustic requirements. provide a space with optimum acoustics
The acoustics of multi-purpose halls are for all uses. The main conflict is that
discussed in the following section. between speech and unamplified music.

4 The design of rooms for speech

Speech Music

"Dry" acoustic "Live" or "warm" acoustic

Short reverberation time Long reverberation time

Good clarity, loudness and intelligibility of Even decay of sound
Good "envelopment" - audience should feel
Sound must appear to come from stage with surrounded by the sound, and musicians
some contribution from room reflections but should be able to hear themselves and each
no perceptible reverberation other easily

Small volume Large volume

Table 4.1: General Table 4.1 shows the general acoustic echoes can occur, significantly increasing
acoustic requirements for requirements for speech and music. (See the reverberation time and reducing
speech and music also Section 5.7.) speech intelligibility. A reasonable
Where regular performances of music distribution of acoustic absorption or
are expected, reverberation time is diffusion (such as provided by wallbars
sometimes changed using moveable areas against gymnasium walls) will eliminate
of absorption (typically curtains) without this effect.
changing the volume of the space.
Although this can successfully change the 4.14 Dining areas
reverberation time at medium and high Dining areas suffer from excessive activity
frequencies, it often has little effect at low noise. The high activity noise interferes
frequencies, resulting in an acoustic which with conversation leading to increasing
is less than ideal for either speech or noise levels. Therefore, sound absorption
music. is required in these areas to reduce the
(Note that the ‘dry’ acoustic required reverberant noise level. The most practical
for speech is also generally suitable for place to position sound absorption is on
amplified music.) the ceiling and the walls. Shapes in
Further information regarding the section or on plan that produce focusing,
design of multi-purpose auditoria is given such as barrel vaulted roofs and circular
in Section 5. walls, should be avoided unless treated
with sound absorbent material.
4.13 Other large spaces
Sports halls, gymnasia and especially
swimming pools have long reverberation
times through the nature of their
construction and surfaces necessary to
their function. This results in high noise
levels and poor speech intelligibility.
A variety of relatively rigid, robust and References
hygienic, acoustically absorbent materials [1] Building Bulletin 81, Design and Technology
Accommodation in Secondary schools, to be
are available and can be used. In general, published January 2004 (replacing 1986
these materials are installed on ceilings edition).
and at high level on walls or as hanging
baffles. If there are large areas of
acoustically hard parallel surfaces, flutter

The design of rooms for music

Music rooms require special attention in the acoustic design of a school.
It is important to establish the user’s expectations of the acoustic performance
of the spaces. Musical activities range from playing, listening and composing in
group rooms to orchestral performances in school halls, and a music room can
be anything from a small practice room to a large room for rehearsing and
performing music.

5.1 Aspects of acoustic design Noise from hot water radiator systems
Building Bulletin 86 Music should be minimised by good design.
Accommodation in Secondary Schools[1] Equipment, particularly the valves and
gives detailed design advice on the range pumps, should be designed and selected
of types of music spaces found in schools. for quiet operation, with vibration
The performance standards of the most isolation where appropriate.
common music room types are listed in In noise-sensitive spaces, such as music
the tables in Section 1. performance spaces and recording spaces,
Some non-specialist classrooms may be hot water pipes should not come into
used for teaching music theory to large rigid contact with the building
groups, with only occasional live or construction. Resilient pipe brackets and
recorded music. In these rooms the flexible penetration details should be
majority of activity depends on good adopted to prevent clicking noises
speech intelligibility rather than an resulting from expansion and contraction.
enhanced acoustic for music and in these Lighting can cause disturbing buzzing
cases classrooms with the same acoustic and occasionally sharp cracks from
criteria as normal classrooms may be used. expansion or contraction of metal fittings.
A brief, outlining the client's acoustic In music rooms, 50 Hz fluorescent lights
requirements, should be obtained before should not be used because they are
starting the design of any specialist music inherently prone to buzzing and mains
facility. The main problems are noise hum which is audible to some people.
transfer between spaces, unsuitable These effects do not occur with high
reverberation times, flutter echoes, frequency (HF) fittings, which should in
standing waves, and high noise levels. general be specified on energy efficiency
and cost saving grounds. HF fittings are
5.2 Ambient noise acceptable for most general music spaces.
The requirements for indoor ambient Where the quietest conditions are
noise levels in music rooms are set out in required, lighting should be restricted to
Table 1.1. To control noise from tungsten or similar lamps. In certain
mechanical ventilation, it is important to spaces such as a recording/control room,
select quiet fans or air handling units the sound caused by transformers used
which are connected to appropriately with low voltage spotlights can be
sized silencers (attenuators). Typical distracting.
primary attenuator lengths will be in the
range 2.4 - 3.0 m. Air velocities in the 5.3 Sound insulation
duct system should be kept low and Standards for sound insulation between
should not generally exceed 5 m/s in different types of room are set out in
main ducts, 4.5 m/s in branch ducts and Table 1.2. To avoid excessive noise
2.5 m/s at runouts. Terminal units transfer between music rooms Table 1.2
(grilles etc) should be selected for low specifies a minimum of 55 dB
noise output. DnT(Tmf,max),w between most music

5 The design of rooms for music

rooms. These are minimum requirements distance, unsupervised small group
and will not always prevent interference musical activities.
between adjacent rooms. It is beneficial
to increase these figures, especially when 5.3.1 Sound insulation between
the indoor ambient noise level is music rooms
significantly below the level in Table 1.1. The sound insulation required between
This can occur in naturally ventilated the different types of music room can be
rooms on quiet sites where the indoor determined from Tables 1.1 and 1.2.
ambient noise level is too low to provide Other criteria such as those of Miller[2],
useful masking of distracting noise from which take account of both sound
adjacent rooms. insulation and indoor ambient noise level,
The level of sound and possible are sometimes used in the specification of
disturbance between music spaces will sound insulation between music rooms;
vary depending on the instruments being however, the normal way of satisfying
played. Clearly, as the loudness of the Requirement E4 of The Building
instruments varies from group to group, Regulations is to meet the performance
so the room-to-room sound insulation standards in Table 1.2 for airborne sound
requirement will also vary. An important insulation between rooms.
question is that of cost versus flexibility. Case Study 7.5 gives an example of the
High flexibility is desirable so that any acoustic design of a purpose built music
instrument can occupy any room. However suite in a secondary school.
it is expensive to provide sound insulation
to satisfy the most stringent requirement 5.4 Room acoustics
at all locations throughout the building.
Alternatively, designating groups of 5.4.1 Reverberation time, loudness
rooms to groups of instruments severely and room volume
limits flexibility but concentrates In general, rooms for the performance of
investment in sound insulation where it is non-amplified music require longer
most required. reverberation times than rooms for
Rooms for percussion and brass will speech. Figure 5.1 shows optimum mid
generate high noise levels and great care frequency reverberation times for speech
is needed in choosing their location. and music as a function of room volume.
Rooms for percussion should, if possible, The volume of a room has a direct
be located at ground level to minimise effect on the reverberation time (RT) and
the transmission of impact vibration into early decay time; in general, the larger the
the building structure. Otherwise floating volume, the longer the RT. The
floor constructions may be required. reverberation times should be in the
Figures 2.4 and 7.5.1 illustrate the ranges given in Table 1.5 and should be
principles of good planning, using constant over the mid to high frequency
corridors and storage areas as ‘buffer range. An increase of up to 50% is
zones’ between music rooms where permissible, and indeed is preferred, at
possible. This allows the sound insulation low frequencies as indicated in Figure 5.2.
requirements to be met without resorting To achieve this it is generally necessary
to very high performance constructions. for the volume of music rooms to be
However, in some cases such as greater than for normal classrooms and
refurbishments of existing buildings the this generally requires higher ceilings.
provision of special sound insulating These also help with the distribution of
constructions, as discussed in Section 3, is room modes as described in the section
the only option. on room geometry below.
Background noise must be controlled If the volume of a room is too small,
in circulation areas. However, limited even with the correct reverberation time
break-out of musical sounds into the sound will be very loud. This is a
circulation routes is acceptable since it common problem in small practice rooms
allows teachers to monitor, from a with insufficient acoustic absorption, and

The design of rooms for music 5
can give rise to sound levels which could,
in the long term, lead to hearing damage.
Many professional orchestral musicians
have noise-induced hearing loss due to
extended exposure to high noise levels
both from their own instruments and, to
a lesser extent, from other instruments

Reverberation time, s
nearby. Under the Noise at Work music
Regulations 1989 (see Appendix 9) there 1.5
is a general requirement to minimise
noise exposure of employees in the school
context, who for this purpose include full- speech
time, part-time and freelance peripatetic 1.0
music teachers. It is therefore important
to ensure that practice, rehearsal and
teaching rooms are neither excessively 0.5
reverberant nor excessively small for a
given occupancy.
Setting the floor area and ceiling
height is normally the first step in 0
designing a music room. The floor area is 20 30 50 100 500 1000 2000
usually determined by the number of Room volume, m
occupants and guidelines are given in
Building Bulletin 86[1], as are methods of
curriculum analysis to determine the
needs of a secondary school music Figure 5.1: Optimum mid-
RT being considerably longer than the frequency reverberation
department. A typical suite of music
calculated RT. A better solution, times for speech and
rooms in a secondary school might music, for unoccupied
consist of: especially in large rooms, is to distribute
Large performance/teaching room 85 m2 some of the absorptive material about the
Second teaching room 65 m2 walls.
Ensemble room 20 m2 Although the RT requirements in Table
Practice/group rooms 8 m2 1.5 are for unoccupied rooms, it is
Control room for recording 10 m2 important to remember that the
Ceiling heights and consequently occupants will present a significant
volumes for halls and recital rooms are amount of absorption which will be in the Figure 5.2:
generally equivalent to two storeys, lower half of the room. To give a Recommended percentage
reasonably even distribution of absorptive increase in reverberation
around 6 m. For group rooms and
times at lower frequencies
practice rooms, a full storey height (at material therefore, acoustic absorption is
for rooms specifically for
least 3 m) is normally required. music

5.4.2 Distribution of acoustic
The acoustically absorbent material 160
required to achieve the correct RT 150
should be distributed reasonably evenly Percentage 140
about the room. Where absorption of value 130
at 500 Hz
occurs only on the floor and ceiling – for 120
example in a simple solution employing 110
acoustic ceiling tiles and carpeted floor – 100
users may experience an over-emphasis on
sound reflections in a horizontal plane. 125 250 500 1000 2000 4000
This often leads to ‘flutter echoes’ Frequency, Hz
between walls, which result in the actual

5 The design of rooms for music

often located at high level on the walls. to ‘image shifting’ where early reflections
Because of the absorption of the can be so strong that the ear perceives the
audience, there can be large variations in sound as coming from the reflecting
RT depending on the presence or absence surface and not the sound source.
of an audience. To reduce this effect, This problem can be exacerbated if late
acoustically absorbent seats with reflections are particularly strong. This
upholstered backs can be used and in can occur when sound is focused from
large halls the acoustic absorption of the large concave surfaces such as curved rear
seats has to be determined and specified walls, barrel vaults, domes, etc.
quite carefully. An acceptable alternative Furthermore, focusing results in an
in smaller halls can be the use of uneven distribution of sound throughout
retractable curtains to reduce the RT the room. Consequently, large concave
during rehearsals when no audience is surfaces are not generally recommended
present. in music spaces.
In auditoria and music rooms, surfaces In small rooms, such as group rooms
around and above the stage or and music practice rooms, geometry
performing area are normally reflective to affects the distribution of standing waves
provide feedback to the performers. or room modes throughout the sound
Floors on stage should be reflective spectrum, particularly at low frequencies.
although carpet in an auditorium may be Where the distance between two parallel
permissible. walls coincides with or is a multiple of a
particular wavelength of sound, a
5.4.3 Room geometry standing wave can be set up and the
It is important to consider both room balance of sound will be affected, see
shape and proportion. In large rooms Figure 5.3. Certain notes will be
such as halls and recital rooms, the amplified more than the rest leading to an
geometry of the room surfaces will unbalanced tonal sound, sometimes called
determine the sequence of sound colouration. Bathrooms with tiled walls
reflections arriving at the listener from a are a good example of rooms with
given sound source. Early reflections, that prominent room modes and, although
is those arriving within approximately 80 they can enhance certain notes of a
milliseconds of the direct sound, will be singer’s voice, they will not produce a
integrated by the listener’s hearing system balanced sound and will tend to sound
and will generally enhance the original boomy. The effect is exaggerated if
sound for music (50 milliseconds is the distances are the same in more than one
corresponding figure for speech, see dimension. Thus rooms which are square,
Section 4). hexagonal or octagonal in plan should be
Prominent reflections with a longer avoided. The same effect occurs if the
delay (late reflections) may be perceived room width is the same as the room
as disturbing echoes. This is often height, or is a simple multiple of it.
encountered where the rear wall in a hall Ideally, the distribution and strength of
Figure 5.3: Standing
has a large flat area of glass or masonry. room modes should be reasonably
waves in different modes
0 – No sound pressure Strong individual reflections can also lead uniform. Perhaps the best way to control
1.0 – Maximum sound

1.0 1.0 0.8
0.8 0.8 0 0.6
0.6 0.4
0.6 0 0
0.4 0.4 0
0.2 0.2
0 0.2 0.2
0 0.4 0.4
0.6 0.6
0.8 0.8
1.0 1.0

The design of rooms for music 5
these low frequency modes is to select
room dimensions that are not in simple
ratios. It should not be possible to express
any of the room dimensional ratios as
whole numbers, for example, a proposed
space 7 m wide, 10.5 m long and 3.5 m
high (2:3:1) would not be considered an
advisable shape from an acoustic point of
PLANE SURFACE - specular reflection
view. Mathematically, an ideal ratio is
1.25 : 1 : 1.6; this is sometimes referred
to as the ‘golden ratio’ but many other
ratios work equally well.
Both flutter echoes and room modes
can also be controlled by using non-
parallel facing walls, but this is often
impractical for architectural reasons; the
use of absorption or diffusion is equally
SIMPLE ANGLED PANELS - diffuse reflection

5.4.4 Diffusion
In addition to the correct RT, the room
should be free from echoes, flutter
echoes, and standing waves and the sound
should be uniformly distributed
throughout the room, both in the
performance and listening areas. To
achieve this without introducing too
much absorption, it may be necessary to
introduce diffusing hard surfaces to CURVED PANELS - diffuse reflection
diffuse, or scatter, the sound. These are
normally angled or convex curved
50 mm to 500 mm (larger depth extends
surfaces but bookshelves, balcony fronts diffusion to lower frequencies)
or other shapes can also provide diffusion,
see Figure 5.4. Acoustic diffusion is a
complex subject, and if calculation of
diffusion is likely to be required a are modelled to promote sound diffusion. Figure 5.4: Surfaces
specialist should be consulted. On the side wall this takes the form of which provide specular and
diffuse reflections
shelving to store percussion instruments,
5.5 Types of room etc. On the back wall, framed pinboards
(with non-absorptive covering) are set at
5.5.1 Music classrooms an angle, breaking up an otherwise plain
Figure 5.5 shows a 65 m2 music classroom surface.
for a range of class-based activities Full length heavy drapes along the back
involving a number of different wall can be drawn across to vary the
instruments. The room proportion avoids acoustics of the space.
an exact square. The height is assumed to The observation window into the
be between 2.7 m and 3.5 m, creating a adjacent control room is detailed to
reasonable volume for the activities (see ensure a high level of sound insulation
Section 5.4.3). The main points to note between the two spaces (see Figure 5.6
about the acoustic treatment of the space and the discussion of control rooms
are described below. below).
To minimise the possibility of flutter The door into the room is of solid core
echoes or standing waves occurring construction with a small vision panel.
between opposing parallel walls, surfaces The door and frame details, Figures 5.7

5 The design of rooms for music

window to control room
detailed to provide good
level of sound insulation

solid core door with small
vision panel

door frame detail
room not an
exact square

thin pile
carpet on
shelving provides surface
modelling to help diffuse

full length drapes used to
vary acoustic response

framed pinboards set at
an angle provide surface
modelling to promote
sound diffusion

Figure 5.5: Acoustic
treatment to music and 5.8, are designed to maximise the 5.5.2 Music classroom/recital room
classroom sound insulation properties of the wall as Figure 5.9 shows a larger, 85 m2,
a whole. classroom. The proportions of the room
The floor is fitted with a thin pile are in a ratio of fractional numbers (2.6 :
carpet providing an absorbent surface 3.8 : 1) with the height between 2.7 m
while the ceiling has a hard reflective and 3.5 m as for the 65 m2 music
surface. The type of carpet can have a classroom. The acoustic treatment is
significant effect on the overall RT in a similar to that for the 65 m2 room but as
room. It is worthwhile checking the this space is larger, and bigger groups are
precise absorption coefficient of any likely to rehearse and perform here,
surface finish. (A spreadsheet of indicative drapes are provided on two adjacent
absorption coefficients for common walls.
materials is on the DfES acoustics

The design of rooms for music 5
Figure 5.6: Section
through control room
150 mm (min) dense blockwork window

Solid concrete lintel

Twin 75x44 mm hardwood frames
Mineral wool or equivalent
12 mm and 6 mm glass in neoprene
channels to hardwood beads
Maximum possible spacing between
panes of glass
Perforated metal lining

13x44 mm architrave

Softwood opening lining
150x38 mm

Figure 5.7: Desirable
features of an acoustic
door installation

914 mm wide
structural opening

Solid core timber door
Elevation showing how the
Head & jamb with single
or double seals
performance of a door assembly
depends on a number of features
of the construction, not just on the
mass of the door leaf
Generous rebate
to frame, with
heavy duty hinges
2.00 m

but no
Continuous grounds and
fill to frame and opening
1.00 m

Threshold seal (may be
retractable type)

5 The design of rooms for music



Figure 5.8: Vertical and 5.5.3 Practice rooms / group useful diffusion to other walls.
horizontal sections through rooms • A full length drape can be pulled
a door installation. Taken
Figure 5.10 shows a typical 8 m2 group across the window to increase surface
from BBC Engineering
room which will accommodate both absorption and reduce loudness.
Guide to Acoustic Practice,
2nd Edition 1990. These instrumental lessons and composition • The window is fairly small and
drawings are reproduced groups and which can be used for positioned in the centre of the wall to
here with the kind individual practice. Points to note are as control the amount of external noise
permission and follows. reaching the space and avoid sound
co-operation of the BBC
• One wall is at an angle of 7° to travelling between adjacent group
avoid flutter echoes (a particular issue in rooms.
small rooms) and prominent standing • Floor and ceiling finishes are as for the
waves. Window and door reveals provide larger rooms.

The design of rooms for music 5
framed pinboards set at an angle Figure 5.9: Acoustic
provide surface modelling to promote treatment to music
full length drapes
on two sides used sound diffusion classroom/recital room
to vary acoustic
response store provides
sound insulation

solid core door with
small vision panel

door frame detail
thick pile carpet important
on the floor

dimensional ratio
not whole numbers

shelving provides
surface modelling
to help diffuse

window to control room
detailed to provide good
level of sound insulation

wall at an angle to avoid Figure 5.10: Acoustic
flutter echoes and standing treatment to 8 m2 group
waves room

small window to thin pile carpet on
minimise disturbance the floor
from external noise

drapes can be used to vary
acoustic response

5 The design of rooms for music

5.5.4 Ensemble rooms Notable aspects of the acoustic
Figure 5.11 shows a plan of a 25 m2 treatment are as follows:
ensemble room. In terms of shape, the • Sound absorbing panels on the walls
same rules apply as for larger music behind the monitor loudspeakers are
spaces. Ceilings should be high, of the used to control strong early sound
order of 3 m or more. Surface finishes reflections which could distort
may comprise carpet on the floor, a loudspeaker sound.
suspended plasterboard ceiling to provide • Shelving units on the window wall
the necessary bass absorption, and a provide surface diffusion.
mixture of hard and soft wall finishes to • Drapes are fitted on all three
provide the required RT. An acoustic observation windows. If a curtain is
drape along one wall can provide a degree pulled across one window, problems of
of acoustic variability. flutter echoes and prominent
resonances associated with two facing
5.5.5 Control rooms for recording hard parallel surfaces are reduced.
Control rooms for recording have Ideally, the effect can be avoided by
assumed a much greater significance due installing glazing in one of each pair of
to the need to prepare tapes of windows at 5° off parallel. Drapes also
compositions for GCSE assessment. provide additional privacy.
Figure 5.12 shows an 11 m2 control • The external window is small to
room for recording. A teacher or pupil minimise disturbance from external noise.
can record a music performance taking A venetian blind can be used to control
place in an adjacent space after which the sunlight, or a blackout blind may be
recording may be heard on headphones provided if required.
or loudspeakers. The RT specified in • The floor is carpeted.
Table 1.5 is < 0.5 s. • Figure 5.6 shows a detail of a typical

Figure 5.11: Acoustic
treatment to 25 m2
ensemble room

25 m2

Full length drape to vary acoustic response

The design of rooms for music 5
all observation windows detailed Figure 5.12: Acoustic
for good acoustic insulation treatment to
recording/control room

half length drapes can
small window to floor carpeted be pulled across
window to increase
disturbance from
external noise
sound absorbing panels
behind speakers

solid core door with
small vision panel door frame detail

control room window. Two panes of based on experience of only a few systems
heavy plate glass (of different thicknesses and alternatives should at least be
to avoid the same resonances) are considered. Advice from an independent
separated by an air gap of about designer or consultant familiar with the
100-200 mm. Such a large gap may not full range of available equipment should
always be possible but 50 mm should be be sought.
considered a minimum. Each pane of
glass is mounted into a separate frame to 5.6 Acoustic design of large halls
avoid a direct sound path. The glass is for music performance
mounted in a neoprene gasket to isolate it Large halls designed primarily for music
from the wooden frame. Acoustically are rare in schools, where the main use of
absorbent material, such as mineral wool any large hall is likely to be for assemblies
or melamine foam, is incorporated into and other speech-related uses. Assembly
the reveal to absorb any energy that halls, theatres and multi-purpose halls are
enters the air gap. discussed in Section 4. If a purpose-built
concert hall is required a specialist
5.5.6 Recording studios acoustics designer should always be
A recording studio as such rarely exists in consulted early in the project, but this
a school. The control room for recording section sets out some general principles
may have an observation window onto an which can be considered at the concept
ordinary ensemble room or stage.
professional/recital room. A professional
type recording studio would require a 5.6.1 Shape and size
lower indoor ambient noise level than Key acoustic requirements are sufficient
that given in Table 1.1, and specialist volume to provide adequate reverberation
advice should be sought. and a shape that will provide a uniform
sound field with strong reflections off the
5.5.7 Audio equipment side walls. A rule of thumb is that the
The design and selection of recording volume of a concert hall should be at least
equipment and audio systems is a fast- 8 m3 per member of audience, which is
evolving subject and guidance on specific typically twice that for a theatre or
technologies would be rapidly out of cinema. In most cases this will lead to a
date. Although members of staff within a rectangular floor plan with a relatively
school will have their own preferences for high ceiling. Other shapes, such as the
specific items of equipment, these may be elongated hexagon or asymmetrical

5 The design of rooms for music

which provide adequate sightlines will
Figure 5.13:
Recommended balcony give satisfactory acoustic conditions. This
overhang proportions rake will generally be less than in a
where the depth D should theatre or cinema.
not exeed the height H. D The size and shape of the concert
platform is of great importance. A full 90-
piece symphony orchestra requires a stage
at least 12 x 10 m, with allowance for
choir risers behind. The front of the
platform will not generally be as high as a
theatre stage and may be only 400 mm
above stalls floor level, but orchestral
players will require risers or rostra so that
players at the rear of the platform can see
shapes, can work well but require very the conductor. Surfaces around the stage
advanced acoustic design. Fan-shaped should be acoustically reflective and
halls generally do not provide the lateral should be designed to provide some
reflections beneficial to listening to music. reflected sound back to the players, so
Balconies and side-wall boxes or that they can hear themselves and each
galleries may be used although they tend other, as well as directing some sound
to reduce the volume of the hall for a towards the audience. This design
given audience size. Any overhangs must requires computer or physical scale
be kept small to allow reasonable sound modelling by a specialist acoustician.
to seats under the balcony. Figure 5.13
indicates the recommended proportions 5.6.2 Surface Finishes
of an overhang so that good acoustic Unlike in theatres and assembly halls, the
conditions are maintained beneath the surface finishes in a concert hall with the
overhang. Balcony, gallery and box fronts correct volume will generally be
can be used to break up large areas of flat acoustically reflective, for example
wall and provide essential diffusion, plastered or fair-faced brick or blockwork.
especially on parallel side walls where Large areas of flat lightweight panelling,
flutter echoes may otherwise occur. such as wood or plasterboard, tend to be
Ceilings can be flat with some surface absorbent at low frequencies, which
modelling, or can be more complex results in inadequate reverberation at
shapes to direct sound towards the these frequencies. The result tends to be a
audience. A steeply pitched ceiling lack of ‘warmth’ or ‘bass response’ and is
(around 45° assuming the ridge runs a common problem in many halls. Wood
along the length of the auditorium) can panelling, if used, must be very heavy or
also be good. Shallow pitches can cause stiff. Curved wooden panels are often
‘flutter’ echoes between a flat floor and used as acoustic reflectors because their
the ceiling, see Case Study 7.1. curvature gives added stiffness, reduces
Shapes with concave surfaces, such as their inherent panel absorption and
domes and barrel vaults, cause focusing of provides acoustic diffusion.
sound which can result in problematic In most performance venues the
acoustics and these are best avoided. seating and the audience provide the
Where concave surfaces are unavoidable majority of the absorption and, therefore,
and cause a focus near the audience they constitute a controlling factor in the
should be treated with absorbent or room acoustic conditions. The selection
diffusing finishes. of seats and, particularly, the relative
If seating is on a rake, this should not absorption of occupied and unoccupied
be too steep as musicians find it difficult seats is of great importance. In general, it
performing into a highly absorbent is helpful if the room acoustics are
audience block - in effect, they receive relatively unaffected by the number of
very little feedback. Generally, rakes occupants. This, however, tends to mean

The design of rooms for music 5
that seating must be very absorptive and of theatre or other speech use. Unless the
probably not a preferred type for school volume can be reduced substantially, this
use. A seat which is moderately approach requires large amounts of
upholstered on the seat and back is likely absorbent material to be deployed, which
to be a good compromise. Where tip-up in turn can reduce loudness to the extent
seats are provided they should be at which a speech reinforcement system is
upholstered underneath as well as on the needed. Nearly all auditoria adopting this
seat; otherwise acoustic conditions will be approach depend on high-quality speech
very different during rehearsal and reinforcement systems, which are difficult
performance. Most auditorium seating to design in a reverberant hall.
manufacturers supply acoustic test data.
Where there is no fixed seating, large 2. To design a small volume (not more
areas of acoustic drapes or other operable than 6 m3 per seat) with acoustics suitable
for a theatre, with additional reverberant
acoustic absorption can be used to reduce
volumes accessed by openable flaps or
reverberation in rehearsal conditions when
moveable ceilings. As the volume needs to
the seats are removed.
be increased by up to 80%, with
reasonably even distribution of absorption,
5.7 Design of large auditoria for
this is often impracticable. In the few cases
music and speech
where this approach has been tried, the
Table 5.1 lists the general acoustic
results have been poor because it is
characteristics that are required for a
difficult to provide openings large enough
multi-purpose auditorium.
to be transparent to the long wavelengths
There are four commonly considered
of low frequency sound.
approaches to designing these spaces:

1. To design a concert hall with a large 3. To design to a compromise volume and
volume (≈10 m3 per seat), and to reduce RT, often with curtains or other moveable
the volume of the auditorium when acoustic material to provide some variation
needed for speech. This approach is in RT. The result tends to be an
recommended when the overwhelming auditorium which is acceptable for a range
requirement is for a good musical of uses, but not particularly good for any Table 5.1: Acoustic
acoustic, with a relatively small proportion of them - especially music. Very large areas characteristics for a multi-
purpose auditorium

Low ambient noise levels Low noise levels from plant, ventilation, lighting and stage machinery are
required. Noise from outside the auditorium should ideally be imperceptible.

Even distribution of sound The acoustic should not change significantly from one seat to another.

Lack of acoustic defects There should be no echoes or focusing effects.

Loudness or acoustic efficiency The sound level reaching the listener should be as high as possible without
compromising other requirements.

Good direct sound The sightlines to the source should not be impeded and distances should be
as short as possible.

Good early reflections Reflecting surfaces around and close to the stage, and reflections off the
side walls and off the ceiling are required.

Feedback to performers Some sound from the stage should be reflected back to the source. This
gives confidence to the performers and helps with musical ensemble.

5 The design of rooms for music

of curtain are required to have any References
significant effect in a large hall, and these [1] Building Bulletin 86, Music Accommodation
will have relatively little effect at low in Secondary Schools. DfEE, 1977.
frequencies, resulting in a room that is ISBN 0 11 271002 6.
either ‘boomy’ for speech or ‘dead’ for [2] J Miller, Design standards for the sound
music. insulation of music practice rooms. Acoustics
Bulletin 18(6), Institute of Acoustics, 1993.
4. To design a small volume (≈6 m3 per
seat) with acoustics suitable for a theatre,
with an electro-acoustic enhancement
system to introduce more reflected sound.
These systems were originally designed to
enhance the acoustics of naturally poor
auditoria, but their success has recently
led to their being built in to new
auditoria where a wide range of acoustic
conditions is required. The best systems
provide good acoustics over a wider range
of uses than would otherwise be possible,
without the audience (or musicians) being
aware that the sound that they hear is not
due to the ‘real’ acoustic of the
auditorium. These systems are seen as
acoustically very advanced and are not
commonly used in schools, but present a
viable option where a large hall is to be
used for both speech and music on a
regular basis. These systems require
loudspeakers in the auditorium side walls
and ceilings, and should not be confused
with the sound reinforcement system for
speech (in this case a central cluster of
loudspeakers over the forestage),
although some electro-acoustic
enhancement systems can also be used for
speech reinforcement.

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with
special hearing requirements

When considering classroom acoustics, children with a permanent hearing
impairment have traditionally been treated as a special group, separate from
the mainstream school population. This is a situation that is not supported by
the surveys of the school population carried out by the British Association of
Teachers of the Deaf.

6.1 Children with listening further 26% used an approach which
difficulties combined sign with auditory-oral
A recent survey by the British Association components. For these groups a poor
of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD)[1] acoustic environment can be a significant
showed that about 75% of deaf children barrier to inclusion.
were being educated within mainstream A hearing loss is typically described
schools. With the continuing trend with reference to the audiogram. This is a
towards inclusive education there is no graphical representation of an individual’s
reason to suppose that this proportion threshold of hearing for a number of pure
should do anything but increase. tones (typically measured at 250 Hz,
In addition to the children with 500 Hz, 1 kHz, 2 kHz, 4 kHz and
permanent hearing impairments there are 8 kHz) and presented to each ear using
large numbers of children within headphones. At face value, it suggests that
mainstream schools who have listening the hearing impairment can be considered
difficulties placing them in need of as a simple auditory filter and as such
favourable acoustic conditions. These should predict a child’s understanding of
include children: speech using traditional acoustic models.
• with speech and language difficulties Although reliable, it says little about an
• whose first language is not English individual’s hearing for speech or the key
• with visual impairments skill of listening to speech with
• with fluctuating conductive deafness background noise. The audiogram is not a
• with attention deficit hyperactivity good predictor of educational outcome[2]
disorders (ADHD) and only a poor predictor of maximum
• with central auditory processing speech recognition score[3]. Consequently,
difficulties. great care should be taken when
Effort given to addressing the acoustic considering the audiogram of a child as a
needs of the hearing impaired population predictor of the difficulties the child
also favours other groups whose needs for might have in a school environment.
good acoustic conditions are not dealt with At present there is little empirical data
elsewhere in this document. Put together, that specifically addresses the acoustic
the number of children falling into one or criteria required for the hearing impaired
more of these categories could school population (see for example the
conceivably be a significant proportion review of the literature by Picard and
within every mainstream classroom. Bradley[4]). What is currently available,
however, suggests that the individual
6.2 Children with hearing hearing needs of the hearing impaired
impairments and the acoustic child are likely to be more demanding
environment than those of children with normal
The majority of children with hearing hearing. It would be helpful for the
impairments use speech and hearing as professional specifying classroom acoustics
their main form of communication. The for a particular child to have available
BATOD survey[1] indicated that 67% of measures of the child’s aided hearing and
children with hearing impairments were consequent acoustic requirements in
using an auditory-oral approach and a terms of, for example, acceptable levels of

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
6 hearing requirements

Table 6.1: Acoustic Parameter British Association of American Speech Language
Recommendations of Teachers of the Deaf[5] Hearing Association[6]
BATOD and ASHA for the
acoustics of classrooms
Unoccupied noise level 35 dB(A) 30 – 35 dB(A)

Reverberation time 0.4 s across frequency range 0.4 s
(unoccupied) 125 Hz to 4 kHz

Signal to noise level +20 dB across frequency ≥ +15 dB
range 125 Hz to 750 Hz
+15 dB across frequency
range 750 Hz to 4 kHz

noise, desirable reverberation times and Sound insulation must be of a high
required signal to noise levels. However, standard, with the lowest background noise
such hearing measures are not routinely levels possible to ensure that a good signal
obtained. to noise level is achieved. Typically a signal
Because it is not possible at present to to noise level of +20 dB is considered
provide definitive acoustic requirements desirable[5]. Short reverberation times are
for hearing impaired individuals, it is also critical in ensuring that sound does not
appropriate for acousticians and architects build up when the class are working in
to be aware of the requirements published groups. Care must also be taken to ensure
by specialist professional organisations. that the level of low frequency noise is kept
These include the British Association of to a minimum. For many people with
Teachers of the Deaf[5] and the American impaired hearing, low frequency noise can
Speech Language Hearing Association[6] have a devastating impact on speech
(see Table 6.1). Account has been taken recognition, masking many important
of these recommendations in the setting speech sounds in a manner that cannot be
of performance criteria in Section 1. appreciated by those with normal hearing.

6.3 Hearing impairment and 6.4 The speech signal and
hearing aids hearing aids
Modern hearing aids are designed to make Speech, as a signal, is a critical factor in
speech audible to the listener without being classroom listening and an important
uncomfortably loud[7]. They deal largely speech source is the teacher. Evidence has
with the issue of audibility and are less able shown that teachers’ voices are not always
to address the issues of distortion that sufficiently powerful to deliver the
typically accompany a sensorineural hearing necessary levels of speech required to
impairment. ensure the best listening opportunities[8].
One of the major challenges in the A growing body of evidence suggests that
design of hearing aids is dealing with noise. teachers are at above average risk from
Recent developments include the use of voice damage[9]. Few teachers have voice
algorithms that attempt to enhance speech training and the vocal demands of
whilst reducing background noise, and teaching are probably underestimated.
better implementation of directional Hearing aids are usually set up to
microphones. However, noise will continue amplify a ‘typical’ speech signal based on
to remain a significant obstacle to effective various measures of the long-term average
listening. Noise not only masks the speech spectrum recorded either at the
amplified speech signal but also leaves a ear of the speaker or at a distance of 1 m
child tired from the effort required to listen. directly in front of the average speaker, as
It is therefore essential that attention be if in conversation. If the actual speech
given to creating a quiet classroom. signal is weaker than average, perhaps

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
hearing requirements 6
because of distance, or is masked by for Education[12] identifies the following
babble or steady state background noise listening demands within the classroom:
such as that from a classroom computer • listening to the teacher when s/he is
fan, then the hearing impaired listener facing away from the listener
will have increased difficulty. Listening to • listening when the class is engaged
speech will become particularly effortful in activities
and challenging[10]. • listening to the teacher while s/he is
Children are not only required to listen moving around the classroom
to the teacher but also to other children. • listening when other children are
Children typically have less powerful answering questions
speaking voices[8] and listening to their • listening when other adults are
peers is frequently identified by children talking within the same room
with hearing impairments as being • listening to peers when working in
difficult. One study suggests that 38% of groups
a child’s time in the classroom might be • listening in situations with
spent working in groups and 31% of the competing background noise from
remaining time spent in mat work[11], multimedia equipment.
both situations where listening to other A teacher should manage teaching in
children is important. There are no such a way as to ameliorate the challenges
wholly satisfactory solutions to this. faced by a student with hearing
Technology and careful class management difficulties. However, the better the
have a role to play but considerable acoustic conditions, the less challenging
attention needs to be paid to establishing will be the situations described above.
low reverberation times and maintaining
low ambient noise levels in order to 6.6 Strategies developed to assist
reduce the auditory difficulties. children with hearing and listening
To minimise the challenges to hearing, difficulties
use is often made of small acoustically Effective classroom management by the
treated rooms attached to mainstream teacher is critical in ensuring that the
classrooms in the primary school. These children can have access to all that is
rooms are typically large enough for a spoken and there are many guidelines
group of four to eight children to work available for teachers (see for example
in. To allow supervision by the class publications by the Royal National
teacher they will have a large window to Institute for the Deaf[13], the National
allow a clear view into the classroom. The Deaf Children’s Society[14] and
room will need to have a sufficient degree DfES[15]). Classroom management alone,
of sound insulation from the classroom to however, cannot ensure that speech
allow the children to talk to each other communication is sufficiently audible and
without being disturbed or disturbing the intelligible if the classroom acoustics are
rest of the class. The favourable acoustic not adequate, or if a child has a hearing or
conditions and short distances between listening difficulty.
children and teacher, if present, ensure In order to ensure that children are
that communication is as easy as possible. able to hear the teacher and, to a lesser
extent, their peers, a number of
6.5 Listening demands within the technological solutions have been
classroom developed, see Table 6.2. These solutions
Much of educational activity within that work in tandem with the child’s own
classrooms revolves around speech. Some hearing aids (if used) can be classified as
experts claim that 80% of all classroom either individual technology or whole class
activities require listening and speaking. It technology. In both these cases it is
is important that within any room the important to understand the underlying
acoustic characteristics allow for effective principles when specifying classroom
spoken language communication. The acoustics.
UK version of the Listening Inventories

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
6 hearing requirements

Technology Advantages Disadvantages

Personal radio aids Reduce the effect of the distance between Do not address the needs of group work
speaker and listener directly
Portable and convenient Can require a high level of sophistication to
Particularly useful in situations where there is gain maximum benefit
a poor signal to noise ratio at the position of Benefits can be lost if the child’s personal
the listener hearing aid microphones are used in noisy

Classroom soundfield Reduce the effect of the distance between Do not address the needs of group work
systems the speaker and listener directly
Inclusive technology Poor classroom acoustics (eg high
Benefit to the teacher and the class reverberation times or poor sound separation
Can ensure good signal to noise levels are between neighbouring teaching areas) can
maintained throughout the classroom limit the benefit of this technology

Personal soundfield Portable Can be cumbersome to transport and
amplification Addresses the issue of speaker to listener manage
distance Does not address the needs of group work
Can ensure favourable signal to noise levels directly
for a particular listener or small group of

Auditory trainers and hard- Provide excellent signal to noise levels Users are restricted in movement when using
wired systems Provide a high level of sound insulation the device
Can be arranged to allow group work Can be heavy and uncomfortable to use
Not an inclusive technology

Induction loop systems Discreet and cheap Unpredictable acoustic response for the
Most hearing aids have a telecoil facility hearing aid user
Spill over of signal into other rooms
Do not deal with the needs of group work
Susceptible to electromagnetic interference
User normally isolated from environmental

Table 6.2: Advantages 6.7 Individual technology • reducing the impact of unhelpful
and disadvantages of There are two main types of aid that can reverberation
different technologies for
aiding hearing and listening
be used to assist children’s hearing on an • effectively maintaining a constant
individual basis: radio aids that can be distance between the speaker and the
in the classroom
coupled to a child’s hearing aids, and listener.
auditory trainers that are used with All radio aids have two main
headphones. components: a transmitter and a receiver.
The person who is speaking (usually the
6.7.1 Radio Aids teacher) wears the transmitter. A
Radio aids (also known as radio hearing microphone picks up their voice. Typically
aids or personal FM systems) are widely the microphone is omnidirectional and is
used by children with hearing impairments attached to the lapel of the speaker,
in schools. They help overcome causes of however there are head worn
difficulty in a classroom situation by: microphones available that help ensure a
• providing a good signal to noise ratio consistent transmitted signal to the child.

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
hearing requirements 6
The sounds are transmitted by an FM transmitted voice of the speaker. This is
radio signal to the receiver, which is worn good for formal teaching situations but
by the child. The receiver converts the requires considerable skill on the part of
signal to a sound that the child can hear. the teacher to include the hearing
Radio aids are usually used in impaired child in classroom discussion.
conjunction with the child's hearing aids. This solution is less helpful for children
Most children use ‘direct input’ (also engaged in group activity, where the child
known as ‘direct connection’ or ‘audio will need to work with a small group of
input’) to the hearing aids using a lead. peers.
Direct input is a facility available on many Most radio aids are able to operate on a
behind-the-ear (post-aural) hearing aids range of carrier frequencies. For example,
and a smaller number of in-the-ear each school class might have its own
hearing aids. frequency so that there is no interference
Alternatively, the child can use an with a neighbouring class. In the UK,
inductive neck loop - a small wire loop radio aid channels lie in the range
that can be worn over or under clothes. 173.350 MHz to 177.150 MHz. Those
The loop is connected to a radio aid channels in the range 173.350 MHz to
receiver usually worn around the waist or 173.640 MHz are dedicated exclusively to
attached to a belt. use by radio aids. A licence is required to
Direct input is generally recommended use radio aids operating on frequencies
as preferable to the use of a neck loop for between 175.100 MHz and 177.150
children in school. This is because the MHz.
level of sound that a child hears using a The sounds heard by a child using a
neck loop can be variable and there is a radio aid will depend on the quality and
risk of electromagnetic interference from correct use of their own hearing aids. The
nearby electrical equipment. level of amplification is determined by the
Radio aids are also beneficial for settings of the hearing aids, not the radio
children who have cochlear implants. aid. Accepted procedures exist for setting
The radio aid receiver is connected to the up a radio aid to work with hearing aids
child's implant processor using a (a process sometimes known as
dedicated lead. ‘balancing’).
Traditionally, radio aid receivers have A general principle is that if a child uses
been worn in a chest harness or on a belt. a hearing aid, then the child is also likely
Recent developments include miniature to find a radio aid helpful in many
radio aid receivers that connect directly to classroom situations.
a hearing aid and are worn entirely Radio aids have often been seen as the
behind-the-ear. Behind-the-ear hearing solution to poor acoustics in the
aids that include built-in radio aid classroom. However, it must be noted
receivers are also being manufactured. that they only partially solve the problem;
Most radio aids can be set up so that the solution must lie in addressing the
the child will not only hear the voice of issue from three directions:
the speaker using the transmitter, but also • the class teacher and classroom
environmental sounds such as their own management style
voice and the voices of other children • technology that assists listening
near to them. Radio aids can do this in a • careful attention to classroom acoustics.
number of different ways and it is often Current information about radio aids is
necessary to strike a balance between available from a number of sources
allowing the child to hear the voices he or including the National Deaf Children’s
she needs to listen to and the impact of Society[16].
hearing unwanted background noise.
For the best listening condition the 6.7.2 Auditory trainers and hard-
hearing aid user will normally be required wired systems
to mute his or her microphone on the An auditory trainer is a powerful amplifier
hearing aid and listen exclusively to the used with high-quality headphones. As a

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
6 hearing requirements

large, stand-alone piece of equipment, an There is, however, a trend to use the
auditory trainer can be designed without inclusive technology termed ‘sound field
the restrictions of size that exist with amplification’ to ensure that the signal
typical behind-the-ear hearing aids, and a level of the speech is delivered to all parts
good quality high level sound output with of the classroom at an appropriate level
extended low and high frequency range above the background noise. This
can be achieved. technology is of benefit for all with
Within the mainstream educational listening difficulties in the classroom, not
environment, auditory trainers are most just the hearing aid user, and has particular
likely to be used for short periods of benefits for classroom management and
individual work and speech therapy the voice of the class teacher.
sessions. However, it is also possible to It is important to note that whole class
link several auditory trainers together for technology is not a substitute for
group work. In some schools for deaf remedying poor classroom acoustics.
children this equipment is permanently However, it can be particularly valuable in
installed within a classroom. The teacher’s maintaining good signal to noise levels
voice is picked up by a microphone and and improving classroom management.
the output is available at every desk. Each Soundfield amplification systems are also
child wears headphones that are configured used in conjunction with personal radio
to meet their individual amplification aids. In situations where a deaf child is
requirements. The children may also wear part of a mainstream class, advice should
microphones to enable everyone in the be sought from members of a relevant
class to participate in discussions. professional group (educational
audiologist, clinical audiologist or teacher
6.8 Whole class technology of the deaf) as to the most appropriate
Figure 6.1: A simple The use of a personal system is sometimes technology.
schematic drawing of a essential for a hearing aid user to be able
soundfield system in a
typical classroom
to succeed in a particular environment. 6.8.1 Whole classroom soundfield
Soundfield systems provide distributed
sound throughout a classroom. They use
Teacher radio microphone Optional Optional a wireless link between the microphone
system student (shared) system personal FM receiver(s)
and amplifier which will operate on VHF,
microphone UHF radio or infra red frequencies.
Radio Soundfield systems have been shown to
transmitter Handheld radio microphone be beneficial for hearing children and
children with a mild or temporary hearing
Antenna 1 Antenna 2 Optional second Personal FM loss. They will not by themselves usually
receiver transmitter
provide sufficient improvement in signal-
Radio microphone Radio microphone to-noise ratio for a child with a significant
receiver receiver
hearing loss, when a personal radio aid is
also usually necessary.
A soundfield system is perhaps more
Optional MIXER/AMPLIFIER widely known as a sound reinforcement
Music system; the term ‘soundfield’ system
or Loudspeakers originated from the field of Audiology
AV player connected
as required and continues to be associated with
classroom sound reinforcement systems.
Notes: The technology has matured since it was
1. Main system shown in blue.
2. Optional handheld transmitter can share receiver with teacher first introduced into classrooms in the late
transmitter. Transmitters must be switched on and off as required.
3. Alternative second receiver allows simultaneous use of teacher 1970s in the USA, and has evolved to
and student transmitters. take into account new technologies and
4. Personal FM transmitter(s) for use by pupils with serious hearing
impairment can be connected to output of system. teaching management styles. Its benefits
5. CD, cassette and/or video player can optionally play through
the system. have been variously described as:

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
hearing requirements 6
The four speaker layouts were investigated using a
computer model to predict the interference effects due to
1 phase changes of the speaker outputs.

Layout 1 causes some peaks in the room, but is likely to
work reasonably well.

Layout 2 produces large interference effects and is
2 therefore not recommended.

Layout 3 produces the most even coverage at all
frequencies and the least loudspeaker interaction. It is
therefore recommended for all rooms where a suspended
3 ceiling exists. Loudspeakers should be selected to provide
a wide and even coverage that is constant with frequency.

Layout 4 provides relatively even coverage of the room
with interference effects which, although complex, appear
relatively benign. Location of loudspeakers in room corners
tends to produce a rise in the bass response of systems,
which will usually require equalisation using system controls
to produce optimum speech clarity and naturalness.

1 Speakers mounted one quarter of wall length from Layouts 1 and 4 using wall mounted loudspeakers are
corners, mounted flush with wall, at 2 m height, directed recommended where ceiling mounted units are not
to point on floor at angle of about 60°. practical. For layout 1 speakers should be mounted at
2 Speakers mounted at centre of room, 600 mm apart in least 1 m from the side wall. Location of wall mounted
square orientation, directed to the room corners. speakers at least 2 m above the floor, and at least 600
3 Speakers mounted flush with ceiling, facing directly at mm below the ceiling is recommended. Brackets should
floor, in centres of 4 quadrants of the ceiling. keep the loudspeakers very close to the wall to minimise
4 Speakers mounted in room corners, directed to centre self-interference effects.
of room.

• academic improvements for all class components of a soundfield system. A Figure 6.2: A plan of a
members possible detailed specification is included classroom showing four
alternative speaker layouts.
• more on task behaviour in Appendix 9.
The speakers are drawn
• greater attentiveness Where a soundfield system has not horn-shaped to show the
• improved understanding of instructions been designed specifically for the directionality of the speaker
• less repetition required from the teacher classroom it should be used for a trial output, although many
• improved measures of speech recognition period before being selected from the modern speakers are flat
• reduced voice strain and vocal fatigue range available. The manufacturers and
for the teacher. resellers should all provide installation
information including commissioning of
6.8.2 System overview installations, operating instructions and
Figure 6.1 shows a simplified block ongoing support. Large rooms or rooms
diagram of a typical soundfield system. that are unusually shaped will usually
Each element shown can be a separate need specialist advice. Teachers must
unit, or some of these can be combined receive adequate training in using the
into an integrated unit. The current trend systems.
is for manufacturers to create more
integrated products, designed especially 6.8.3 Personal soundfield systems
for classroom soundfield use. Typical A child who cannot physically wear a
arrangements of loudspeakers are shown conventional hearing aid, who has a
in Figure 6.2. unilateral hearing loss, or has Central
Table 6.3 describes the various Auditory Processing Disorder or

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
6 hearing requirements

Component Requirements Comments

Loudspeaker The purpose should be to provide high quality Often the location of loudspeakers is
Wall mounted, ceiling distributed sound reinforcement throughout the determined by the necessity to fit in with the
mounted and flat panel whole classroom and over the whole speech current use of the classroom, when not
speakers are used in frequency range. Selection of appropriate installed as part of the original building work.
schools. speakers should therefore address this

Microphone and This should be a high quality system which In order to retain good dynamic range a
transmitter retains both the frequency and dynamic compander system is typically required (see
Using Infra red, UHF or properties of speech. It is important that Figure 6.3). A head worn microphone can
VHF carrier frequencies teaching styles can be accommodated so a improve the consistency of the transmitted
and high quality choice of microphones should be available. signal and help to prevent feedback that is
headworn or lapel It is important that the transmitter can operate present in systems that do not have feedback
microphones. Radio without interference from other systems or control technology. However teachers often
system information is from public services. like a choice of microphone and will use
available at headworn, lapel or wrap around microphones depending on activity and personal
preference. Battery life of at least one school
day is essential for a transmitter if it is to be
acceptable for school use.

Receiver Will provide a complementary system to the A compander technology and diversity system
Matched to the transmitter, avoiding interference or frequency is particularly suitable for classroom use,
Transmitter dropout. ensuring good dynamic range and avoiding
frequency dropout respectively.
Some teaching situations require twin channel
inputs, so that a pass around radio
microphone can be used.
Where infra red systems are being used
separate additional receivers might be
necessary to avoid ‘blind spots’.

Amplifier The amplifier should be correctly matched to Some schools might require an additional
the loudspeaker system. It should offer a wide output facility for use by deaf children with
flat frequency response which can be adjusted personal FM systems.
if necessary. It should allow for additional The amplifier is usually combined with the
inputs from multimedia within the classroom, receiver unit.
such as the TV, computer and radio and
outputs to radio systems.

Table 6.3: Components
of a soundfield system Attention Deficit Disorder, might use a them. The sound of the teacher's voice is
portable soundfield system. Personal amplified and played through the
soundfield systems comprise a radio loudspeaker.
transmitter and microphone worn by the
teacher and a small, portable unit for the 6.8.4 Infra red technology
child. The portable unit includes an FM Infra red technology has been available
receiver, amplifier and loudspeaker and is for many years with little market presence.
designed to be carried around school by However, this technology has recently
the child and placed on the desk next to undergone considerable development and

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
hearing requirements 6
Technology Advantages Disadvantages

Infra red Physically limited to enclosed room Occasionally needs extra IR receivers in
Frequency range Allows equipment to be shared between rooms a room
2.3–2.5 MHz Wideband transmission
Can be used with personal hearing aids using a neck
loop (an induction loop worn round the neck)

Radio VHF narrowband Reserved frequency bands for use in schools Poor signal quality when compared to
173.35–177.15 MHz Many frequency bands available wideband
Equipment compatible across manufacturers

Radio UHF wideband Can allow a higher quality signal than narrow band Not available for personal FM equipment
790–865 MHz equipment
Many frequency bands available, although a site licence
might be required

Table 6.4: Advantages
and disadvantages of infra
red and radio technologies

Radio Microphone Radio Microphone
Transmitter Unit Receiver Unit

Microphone Radio
pre-amplifier Compressor FM transmitter link FM receiver

A B amplifier


Overload point of microphone & pre-amplifier Overload point of receiver output
pre tion
sso d e r ac
r ac Maximum transmitter an
tion Exp
Amplitude Signal/noise Signal/noise Signal/noise
ratio @ A @ B & C @ D

Receiver noise floor
Electronic noise floor

Figure 6.3: FM Radio
Microphone System

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
6 hearing requirements

is available to be used with many of the
EXPLANATION OF TECHNICAL TERMS technologies identified within this section.
One of the major developments is the
Matching Loudspeakers and Amplifier use of the 2.3 MHz and 2.5 MHz
Audio power amplifiers for sound reinforcement are made with two main types frequencies, allowing greater resistance to
of outputs described as ‘low impedance’ and ‘100 V’ or ‘high impedance’. interference from fluorescent lighting and
Similarly loudspeakers come in 4 or 8 ohms (low impedance) or 70 V or 100 V sunlight.
(high impedance). Table 6.4 compares the advantages and
disadvantages of infra red and radio
Low impedance amplifiers and loudspeakers technologies.
If an amplifier is rated for 2, 4, 8 or 16 ohms, then it is a low impedance type.
Care must be taken to ensure that the loudspeakers add up to a total load that
is both within the amplifier's power rating (W or watts), and between its 6.8.5 Induction loop systems
maximum and minimum load impedance range. Low impedance speakers, Induction loop systems take advantage of
usually rated at 8 ohms for smaller types, have to be connected in a way that the telecoil facility available with most
creates a total load within the range the amplifier is designed for. High hearing aids and cochlear implants. A
impedance, 100 V or 70 V loudspeakers cannot be used satisfactorily. The
telecoil is a small receiver capable of
advantage of low impedance systems is optimum audio performance, especially
at low frequencies. Hi-fi loudspeakers are usually low impedance.
picking up audio frequency,
electromagnetic signals. It is usually
+ + activated by setting a switch on the
4-16 Ohm output R1
power amplifier 8 Ohms, 5 W
– – Two loudspeakers hearing aid to the "T" position. An
wired in series
4 Ohms to 16 Ohms +
load range, R2 = 16 Ohms, 10 W induction loop system comprises a sound
20 watts @ 16 Ohms 8 Ohms, 5 W Pairs @ 16 Ohms
40 watts @ 4 Ohms
– wired in parallel input (usually a microphone), an amplifier
+ = 8 Ohms again
R3 and 20 W and a loop of cable which is run around
8 Ohms, 5 W
– Two loudspeakers
wired in series
the area in which the system is to be used.
+ = 16 Ohms, 10 W The loop generates an electromagnetic
8 Ohms, 5 W
– field which is picked up by the telecoil in
the hearing aid. The hearing aid user will
Calculating the load impedance
hear the sound while they are within the
For loudspeakers wired in series – add up the individual impedances R total = R1 + R 2 +.......+ RN
looped area.
– add up the individual power Ptotal = P1 + P2 +.......+ PN Induction loop systems have many
For loudspeakers wired in parallel – add up reciprocals of the individual impedance applications, from large-scale installations
1 = 1 + 1 +.......+ 1 in theatres and cinemas to small, domestic
R total R1 R2 RN
– add up the individual power Ptotal = P1 + P2 +.......+ PN
products used to listen to the television.
In the UK they are now rarely used in a
In above example R1 + R 2 = 8 + 8 = 16 for each series pair = R 1+2 , R 3+4
1 + 1 = 1 + 1 = 2 = 1 1
classroom setting. Alternatives such as
Wiring the pairs in parallel gives =
R1+R2 R3+R4 16 16 16 8 R total radio aids offer improved and more
Therefore R total = 8 consistent sound quality and are less
susceptible to interference. Induction
High impedance, 70 V or 100 V amplifiers and loudspeakers loop systems can also be difficult to use in
+ multiple applications, as the signal from
100 V output
power amplifier

one area can overspill into another.
+ In schools, induction loop or infra red

100 V, 5 W hearing aid systems should be considered
+ in large assembly rooms or halls. This is

100 V, 5 W primarily for visitors to the school rather
All loudspeakers wired in parallel
+ 100 V, 20 W
than for deaf pupils themselves, who
100 V, 5 W would normally have their own assistive

+ listening equipment. They should also be
100 V, 5 W considered in performance spaces,

meeting rooms and at reception area
Calculating the load impedance desks. In such situations the output from
Impedance is taken care of automatically by the 100 V transformer in the system. an existing PA system is often connected
Total power is the sum of all devices connected.
directly to the loop amplifier.
Pay phones in schools should have

Design of acoustic criteria for pupils with hearing impairments and
special hearing requirements 6
inductive couplers (a form of induction
installed in accordance with British
Standard BS7594. Their advantages and High impedance, 70 V or 100 V amplifiers and loudspeakers
disadvantages are listed in Table 6.2. If an amplifier is rated for 70 V or 100 V, then it is a high impedance
amplifier. It will also have a power rating. High impedance loudspeakers,
rated at 70 V or 100 V must be used. All loudspeakers should be either 70
6.8.6 Audio-visual equipment
V or 100 V. In this case the loudspeakers are simply wired in parallel and
Wherever possible, classroom equipment their individual power requirements are added up. Thus four 100 V
should be integrated with the assistive loudspeakers rated at 5 W would be wired in parallel and will provide a 20
listening devices used by deaf children. W load to the amplifier. External transformers can be added to low
For example, the audio output from audio impedance loudspeakers to convert them for high impedance use. The
advantage of this method is simple wiring. PA, paging and SFS
visual equipment, televisions and cassette
loudspeakers are usually 100 V types in the UK.
recorders, can be connected to radio aid
or soundfield transmitters. ‘Direct input’
leads are available to enable the audio
Radio Microphone System
output of computers or language
laboratory equipment to be connected Compander system (See Figure 6.3)
directly to a child’s hearing aid. FM (frequency modulated) radio links provide a signal to noise ratio that is
determined by the modulation bandwidth of the transmitter. Wider
6.8.7 Other assistive devices bandwidths allow fewer channels in a band of available frequencies, so
There is a wide range of other devices regulations limit the bandwidth to two system types described as wideband
FM and narrowband FM. Even wideband provides a limited signal to noise
that can be used by deaf children in
ratio of about 65 dB from real products. This is adequate if everything is
school, besides those that primarily assist perfectly adjusted so that a user's voice hits just below the maximum
listening. These include subtitled and permitted signal level. However real users vary their voices, different users
signed video, speech recognition software share systems AND they are often not correctly adjusted anyway. A
and text telecommunication devices, eg compander system combines a compressor on the transmitter of the
system, and an expander on the receiver. The two are matched in their
action so that the result on the receiver output is very close to the original
For further details of these devices input signal. What happens is that a larger signal range of say 90 dB is
contact the professional or voluntary compressed by 50% to fit into 45 dB. This allows for an improved safety
organisations listed at the end of this margin in the transmitter so that it does not overload, and allows a wide
section. Furthermore, it is recommended working range that will tolerate user variations. At the receiver the 45 dB
to seek advice to ensure that all public range is expanded back to 90 dB. This pushes the system noise down and
the signal up. The result is a signal free from distortion due to overload and
spaces meet the needs of deaf and hard of
with a much reduced background noise when a soft talker is turned up at
hearing people. the receiver.

6.9 Special teaching accommodation Diversity receiver
It is not the intention within this A FM radio microphone system emits a signal that has a fairly long
document to address the needs of special wavelength. The waves can reflect from room surfaces and arrive at the
receiver antenna in a way that causes the waves to cancel. The result is a
schools for deaf children. Specialist advice
‘dropout’ which will be heard as a disappearance of the audio from the
should always be sought from an system. If the dropout is maintained, for example if the user is standing still
educational audiologist or acoustician in a location that produces a cancellation, the receiver can even hunt and
when designing or modifying locate an alternative signal to lock onto - though this is uncommon. A
accommodation for this particular diversity receiver provides two independent radio and audio paths, including
purpose. two spaced antennae. The spacing minimises the risk that both antennae
will receive a cancelled signal simultaneously. The unit will automatically and
Many hearing impaired children attend
instantaneously select the stronger of the two signals to the audio output.
mainstream schools with resource While audio dropouts may be only slightly disturbing to a person with normal
facilities, sometimes called ‘units’. These hearing, the hearing impaired child, especially one reliant upon a personal
contain specialised rooms that exceed the FM receiver, will get nothing and could therefore frequently lose the whole
acoustic specifications for regular meaning or context of a piece of verbal information. Therefore, where
possible, diversity receivers should be used.
classrooms. Within these rooms, children
are able to learn the language skills that
might not be possible in a busy
mainstream classroom. They are also

Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with special
6 hearing requirements

places where children can interact within audiological management of the hearing
a favourable acoustic environment. impaired child. Case Study 7.6 describes a
It is not uncommon for these rooms to junior school with a hearing impaired
be used for ‘reverse integration’, where a unit, now renamed as the RPD (Resource
small group of children from the Provision for the Deaf). The
mainstream work with the hearing characteristics of rooms in an RPD are:
impaired children. Occasionally this • excellent sound insulation
provision may be directly attached to a • very short reverberation times
mainstream class in the form of a ‘quiet • very low ambient noise levels
room’ leading from the classroom. In • flexible space for individual and small
other situations the accommodation group work
might be a separate room or even • good lighting
building. Teachers and support • storage facilities for audiological
professionals might also use the areas for equipment.
a range of activities involved in the


British Association of Audiological Scientists
British Association of Educational Audiologists
British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
British Society of Audiology
National Deaf Children’s Society
Royal National Institute of the Deaf


Term Explanation

Natural-oral approach An approach to the education of children with hearing impairments that
seeks to promote the acquisition of spoken language using residual

Residual hearing A term used to describe the hearing abilities that remain in the case of a
hearing impairment.

Hearing aid A battery powered device worn by an individual, either behind the ear or in
the ear. A hearing aid will be selected and programmed to provide the
maximum audibility of the speech signal consistent with an individual’s
residual hearing.

Cochlear implant A special kind of hearing aid where the inner ear is directly stimulated
electrically via an implanted electrode.

Central auditory processing difficulty A broad term used to describe listening difficulties, which are not due to
the outer, middle or inner ear.

Radio aid An assistive listening device, designed to provide an FM radio link between
a transmitter (usually on the speaker) and the listener (coupled directly to
the hearing aids).

Design of acoustic criteria for pupils with hearing impairments and
special hearing requirements 6
6.10 Beyond the classroom References
As far as possible children with hearing [1] M Eatough, Deaf Children and Teachers of
impairments should be included in all the Deaf England, BATOD magazine, 2000.
school activities. Improving listening [2] S Powers, S Gregory and
conditions through better acoustics is a E D Thoutenhoofd, The Educational
Achievements of Deaf Children, DfES, 1998.
very important part of this, but not the
[3] J M Bamford, et al., Pure tone audiograms
only relevant factor. There are many
from hearing-impaired children. II. Predicting
others such as teaching style and context, speech-hearing from the audiogram. Br J
staff training, deaf awareness issues, and a Audiol, 15(1), 3-10, 1981.
whole school approach to special [4] M Picard and J S Bradley. Revisiting
educational needs. speech interference in classrooms.
Classrooms are not the only places Audiology, 40(5), 221-44, 2001.
where hearing impaired children interact. [5] BATOD, Classroom Acoustics -
It is often overlooked in school design, Recommended standards. 2001.
but critical learning and interaction takes [6] ASHA, Position Statement and guidelines
place outside the classroom, and if for acoustics in educational settings.
hearing impaired children are to be fully ASHA, 37(14), 15-19, 1995.
[7] S Gatehouse and K Robinson. Speech
included, attention should be given to all
tests as a measure of auditory processing,
areas of the school where the children
in Speech Audiometry, Second Edition,
might be expected to interact with others. M Martin, (Editor) Whurr: London, 1997.
These areas include rooms where aspects [8] A Markides, Speech levels and speech-to-
of the curriculum are delivered: libraries, noise ratios. Br J Audiol, 20(2), 115-20, 1986.
assembly areas, sports halls, music rooms, [9] J A Mattiske, J M Oates and
ICT suites and gymnasia. In these areas K M Greenwood. Vocal problems among
the need for good speech communication teachers: a review of prevalence, causes,
is essential although constrained by the prevention, and treatment. J Voice, 12(4),
activities taking place. 489-99, 1998.
Inclusion in most music activities [10] T Finitzo-Hieber and T W Tillman. Room
requires good acoustic conditions, good acoustics effects on monosyllabic
word discrimination ability for normal and
planning and structuring of lessons, and
hearing-impaired children. J Speech
the appropriate use of assistive listening
Hear Res, 21(3), 440-58, 1978.
devices. [11] O Wilson et al., Classroom Acoustics,
Perhaps the most difficult areas for Oticon Foundation in New Zealand: Wellington,
inclusion are large spaces such as assembly 2002.
halls and sports halls. These areas require [12] D Canning. Listening Inventories For
careful design and forethought. Education U.K., in LIFE UK, City University,
In other areas, not used for delivering London, 1999.
the curriculum, children still need to be [13] RNID, Guidelines for mainstream teachers
able to interact verbally. These include the with deaf pupils in their class.
corridors, cloakrooms, medical rooms, Education guidelines project, RNID, 2001.
school office, dining room, play areas and [14] National Deaf Children’s Society, Deaf
Friendly Schools – a Guide for Teachers and
toilets. In these communal places
Governors, NDCS, 2001.
important social interaction often takes
[15] DfES, Special Education Needs Code of
place and if inclusion is to be effective, Practice, DfES/581/2001.
these areas need to be designed with the [16] B Homer, R Vaughan and K Higgins, Radio
acoustic needs of the hearing impaired Aids, NDCS, 2001.
child and the child with listening [17] National Deaf Children’s Society, Quality
difficulties in mind. Standards in Education - England, NDCS, 1999.

Case studies

This section contains ten case studies which illustrate some of the principles of
the acoustic design of schools described in previous sections, and give
examples of solutions to problems of poor acoustics in schools.
Case study 7.1 – Remedial work to a multi-purpose hall in a county primary school 93

Case study 7.2 – An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three open-plan
primary schools 97

Case study 7.3 – Remedial work to an open-plan teaching area in a primary school 107

Case study 7.4 – Conversion of a design and technology space to
music accommodation 113

Case study 7.5 – A purpose built music suite 117

Case study 7.6 – A junior school with resource provision for deaf children 123

Case study 7.7 – An all-age special school for hearing impaired children 129

Case study 7.8 – Acoustic design of building envelope and classrooms at
a new secondary school 139

Case study 7.9 – Acoustically attenuated passive stack ventilation of an extension
to an inner city secondary school 143

Case study 7.10 – An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
learning spaces in a secondary school 147

Case Study 7.1: Remedial work to a multi-purpose hall
in a county primary school 7.1
The school is situated at a considerable battens and felt. The shallow pitched
distance from the main road running ceiling is formed from tongue and groove
through a large village in a quiet timber boards (119 mm by 19 mm),
residential area. In the early 1990s, it was overlain with 150 mm thermally
extended by adding seven new classbases insulating mineral wool batts. The roof
and a new multi-purpose hall. Activities in void increases from a height of 200 mm
the hall include assemblies, singing, at the eaves to 2 m at the ridge.
concerts and physical education. The hall Large external windows with opening
is of particular interest because it required lights are located in the north east and
remedial measures not long after complet- south east walls with a row of smaller high
ion to alleviate acoustic problems that level opening lights located in the external
were being experienced by teaching staff. wall to the south west, above the
The new hall is adjacent to playing circulation corridor. The circulation
fields and background noise levels around corridor connects the hall to the main
the school are low. Therefore there is building at ground floor level via glazed
little disturbance to occupants of the hall doors in a glazed screen. The corridor
from external noise. also provides a useful acoustic buffer
The hall is built of conventional between the hall and the nearby
masonry cavity walls comprising 100 mm classrooms and offices. External windows
facing brick outerleaf, 50 mm cavity, and and doors are all thermally double glazed.
140 mm blockwork inner leaf with a Internal doors and the glazed screen are
plaster finish. A plan and section of the of 6 mm glass.
hall are shown in Figure 7.1.1. Wall bars and similar apparatus are
The roof has a hipped form and is supported off the two long walls. The
constructed of steel trusses with 100 mm floor is of sprung timber strip to
by 50 mm softwood rafters at 600 mm accommodate physical education, dancing, Figure 7.1.1: Plan and
centres. It is covered with slates on etc. The hall is naturally ventilated. section of the new hall
showing extent of remedial










Glazed screens

extent of ceiling acoustic treatment

curtains provided
over glazed doors
and windows

wall bars


Case Study: Remedial work to a multi-purpose hall
7.1 in a county primary school

The new hall suffered from: below and the resulting multiple
• poor speech intelligibility, particularly reflections were detected as a longer
with small groups of 30 or less reverberation time (RT) near the
• distortion or colouration of speech centreline. This effect caused sounds to
• unusually high background noise appear louder than normal and coloured
noise levels, eg from the shuffling of or distorted.
children’s feet. To rectify these faults, it was proposed
Teachers found that they could that the ceiling should be made
improve speech intelligibility slightly if acoustically absorbent. This would reduce
they slowed down their normal rate of the RT to a level suitable for primary
speech or addressed groups of pupils from school uses and reduce the focusing
a sidewall rather than near the centreline. effect.
In fact, speech from around the centreline Although it provided a solution in this
of the hall appeared louder than normal case, it is not normally advisable for
and sounded coloured or distorted. ceilings to be sound absorbing in rooms
An acoustical assessment showed that where good speech intelligibility is a
speech was most distorted when both requirement. If the size, shape and
speaker and listener were near the geometry of the space are right in the first
centreline. Flutter echoes and enhanced place, then the ceiling should be reflective
reverberation were clearly evident and to sound. The reason for the success of
disturbing. When speaker and listener the ceiling treatment in this case was the
were both near a side wall the conditions overriding need to make a substantial
were less severe although still poor. reduction in RT and the fact that the
The acoustical faults correlated well floor has a timber finish, which provides a
with the teachers’ complaints. The useful reflection path in the absence of a
majority of complaints stemmed from comparable reflection from the ceiling.
excessive reverberation, attributable to the The school wanted to retain the timber
predominantly hard surfaces in the hall. ceiling. Therefore the timber boards were
Both floor and ceiling were hard and taken down and a series of 20 mm by 200
acoustically reflective. Excessive mm slots were cut into them (see Figure
reverberation caused consecutive syllables 7.1.2) to give an open area of
in speech to run into one another, approximately 25%. A mineral fibre
reducing intelligibility. acoustic quilt, 25 mm thick, was laid
This problem was compounded by the directly over the slots in the ceiling void.
shape of the ceiling. It has a shallow pitch The quilt was faced with an acoustically
with hipped ends, similar to an inverted transparent black scrim on the hall side
concave dish. Sound focused by the hard for aesthetic reasons. The existing layer of
reflective ceiling onto the hard floor thermal insulation was replaced over the
acoustic quilt. Figure 7.1.1 indicates the
area of the ceiling that was treated. The
Figure 7.1.2: Detail of acoustic treatment to the timber ceiling is
timber slats used to line considered to be in keeping with the
the hall ceiling
appearance of the hall (see photograph,
Figure 7.1.3).

In addition to the ceiling treatment,
30 20 20 acoustically diffusing panels were
recommended for the walls to distribute

sound evenly around the hall and prevent
flutter echoes. An example of a diffusing
panel is shown in Figure 7.1.4. However,
these panels were omitted due to lack of
funds. As a result of this omission and the
presence of an acoustically absorbent
dimensions in millimetres
ceiling, there is a tendency for sound to

Case Study: Remedial work to a multi-purpose hall
in a county primary school 7.1
Figure 7.1.3: The hall ceiling
after acoustic treatment

reverberate around the hall in a horizontal remedial work. Two sets of measurements
plane, particularly when occupancy is high were made; one with the source and
and the floor is obscured. Under certain receiver on the centreline of the hall and
conditions, this manifests itself as the other with the receiver positioned 2 m
distracting flutter echoes between the from a side wall. Measurements were
hard parallel side walls. One teacher made while the space was unoccupied.
reported this effect as a disturbing Curtains were pulled back to their normal
‘ringing’ noise whilst rehearsing music bunched positions either side of internal
and dance with a small group of children and external doors and windows. This
at the south west side of the hall.
Following implementation of remedial
acoustic treatment to the ceiling, the Figure 7.1.4: Example of
response from the teachers to the acoustically diffusing panel

modified acoustics of the hall was very
favourable and all reported a very
noticeable improvement.
Speech intelligibility was found to be
much improved when addressing both
small and large groups of children, and
noise from physical activities and children
shuffling feet during assembly has been
reduced to acceptable levels.
Communication during physical
education and similar noisy activities is
easier, and accompanied by lower levels of
background noise. approx 1 m
The reverberation time was measured
in the same positions before and after the

Case Study: Remedial work to a multi-purpose hall
7.1 in a county primary school

3.2 measured on centreline before treatment
3 measured 2 m from side wall before treatment
Reverberation time, s

1.4 Range of mid-frequency
1.2 reverberation time, Tmf, for
1 primary school hall from
Table 1.5
spatially averaged RT
0.4 after acoustic treatment
125 250 500 1000 2000 4000
Octave band centre frequency, Hz

Figure 7.1.5: Measured arrangement was considered to produce acoustic absorption will need to be
reverberation time in the the most reverberant condition likely to accommodated in the ceiling. Ideally,
new hall before and after
be encountered during every day small absorbent and reflective surfaces should
implementation of acoustic
measures group activities. be more or less evenly distributed on
Before remedial work, the measured both walls and ceiling. This case study,
Tmf was 2.8 seconds on the centreline but where modification of the existing ceiling
fell to 2.5 seconds along the side of the was complicated and costly, highlights the
hall. Figure 7.1.5 shows the measured RT importance of considering the acoustic
curves as a function of frequency. The requirements at the design stage.
Tmf after treatment is generally within
the range for a primary school hall, which
should be between 0.8 and 1.2 seconds.
Concerts and musical activities take
place in less reverberant conditions than
before, with substantial reductions in
colourations and distortions. These
conditions have been found to be
satisfactory. The introduction of acoustic
absorption into the ceiling of the new hall
has been successful in providing acoustic
conditions which are suited to primary
school uses.
It is clear from this study that the
acoustics of a hall are of fundamental
importance in the effective functioning of
this key space in a primary school. In
many halls, hard wall and floor finishes
will be necessary and the required

Case Study 7.2: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
open-plan primary schools 7.2
An investigation of the acoustic
Mid-frequency Table 7.2.1: Classroom
conditions in three recently built open mid-frequency
Room reverberation time (s)
plan primary schools was carried out. reverberation times
Sound insulation between classrooms and Y1 0.4
reverberation times and sound levels in G1 0.4
unoccupied classrooms were measured. G2 0.4
The effect of noise from adjacent areas
on speech intelligibility within the
learning bases was assessed. The Speech Classroom Y1 Classroom Y1 Practical area
Transmission Index (STI) was measured occupied unoccupied unoccupied
in the classrooms using Maximum Length
Sequence (MLS) analysis equipment as LAeq,10min (dB) 62.7 42.4 54.2
described in BS EN 60268-16. In each
case an artificial mouth, positioned where
the teacher usually stood during lessons,
was used to produce a reference signal after school activities. The sound level in Table 7.2.2: Sound
which was received by a microphone at the unoccupied practical area was measured levels in Yellow team area
different positions within the room. with lessons being conducted in all the
Speech intelligibility was rated using the adjacent teaching rooms.
measured STI values. As the school was in use, 10 minutes
was the longest practical time period for
7.2.1 School 1 the measurements of indoor noise levels.
(pupils aged 5 -11 years) The speech transmission index (STI)
The layout of the school is shown in was measured at 5 positions in the
Figure 7.2.1(a). The walls are full height unoccupied room G3 with and without
between the classrooms and the corridors, masking noise being generated in rooms
with teaching areas accessed via open G1 and G2. The position of the artificial
arches from the corridors The two mouth and the 5 microphone positions
teaching areas on each side of the are shown in Figure 7.2.1. The masking
corridors are open plan, being separated noise had the same level as was measured Table 7.2.3: Average STI
only by a quiet/IT area. Measurements during the science lesson in classroom Y1 values in unoccupied room
were conducted in the Yellow and Green and was shaped to give similar levels, in G3 with and without
masking sound in rooms
team areas indicated. The layout of the the third octave frequency bands between G1 and G2
Green team area with measurement 50 Hz and 5 kHz, as those measured.
positions is shown in Figure 7.2.1(b).

Measurement results Microphone No masking Mask in room G1 Mask in room G2
The measured classroom mid frequency position
reverberation times (Tmf) are shown in STI Rating STI Rating STI Rating
Table 7.2.1.
1 0.803 Excellent 0.639 Good
The sound level (LAeq,10min) was
2 0.673 Good 0.654 Good 0.642 Good
measured in classroom Y1 when occupied
3 0.761 Excellent 0.691 Good 0.426 Poor
during a typical interactive science lesson,
4 0.739 Good 0.550 Fair
and when unoccupied after the school day
5 0.745 Good 0.555 Fair
had finished. The sound level was also
measured in the unoccupied Yellow team
(Team 4) practical area indicated in
Figure 7.2.1. The measured sound levels Rooms DnT(0.8s),w (dB) Table 7.2.4: Measured
are shown in Table 7.2.2. sound insulation between
It should be noted that although the Y1 to Y4 classrooms
level in classroom Y1 was measured after G1 to G2 19
the children had left the school, the G1 to G3 24
corridor adjacent to the room was still G2 to G3 14
occasionally used by those involved in

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
7.2 open-plan primary schools

P.E. Store Quiet/I.T. Quiet/I.T. Quiet/I.T.
Y4 Area Y1 Area Area
Yellow Team Yellow Team Yellow Team Yellow Team Blue Team Blue Team

Team 4
Practical Area
Yellow Team Yellow Team Studio 3 Blue Team
Second Quiet/I.T.
Hall Y3 Area
Y2 Key Stage 2


Studio 2
Blue Team
Servery P.E.

Team 3
Practical Area Blue Team
Room First
Hall Key Stage 1
G1 H16

Staff room Green Team Studio 1
Dep. Head Red Team
Team 2 homebase 3
Practical Area

Foyer Red Team
Rec. Store Green Team Green Team Green Team Red Team
Office homebase 1 homebase 2
G3 Quiet/I.T.
G2 Quiet/I.T.


Figure 7.2.1:
School 1 layout Servery P.E.
(a) Whole school Store Key:
(b) Green Team test area m Artificial mouth used for speech
intelligibility test
2 Microphone positions

Hall Key Stage 1
G1 H16

Staff room Green Team

Team 2
Practical Area

1 2
Foyer m
c. Store 5 Green Team
G3 4


Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
open-plan primary schools 7.2
The STI measurement results are shown heard clearly in classroom Y1. This was a
in Table 7.2.3. result of her feeling the need to admonish
The results of sound insulation a pupil for holding a conversation from
measurements between classrooms are the open corridor with one of her class
shown in Table 7.2.4. members.
The behaviour of the teachers and
Discussion pupils did not appear to be unusual and
This school was selected for investigation the strong impression was given that the
primarily because it had been reported day of the investigation was a typical
that the school’s open-plan design worked school day.
well. The head gave the impression that The measurements of the Speech
he strongly favoured the open-plan layout Transmission Index (STI) showed that
and stated that he had been closely speech intelligibility was reduced
involved with the design process of the considerably during an interactive science
new school. However, other members of lesson in classroom Y1. This was due to
staff were less enthusiastic. the increased sound level (LAeq,10min)
A team leader in the school stated that during the lesson.
the open-plan design suited the teaching The mid-frequency reverberation time
practices in the school although it had in each of the classrooms was 0.4 seconds,
taken some time to get used to at first. which is acceptable for classrooms for
Other teachers were forthright in their hearing impaired pupils. Because of this,
disapproval of the school’s design and the in the absence of children and teachers,
restrictions that it imposed. the measured STI rating varied between
Of the teachers whose opinions were good and excellent in unoccupied
canvassed, the majority stated that they classroom G3. However, when masking
felt the open-plan design led to problems noise was generated in room G2, the STI
associated with disturbance. Timetabling rating was reduced to poor and fair in
was organised so that the activities in positions 3, 4 and 5. This suggests that,
adjacent teaching areas produced similar when the teacher is speaking to the class
levels of noise in order to avoid from the usual position, pupils sitting
disturbance to pupils involved in quiet closest to room G2 are likely to
activities. experience more difficulty understanding
According to the teachers consulted, the teacher’s words than other pupils in
usually the arrangement was acceptable the classroom due to noise emanating
but problems could be caused if a teacher from room G2. The measurement of STI
unfamiliar to the pupils was taking a class showed that noise generated in G1 had
in an adjacent area. In such circumstances no significant measurable effect on speech
the usual strict enforcement of discipline intelligibility in room G3. This is likely to
on the children could be subverted be due to the stagger between the
leading to disturbance in adjacent areas. entrances to rooms G1 and G2 on
The measured levels in the unoccupied opposite sides of the corridor.
Yellow team practical area and classroom It should be noted that STI is an
Y1 were greater than those specified in objective measurement of speech
Section 1. In the practical area, it can be intelligibility, and cannot quantify
assumed that the measured level was disturbance to pupils. Disturbance may
affected by sound from adjacent occupied depend, for example, on whether pupils
classrooms. For example, it was noted perceive sound generated in adjacent areas
that during measurements in the to be interesting or threatening.
unoccupied practical area one of the
teachers constantly reminded the children
to work quietly by uttering the command
“Shh” at regular intervals. At a different
time, a teacher in classroom Y4 raised her
voice sufficiently for her words to be

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
7.2 open-plan primary schools

Remedial work: Absorbent screens hung above rear wall to reception
area. Existing wall was only 2.4 m high and was open above. Noise toilets
from reception area disturbed classes in classrooms 1 and 2. wc
duct lobby
quiet lobby office
Key: Approximately 1.2 m high rear area
dis'd community

m Artificial mouth used for speech walls of classrooms onto wc room

nursery wc

intelligibility test corridor store

store staff


2 Microphone positions store

male t 1
staff room female library
c ep
re classroom
staff toilets
mtr workroom food
secretary headteacher

staff room lobby classroom

office science/

kitchen plant studio/ boys stockroom technology 3
room music room classroom
library 4
dis'd wc girls
entrance classroom toilets
foyer 2 classroom 5
3 classroom 6
junior dining/
studio pe m
classroom 7
chair hall store
store 8 Partitions between classrooms
9 1 toilets

to about 600 mm below ceiling
with single glazing between
store toilets partition and ceiling

Figure 7.2.2: School 2
7.2.2 School 2 1.2 m high. Some common resource
(pupils aged 3 -7 years) areas, eg the library and the
The school layout is shown in Figure science/technology area, are located in
7.2.2. Classrooms 1 to 3 are for reception the corridor space. It is possible to see
classes and no measurements were over the low wall into the corridor and
conducted in this area, where some directly from one classroom to another in
remedial work had been carried out. the vicinity of these walls. Although the
Originally, the nursery wall onto the height of the walls between classrooms
corridor was only 2.4 m high with a gap increases towards the external wall of a
above. However, the disturbance to classroom, at no point is there a
classrooms 1, 2 and 3 from the high noise continuous barrier from the floor to the
levels resulting from normal nursery ceiling between the classrooms. The gap
activities necessitated the closing off of above the partition wall provides a clear
the nursery area using full height acoustic sound path, see Figure 7.2.3, and could
panels above the existing nursery wall. with forethought have been easily closed
The walls separating the classrooms off. However, it is doubtful if this would
from the corridor area are approximately have made a big difference to the sound
transmission given the low walls onto the
Figure 7.2.3: Partition
wall between classrooms. Measurement results
Note the large gap Measurements were conducted in rooms
(>300 mm) above the
glazed head of the partition.
4 to 9.
Because the classrooms were identical
in appearance, the mid-frequency
reverberation time was measured only in
unoccupied classroom 8, and was
0.5 seconds.
STI was measured in classroom 8.

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
open-plan primary schools 7.2
First, measurements were conducted at
Microphone Masking
the positions indicated in Figure 7.2.2,
position level (dB(A)) STI Rating
without any masking noise in adjacent
areas. After this, white noise was 1 0.656 Good
generated as masking sound in room 9 to 2 0.616 Good
represent noise from an occupied 3 0.640 Good
classroom and STI was measured in 4 0.588 Fair
positions 3 and 4 in room 8. Masking 3 60 0.459 Fair
levels of 60 dB(A) and 70 dB(A) were 3 70 0.263 Bad
used. White noise was used as masking 4 60 0.541 Fair
sound because no pupils were in the 4 70 0.430 Poor
school during the measurements.
Therefore, a typical classroom sound
spectrum could not be recorded and used these were alleviated by the addition of Table 7.2.5: Average STI
as the masking signal. The artificial acoustically absorbent panels on the wall values in classroom 8 with
opposite the classrooms. No other adverse and without different levels
mouth was positioned 1m in front of the
of masking noise in
white board on the wall between rooms 8 comments about the acoustics in the classroom 9
and 9. as shown in Figure 7.2.2. school were made by any of the teachers
The average STI values measured are interviewed although one teacher did
shown in Table 7.2.5. describe an unusual situation caused by
Table 7.2.6 shows the measured the lack of acoustic isolation between
airborne sound insulation between classrooms.
classrooms in terms of the weighted
BB93 standardized level difference Table 7.2.6: Measured
(DnT(0.8s),w). Table 7.2.7 shows the Rooms DnT(0.8s),w (dB)
sound insulation between
measured sound levels in the classrooms classrooms
with a sound source in classroom 9. 7 and 8 13
9 and 4 28
Brief discussions were held with the head
of the school and a few other teachers The same story was being read to
before and after measurements began. pupils in adjacent classrooms at the same
The head stated that she liked the open time. The teacher said that she became
plan design since it meant that pupils aware that her colleague in the adjacent
were accustomed to seeing her and she classroom was one or two words ahead of
could enter classrooms without causing her in the story. She described the
undue disturbance. situation as being “like hearing an echo”
When the school was first used, and attempted to speed up her reading in
problems with high noise levels had been order to synchronise the delivery to both
experienced in the reception class area but classes.
The design of the school means that
acoustic isolation between classrooms and
the area outside the classrooms would be
expected to be low. The results of the
measurements taken bear this out. 13 dB
DnT(0.6s),w between classrooms 7 and 8
Table 7.2.7: Sound levels
is a very low level of sound insulation. in classrooms 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Indeed, 28 dB DnT(0.6s),w between and 9 with sound source in
classroom 9 and classroom 4 (which are classroom 9

Classroom 4 5 6 7 8 9

LAeq,2min (dB) 68.2 69.5 72.8 75.8 81.4 96.1

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
7.2 open-plan primary schools

not adjacent, see Figure 7.2.2) is better screened from classroom 9 than
significantly lower than the 45 dB position 3 where there was an almost
between adjacent classrooms required in uninterrupted path between the two
Table 1.2 of Section 1. rooms owing to the lower dividing
Comparison of STI values in a partition at this point. The measurements
classroom with and without masking show that speech intelligibility in position
noise generated in an adjacent classroom 3 is reduced by masking noise generated
demonstrates that there is a significant in room 9. The masking noise had less
reduction in speech intelligibility due to effect on STI in position 4 than in
the masking noise position 3. However, position 4 had the
The data in Table 7.2.5 show that the lowest STI value of the four measurement
STI values and, consequently, speech positions. This is largely due to the
intelligibility were reduced in the two artificial mouth being directed into the
positions used for the measurements classroom perpendicularly from the wall.
when masking noise was generated in the Directing the artificial mouth towards
Figure 7.2.4: School 3
layout showing recently adjacent classroom and when the level of position 4 would have increased the STI
added extensions the noise was increased. Position 4 was value at this position. Thus, unless the

Recently added
extensions m

8 3

7 5 4
Curtains 2
to this extension Curtains to screen
removed classroom openings
during test
6 1




m Artificial mouth used
for speech
intelligibility test

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
open-plan primary schools 7.2
teacher is looking directly at a child at this
Room Mid-frequency Table 7.2.8: Classroom
position, the speed intelligibility will only mid-frequency
be ‘fair’. reverberation time (s)
reverberation times
Since the mid-frequency reverberation 9 0.4
time measured in two of the classrooms 6 0.7
was 0.5 seconds problems with speech 5 0.9
intelligibility can be attributed to high 3 0.6
ambient noise levels in the classrooms. 4 0.6
Because the sound insulation between the
rooms is so low, it is likely that noise
generated in adjacent areas will contribute Room Lesson type LAeq,3min (dB) Table 7.2.9: Sound levels
to the overall sound levels in the rooms. in occupied classrooms
5 Project work 74.9
7.2.3 School 3 6 Literacy 69.7
(pupils aged 4 -8 years) 4 Project work 69.3
This is a recently built school which has 3 Numeracy 69.8
been extended. The extensions 10 Project work 66.2
accommodating rooms 1 to 8 are shown 9 Room empty 56.2
in Figure 7.2.4. Measurements were
conducted in the original school building
with children present and in the
extensions both with and without the better as a group
children present. • she felt that open-plan design allowed
more flexibility
Measurement results • she felt that organising pupils in
Table 7.2.8 shows mid frequency common teaching areas was “more
reverberation times measured in the natural”, especially for those joining
classrooms. Tables 7.2.9 and 7.2.10 show the reception class.
measured sound levels in occupied and However, prior to this investigation, the
unoccupied classrooms respectively. head had contacted her local education
The results from the measurements in authority due to problems encountered in
Schools 1 and 2 demonstrate that STI the extensions to the school containing
values are reduced by noise from adjacent rooms 1 to 4 and 5 to 8. Here, difficulties
areas and that those positions closest to had been encountered which resulted in
the noise are likely to be most affected. ‘acoustic curtains’ being fitted to separate
Therefore, STI was measured in only one the classrooms from the communal areas
position in two classrooms. In room 3, 4 and 5. When the measurements were
STI was measured with the curtains made, the curtains were temporarily
between rooms 3 and 4 open and closed. removed from rooms 6 to 8.
All measurements were conducted with The measurement results given in Table
the artificial mouth positioned where the 7.2.8 show that the reverberation time in
teacher would usually stand, see Figure the original building is shorter than in the
7.2.4, and the receiving microphone was two extensions. They also show that the
positioned 3 m in front of the artificial reverberation times in the rooms with
mouth. The results are shown in Table curtains (rooms 3 and 4) are lower than
7.2.11. those in rooms without curtains (rooms 5

The head in this school was strongly in Table 7.2.10: Sound
Room LAeq,3min (dB) levels in unoccupied
favour of the open plan design of the
school for the following reasons: 5 35.4
• she felt that the staff worked better as 4 32.8
a team 3 31.8
• she felt that the children worked
Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
7.2 open-plan primary schools

during these activities were higher than
Table 7.2.11: Average
STI values in unoccupied Room STI Rating would be expected in a formal lesson. For
classrooms. Note: adjacent example, in the numeracy lesson in room
9 0.570 Fair 3, the teacher sat in one corner of the
rooms were occupied
during the measurements 3 (curtains open) 0.689 Good classroom with the children seated close
in Room 9. 3 (curtains closed) 0.693 Good to her. In this lesson the teacher spoke
and the children responded when it was
and 6), which exceed the values specified The level in room 5 was approximately
in Table1.5. These results suggest that 5 dB higher than the level measured
the acoustic problems experienced by staff during the literacy lesson in room 6. This
in the extensions to the original building part of the extension did not have
can largely be attributed to the lack of curtains fitted between the rooms at the
sound absorption and the consequent time of this investigation. In the other
relatively long reverberation times in extension, where curtains were fitted, the
these areas compared with the original levels measured in room 4 (project work)
school building. The original building and room 3 (numeracy lesson) were
had acoustically absorbent ceilings virtually the same. The curtains between
whereas the extension did not. rooms 3 and 4 were drawn so that only a
The results from the measurement of gap of around 300 mm remained
STI show that in unoccupied classroom 3 between the curtain and the wall
speech intelligibility was good with the separating room 3 from 4.
curtains both closed and open. In room A teacher in the school volunteered
9, the speech intelligibility rating was fair. comments on teaching conditions in
Since the reverberation time in room 9 is rooms 1 to 4. She said that she found it
0.5 seconds, this lower rating can be difficult to hear some softly spoken pupils
attributed to noise generated by children due to the high noise levels in the
in the adjacent areas at the time of the classroom and that parents would inform
measurements. her if and when their child had difficulty
The results shown in Table 7.2.12 hearing what was being said in lessons.
show that the curtains reduce the sound The teacher was of the opinion that
transmission between classrooms, in room 2 was worse to teach in than rooms
addition to reducing reverberation times, 1 and 3 because of the low sound
although none of the sound insulation insulation of the walls separating the
values measured meets the specification of rooms and the consequent noise
45 dB in Table 1.2 of Section 1. transmission from rooms 1 and 3.
Table 7.2.9 shows the sound levels Unprompted she described the difficulties
recorded in different rooms whilst lessons experienced when reading the same story
were taking place. Pupils were engaged in to her class as the teacher in the adjacent
project work in room 4 while in rooms 3 room but being a sentence or two behind
and 6, more formal literacy and numeracy or in front of her colleague next door.
lessons were being conducted. The teacher felt that the curtains had
Project work meant that the children improved conditions in the classrooms.
were working in small groups and noise Cupboards had also been placed in the
levels generated by their interaction openings between rooms 1, 2, 3 and 4 in
an attempt to improve sound insulation
between the different teaching areas. In
Table 7.2.12: Measured her opinion, the cupboards had been
sound insulation between Rooms Curtains DnT(0.6s),w (dB)
useful for this purpose.
3 to 4 open 10 dB
7.2.4 Summary
3 to 4 closed 15 dB
In all the schools visited, the head
3 to 2 open 21 dB
teachers appeared to approve of the open
3 to 2 closed 28 dB
plan design in their school. Some teachers

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in three
open-plan primary schools 7.2
shared their head’s enthusiasm for the schools in terms of their acoustic
design but others felt that problems environment. None of the schools met
caused by the transmission of sound the requirements for sound insulation
between rooms were significant. between classrooms contained in Building
The measurement of STI in the schools Bulletin 93. Although reverberation in
demonstrated that speech intelligibility is classrooms was well controlled (apart
reduced by noise generated in adjacent from in the extension in School 3),
rooms. In all the open-plan schools, high ambient sound levels during teaching
ambient noise level was the most periods were too high for the measured
significant cause of low speech STI values to indicate good speech
intelligibility. intelligibility. As a consequence of the
From the few opinions canvassed in the levels in the classrooms, both teachers and
schools it would appear that there are pupils would need to speak more loudly
benefits to adopting an open-plan design. in order to be clearly understood.
These appear to be that the design is In many open plan teaching spaces it is
favourable for team working, that it difficult to achieve clear communication
engenders a feeling of inclusion in the of speech between teacher and students.
school and that it allows for a visually For this reason, careful consideration
attractive environment. However, placing should be given as to whether to include
cupboards in spaces between rooms in open-plan teaching spaces in a school. If
order to increase isolation between them open-plan areas are required then
may detract from the original open-plan rigorous acoustic design is necessary to
design. satisfy the performance standards in
From the results of this survey, it is Section 1.
difficult to justify the use of open-plan

Case Study 7.3: Remedial work to an open-plan teaching area
in a primary school 7.3
The primary school in Case Study 7.1 the other.
extended its facilities in the early 1990s • The teaching spaces are separated
by adding seven new classbases and a from potentially noise producing and
multi-purpose hall to the existing school. noise sensitive spaces, eg other classrooms
The new classbases were arranged in two and the main hall, by a corridor. This
open-plan areas, of three and four arrangement is advantageous for reducing
classbases respectively. noise disturbance to or from other parts
The teaching area with four classbases, of the school.
numbered 4 to 7 in Figure 7.3.1, is an • Toilets and services provided in the
interesting example of the limitations of corner of each pair of bases are buffered
an open-plan environment. Acoustic from the teaching spaces by lobbied
problems were experienced by the doors.
teaching staff which subsequently led to Teaching staff perceived the open-plan Figure 7.3.1: Plan of
the implementation of remedial measures. teaching area to be difficult to work in open-plan teaching spaces
Visits were made to the school before and because of poor acoustics. They had two before modifications
after the remedial work.
The new extension to the school is of
conventional masonry cavity walls,
comprising 100 mm facing brick
outerleaf, 50 mm cavity and 140 mm
blockwork inner leaf with a plaster finish.
The roof over the teaching area is
made up of a combination of pitched
sections with a tiled exterior and flat roof
constructions with a felt finish. Each pair
of adjacent classbases has a roof light Base 7

located in a flat roof section. Windows are
thermally double glazed and openable.
Internal walls are generally constructed
of either 100 mm or 140 mm
lightweight blockwork. Surface finishes Base 6
are generally hard and reflective except
for the floor which is covered in a short
pile carpet. The walls are plastered and
have an emulsion paint finish. The ceiling
in the open-plan teaching areas is Group Room
constructed of 12.5 mm plasterboard
with a painted skim finish.
The general features to note about the
layout of the open-plan teaching areas are:
Base 5
• All four teaching spaces are
incorporated in an open-plan arrangement.
• The physical separation between
classbases 4 and 5, and between classbases
6 and 7 is minimal which implies
negligible acoustic separation. A small Base 4
improvement in acoustic separation may Services
be gained by strategic positioning of tall
items of furniture, eg bookcases, between
adjacent classbases.
• The physical separation between
classbases 5 and 6 is only partial and is
formed by the projection of the group
room on one side and book shelving on

Case Study: Remedial work to an open-plan teaching area
7.3 in a primary school

main complaints. Firstly, when teaching in
a classbase, they could clearly hear
teaching activities in other classbases, even
the most distant ones, and they found this
very disturbing and disruptive. Some
teachers perceived this as a ‘funnelling’ of
sound from one end of the open-plan
teaching area to the other. Conditions
were worst during normal table activities
Base 7
when a comparatively active and excited
class returned to an adjacent classbase
from a PE lesson.
Secondly, noise levels within a classbase
during teaching activities were excessively
Tall book shelves
high and adversely affected concentration
Base 6 and working ability.
Remedial measures were designed to
Glazed partitions improve the acoustic separation between
and doors
classbases in order to reduce difficulties
with acoustic seals
Group Room arising from mutual disturbance, and to
reduce the build-up of noise levels during
classroom activities to promote an
Base 5 improved teaching environment.
The acoustic separation between
Tall book shelves classbases was increased by installing a full
height double-leaf glazed partition
between the group room and bookshelves
as shown in Figure 7.3.2. The glazing is
Base 4
6 mm thick and doors have perimeter and
threshold acoustic seals. This construction
extends the size of the group room and
forms an effective acoustic barrier
between the two pairs of bases 4 and 5,
and 6 and 7.
To provide further acoustic separation
between the individual bases 4 and 5, and
6 and 7, several tall bookcases were
positioned along the dividing line
between these classbases. The acoustical
separation provided by this type of partial
barrier is, of course, considerably less
Figure 7.3.2: Arrangment effective than that provided by a full
of open-plan teaching
height partition.
spaces following
(a) floor plan Noise control
(b) new glazed partition Noise levels during class were high
extending the group room because surfaces were hard and
acoustically reflective with the exception
of the carpeted floor. Acoustic absorption
was added to reduce these noise levels.
The ceiling was the most suitable area for
(b) treatment and acoustic tiles were applied
over the whole of the ceiling in the open-
plan teaching area. The precise absorption

Case Study: Remedial work to an open-plan teaching area
in a primary school 7.3
coefficient of the ceiling tiles is not installation of the acoustic ceiling and
known, but an absorption coefficient of partitions, noise levels ranged from 64
0.9 over the speech frequency range is dB(A) to 69 dB(A), a reduction of 2 to 3
normally needed to maximise the benefit dB(A) which appears to be a small but
of an acoustic ceiling. As well as controlling significant subjective decrease.
noise within the classbase, the ceiling
treatment helps to reduce the propagation Reverberation time
of sound from one classbase to another. The reverberation time was measured in
The teachers reported an immediate classbases 4 and 5. After remedial
improvement in aural conditions with the treatment, the unoccupied mid-frequency
installation of the partitions. They found value was 0.4 seconds with a rise to
that they were now only disturbed by the 0.7 seconds at 125 Hz. The mid-frequency
classbase immediately adjacent to them. reverberation time, which will undoubtedly
By strategic location of items of tall have dropped with the installation of the
furniture they were able to slightly reduce acoustically absorbent ceiling, is now
this remaining source of disturbance. generally below 0.6 seconds, as required
The acoustic ceiling, installed a few for primary school classrooms in Table 1.5.
months later, was perceived by teachers to
produce a small but significant reduction Sound insulation
in the noise levels during class activities. The sound insulation was measured
between classbases 5 and 6. A value for
Acoustic measurements DnT(0.6s),w of 48 dB was obtained which
The noise levels during class and the meets the requirements between standard
reverberation times of the spaces were classrooms specified in Section 1.
measured. Measurements were also made
to evaluate how well sound propagates Sound propagation
from one classbase to another. The Before the partitioning of the room,
majority of measurements were made simple tests showed that speech could
after the remedial treatment had been easily be understood between extreme
implemented although noise levels during ends of the open-plan area even when
class were also measured before treatment. there was no line of sight. Whilst the
partitioning provided by extending the
Activity noise group room gives good sound separation
The noise levels were measured in the between two pairs of teaching bases, the
four classbases, before and after the acoustic ceiling and physical obstructions,
remedial treatment, during typical table such as tall bookshelves, are the only
activities. Approximately 25 pupils were means of achieving a degree of acoustic
present with 1 or 2 teachers in each separation between the other adjacent
classbase. The octave band frequency bases.
spectrum for all measurements was To measure the sound propagation
consistent in shape and a typical sound with distance across an adjacent pair of
level spectrum for classroom table activity classbases, a broadband sound source was
before treatment is given in Table 7.3.1. used to simulate the radiation of sound
For typical table activities, the from a nominal teaching position and
background noise levels prior to the sound level measurements were made
acoustic modifications ranged from 67 across the classbase and into the adjacent
dB(A) to 71 dB(A). Following the classbase. Figure 7.3.3 illustrates the three

Octave band centre frequency (Hz) Table 7.3.1: Typical
63 125 250 500 1k 2k 4k 8k measured activity noise
levels in an open-plan
Sound pressure level (dB) 56 60 65 69 68 62 57 54 classbase before remedial

Case Study: Remedial work to an open-plan teaching area
7.3 in a primary school

propagation paths that were investigated: By comparing the two figures, it is
• from base 4 to base 5 with line of evident that the reduction in sound level
sight with distance between bases 4 and 5 is
• from base 4 to base 5 via an indirect very modest compared with the large
path reduction between bases 5 and 6 (ie
• from base 5 to base 6 via the across the partition). This is clearly
partitioning formed by extending the reflected by the subjective impressions of
group room. teachers who are disturbed by noise from
Figure 7.3.3: Sound The results for the three paths are an adjacent classbase on the same side of
propagation paths shown in Figures 7.3.4 (a) and (b). the partition but are not disturbed by
investigated classbases beyond the partition.
The erection of a physical barrier across
the middle of the open-plan teaching area
was clearly effective in improving
conditions. It is important to note the
constructional simplicity of this barrier
and its acoustical effectiveness in reducing
sound transmission. This was achieved by
using two partitions with a large air cavity
in between (the extended group room). A
single partition would have needed to be
substantially heavier with more elaborate
Base 7
acoustical detailing.
The new partition did not solve all the
problems of sound transmission since
classbases 4 and 5, and classbases 6 and 7
were still open to each other and some
Base 6 mutual disturbance is still occurring. This
has been reduced by partial barriers but
can not be effectively eliminated without
a complete barrier.
Extended The acoustic ceiling treatment is
Group Room beneficial in reducing noise levels but did
not result in a dramatic effect since the
R1 classbases were already carpeted and
Base 5
S3 Conclusions
R2 The effect of mutual disturbance in open-
plan teaching areas is clearly illustrated in
this case study and relatively simple
Base 4 remedial measures have been shown to
work moderately well.
Before embarking on the design of an
open-plan teaching area, serious
consideration should be given as to
S2 whether the advantages of the open-plan
arrangement outweigh the serious
inherent acoustic disadvantages.
S1 S2 S3 Source positions

R1 R2 R3 Receiver positions

Case Study: Remedial work to an open-plan teaching area
in a primary school 7.3
Figure 7.3.4: Sound
propagation from one
classbase to another
buffer zone
between (a) without full height
spaces partition
80 Minimal reduction across the
open buffer zone
Sound pressure level,dB


Slightly greater reduction
between classbases for an
40 obstructed speaker-listener path

Base 4 Base 5

0 2 4 6 8 10 12
Distance from teaching position, m

100 (b) with full height double
buffer zone partition

Sound pressure level,dB

Significant reduction across the
glazed partitions either side
of the buffer zone
(or group room)



Base 5 Base 6

0 2 4 6 8 10 12
Distance from teaching position, m

Case Study 7.4: Conversion of a design and technology space
to music accommodation 7.4
Existing school buildings may have spaces
that are less than ideal and compromises
have to be made during remodelling. A
design and technology (D&T) workshop
was converted into music accommodation
for an 11–16 comprehensive school with
600 pupils on its roll. Figure 7.4.1 shows
plans of the original workshop and the
The floor area of the conversion is
96 m2, including an adjacent 13 m2 space
with independent access.
The original workshop was built in
1954 using a prefabricated, reinforced
concrete system of modular design having
concrete roof panels and double skin
walls; there is a wood block floor. The
south-east and north-west facades of the
building were fully glazed from a sill
height of about 1.0 m. The ceiling height were hard, resulting in an unacceptably
in the main space was 3.3 m. The size of long reverberation time of 2 seconds.
the main space was suitable for a music Standing waves and flutter echoes were
Figure 7.4.1:
room but there were some disadvantages likely due to parallel walls and hard
(a) Plan of the original
with the accommodation: surfaces. workshop
• Existing floor and ceiling surfaces • The north-west wall abutted the (b) Plan showing
conversion to music

(a) (b)

Case Study: Conversion of a design and technology space
7.4 to music accommodation

school playing field. The extent of glazing existing area, it was possible to provide a
was excessive and considered undesirable music room of 65 m2, three group rooms
from a security point of view on a side and a store, see Figure 7.4.1(b).
with potential for intrusion. Performances to an audience or large
• The school playground, a potential scale rehearsals take place in the school
source of noise, is adjacent to the south- hall. The largest group room (or
east wall. ensemble room) is converted from the
• A second design and technology existing store and can be accessed
workshop is adjacent to the space separately, if necessary, to avoid disturbing
(although an entrance lobby and store classes. The dimensions of this space are
provide a buffer between the teaching not ideal as proportions are long and
spaces). narrow but compromise has been
• The building is free-standing and accepted and the wall treatment is
circulation is external which results in an designed to optimise room responses. An
excessive number of entrances. entrance lobby houses coats and bags and
• The reverberation time of the space provides additional sound insulation
was too long for a music room. between the main space and the adjacent
D&T room.
The adaptation The sound insulation of the music
Structural alterations were kept to a room was a priority. The key aspects of
minimum in order to constrain costs and the acoustic treatment are shown in
Figure 7.4.2: Plan
maximise available funds for acoustic Figure 7.4.2, and described below.
showing acoustic
treatments treatments and finishes. Within the
In order to improve security, glazing
to the north-west wall was removed and
Angled panels and shelving the opening was infilled up to two thirds
provide surface modelling
of its height with rendered
Full length
blockwork. Medium density block (1500
drapes kg/m3) was used to give appropriate
sound insulation. The top third of each
panel was thermally and acoustically
double glazed with bottom-hung
Angled panels
openable fanlights.
and shelving
provide surface Angled panels of medium density
modelling to particle board were fixed to studding
help diffuse on the inside face of the north-west
Full length sound
wall of the main space. These help to
drapes can Carpet
be used prevent standing waves between parallel
to floor
to vary increases side walls and can provide much needed
acoustic absorptivity Observation display space. The panels are without
absorbency windows detailed
for good sound
fabric covering since this would
Acoustic insulation compromise the high frequency response.
double glazing Panels are omitted where there are shelves
to increase as these have an equivalent acoustic effect.
sound insulation Angled panels are also used in the group
from playground
Secondary acoustic glazing was added
Lobby increases
to the windows to the south-east
insulation Wall at an angle (playground) side, as two sliding panels.
between music to avoid flutter This allows access for maintenance and to
and D & T echoes and open casements or fanlights. Solar
standing waves
Full length reflective film was added to the outside of
drapes the existing fenestration to reduce solar

Case Study: Conversion of a design and technology space
to music accommodation 7.4
Mid-frequency value
Figure 7.4.3: Graph
in unconverted space
showing effects of drapes
prior to adaptation
2.0 on reverberation times in
Position of Percentage
classroom, ensemble room
drapes of wall area
and group room
1.8 covered
1.6 bunched 10%
rear wall 27%
Mid-frequency reverberation time, s

rear and side 53%
1.2 bunched 5%
one wall 14%
bunched 5%
one wall 28%


0.2 Classroom
Ensemble room
0 Group room
10 20 30 40 50
Percentage of wall
covered by drapes

gain. In a new building, an alternative 0.5 kg/m2 at 200% gather, providing
solution may be to incorporate a fixed acoustic variability and control. The
sunshade or ‘brise soleil’ at the eaves soffit. curtain track is ceiling mounted along
Internal doors into the music three sides of the room providing
classroom, the adjacent D&T space and maximum flexibility allowing curtains to
the ensemble room were upgraded to be positioned to suit the configuration of
heavy solid core doors with double seals the musical activity. This is useful in a
all round including threshold seals. Doors school where one classroom serves a
to the two group rooms have vision number of functions.
panels for supervision with 10 mm glass. Curtains are also provided in group
Acoustically double-glazed observation rooms. In the ensemble room, they are
windows are formed in the partition walls positioned at the south-east end of the
to the ensemble room and one of the space, screening the doorway or bunched
group rooms. in the corner as required.
On completion, acoustic measurements
Fixtures and finishes were taken in the music classroom,
The existing plasterboard ceiling finish ensemble room and a group room (all
was retained; the existing wood block when unoccupied). Resulting mid-
floor to the main space was also retained frequency reverberation times are depicted
and carpeted for acoustic reasons. The in Figure 7.4.3. This graph shows that
ensemble room floor has a basic underlay measured values are in accordance with
and corded carpet, so that the finish is Table 1.5 of Section 1, and demonstrates
not too acoustically absorptive. the potential of providing acoustic
Wall finishes in the main space are variability using drapes.
supplemented by heavy drapes of at least In the 65 m2 classroom it can be seen

Case Study: Conversion of a design and technology space
7.4 to music accommodation

that curtains can be very effective in
reducing mid-frequency reverberation
time. Because of the number of variables
combining to affect the reverberation
time in a room including volume, the
weight and location of curtains, surface
finishes and furniture, the results shown
here are indicative only. The graph shows
that the ensemble room at 13 m2 has a
measured RT of 0.7 to 0.8 seconds,
within the range given in Table 1.5 of
0.6 to 1.2 seconds for an ensemble room.
The background noise level in the
unoccupied music classroom measured
whilst adjacent classes were in session was
29 dB LAeq, 1hr. This suggests that the
indoor ambient noise level is less than the
required level of 35 dB LAeq, 30min given
in Table 1.1 of Section 1.

Case Study 7.5: A purpose built music suite
The music department at a school with colourations occur when musicians play in
650 pupils between the ages of 11 and 18 the area underneath the main roof beams.
was replaced. The new self-contained It is possible that these are caused by
suite comprises a large music room, three strong reflections from the junction
music practice rooms, an ensemble room between the roof beam and ceiling as
and ancillary accommodation. shown in Figure 7.5.2. Additional
The school is located in a quiet rural localised measurements would be
district with low ambient outdoor noise necessary to investigate this effect. A
levels. The music block is several metres solution in this particular case would be
away from other buildings, which ensures to treat one side of the beam with
that noise egress to other parts of the absorbent material, as indicated.
school is minimised. As a general principle, it is useful to
Figure 7.5.1: Plan of
The building is constructed of masonry incorporate elements into a ceiling to music department
with an external leaf of brickwork, an provide diffusion and hence uniformity in (furnished)
insulated cavity and internal leaf and walls
of blockwork, some of which are
plastered. The density of the blockwork is
not known but ideally it should be the
highest available, ie 2000 kg/m3. The
MUSIC rooflights
tiled roof has an internal sheathing of ROOM
plywood which benefits sound insulation.
A full height blockwork crosswall, up
to the roof soffit, separates the large
music room from the rest of the building.
The music practice rooms also have full
height walls.
Windows are double-glazed and can be
opened. Doors are generally hollow core tt
with basic seals giving around 20 dB Rw
for the doorsets.
The music suite is a good example of
how to control noise transmission coats
between rooms, and thus reduce Entrance
disturbance, by careful planning of the
room layout, see Figure 7.5.1. The key disabled wc
features are:
• The large music room is separated

from other music rooms by a
corridor and storage areas. practice room
1 control
• The ensemble room with its room
associated recording/control room is
also separated from other rooms by a
corridor. practice room
Music classroom
The geometry of the large music room is
practice room 4/
good, with a rectangular plan shape and a
ensemble room
fairly steeply pitched ceiling, see Figure
7.5.2. The light fittings and recessed roof practice room
lights provide some useful modelling to 3
break up and diffuse the sound.
Two large encased purlins, projecting
down from the plane of the ceiling cause
a minor localised problem. Small sound 0 1 2 3 4 5m

Case Study: A purpose built music suite
Figure 7.5.2: Section
through music room
Electrically operated

Possible locations for
acoustic treatment

Sound reflection


975 Sound source

the sound field. For effective diffusion, and adequate for teaching.
projections of 0.3 m to 0.5 m are No provision has been made for
necessary. However, such projections varying the acoustics, eg by use of heavy
should be distributed over the whole curtains. This would be desirable but not
ceiling area; a single large projection can essential.
lead to a prominent and potentially The measured mid-frequency
disturbing reflection, as in this case. reverberation time (RT), with 25 children
Surface finishes are generally hard and and 4 adults present, was 1.0 seconds
reflective except for the floor which is with a rise to 1.5 seconds at 125 Hz. The
covered with a short pile carpet. In detail, full RT curve as a function of frequency is
the walls are of plastered blockwork with shown in Figure 7.5.3.
an emulsion paint finish and the ceiling is This RT is within the range for
of plasterboard with a plaster skim finish. ensemble rooms specified in Table 1.5 of
This combination of hard and soft finishes Section 1.
ensures that the reverberation is
sufficiently long for music performance

Figure 7.5.3: Measured
reverberation time in the 1.6
music room

Reverberation time, s






63 125 250 500 1000 2000 4000
Octave band centre frequency, Hz

Case Study: A purpose built music suite
Figure 7.5.4: Simple
acoustically diffusing
Board angled
10 mm thick full height hardboard on battens
at approx. 5°


Practice rooms the practice rooms. Again the distribution
All practice rooms include one pair of of absorption is uneven although the
non-parallel walls which reduces the sound field is rendered more diffuse by
possibility of sound colouration from the installation of the angled panels on
standing waves. one wall, see Figure 7.5.4. Treatment of
The practice room volumes are of the these panels with hessian is not desirable
order of 20 m3 and can accommodate up since it could reduce ‘brilliance’ of the
to 5 pupils working on composition. sound as there is already sufficient high
Ceiling heights are 2.6 m which is lower frequency absorption in the carpet and
than desirable but acceptable. ceiling.
The measured mid-frequency RT in The measured mid-frequency RT was
one of the practice rooms was 0.4 seconds 0.4 seconds with a rise to 0.6 seconds at
with a rise to 0.9 seconds at 125 Hz. This 125 Hz. This is lower than the range given
is at the lower limit recommended for in Table 1.5. A longer mid-frequency RT
practice rooms which results in a ‘dry’ could have been achieved by reducing the
sound but is nevertheless satisfactory. The ceiling absorption. There would then have
moderate rise in bass frequencies is been scope for having acoustic variability
generally a welcome feature giving using curtains.
fullness of tone to certain instruments.
A combination of acoustically reflective Recording/control room
and absorbent finishes has been used. The The control room is also square but
walls are of blockwork with a paint finish, without the benefit of diffusing elements.
the floor is carpeted with short pile carpet This could give rise to standing waves
and the ceiling is treated with acoustic although these were not evident. The
tiles. Although the selection of materials shelving and equipment probably provide
has resulted in acceptable reverberation sufficient diffusion to avoid sound
times, the distribution of absorption is colouration. A facing wall could be
concentrated on the ceiling and floor which treated with absorbing material to assist in
tends to emphasize sound reflections in preventing this.
the horizontal plane; an undesirable effect This room has the same surface finishes
that has been noted by users. This problem as the practice rooms and is generally
could be overcome by redistributing a suitable for music practice and composing
proportion of the absorption onto the as well as monitoring and recording
walls, eg by installing absorbent wall sound from the ensemble room.
panels and replacing some absorbent (Monitoring is normally done in a very
ceiling tiles with reflective ones. dead acoustic although a suitable
compromise has been struck here between
Ensemble room practicing and monitoring).
The ensemble room is square which could There is good visual communication
give rise to strong standing waves and with the ensemble room through an
hence possible colouration. However, one acoustic double-glazed window.
wall has simple angled reflective panels
acting as diffusing elements which work Sound insulation
effectively to counteract this. Surface The measured sound level difference
finishes in this room are the same as in between two practice rooms in octave

Case Study: A purpose built music suite
Table 7.5.1: Measured level Octave band centre frequency (Hz)
difference between two
63 125 250 500 1k 2k 4k
practice rooms
Level difference D (dB) 22 27 34 46 50 52 58

Table 7.5.2: Measured indoor Octave band centre frequency (Hz)
ambient noise levels in
practice room 125 250 500 1k 2k
Measured sound pressure level (dB) 38 33 26 21 25

bands is shown in Table 7.5.1. This musician or teacher is also a function of
equates to a weighted BB93 standardized the indoor ambient noise in the room
level difference of 44 dB DnT(0.8s),w. they are playing/teaching in: the higher
The sound insulation between practice the indoor ambient noise (if relatively
room 2 and the adjacent corridor was steady) the more masking of external
limited by the poor sound insulation of sounds occurs and hence the lower the
the doorset between them. The weighted disturbance from external noise.
BB93 standardized level difference The sound insulation was significantly
between the ensemble room (practice reduced by transmission through
room 4) and practice room 2 was 47 dB doorsets. The installed doors are hollow
DnT(0.8s),w. core with poor seals around the perimeter
and threshold. The two sets of double
Indoor ambient noise doors in the music suite do not have
The indoor ambient noise level was effective seals at the meeting stiles. This is
measured in practice room 3 during a a common problem with double doors
period when people were moving around but can be overcome by careful detailing
the building but no significant musical with rigid fixings at the meeting stiles. It
activity was taking place. The results are might have been better to use unequal
shown in Table 7.5.2. This equates to a paired doors instead of double doors. The
single figure value of approximately small leaf can then usually be bolted shut
30 dB(A). It means that there is little making the seal much more effective than
masking of intrusive noise from adjoining on a normal double door. A wide single
spaces. Therefore, separation of sensitive door is also a possibility.
spaces by storerooms and corridors is Upgrading seals to proper acoustic
particularly important. seals and replacing doors by the solid core
Table 7.5.3 compares the subjective type would improve performance close to
assessments of the acoustic quality of the that required. (Preventing doors from
spaces with the acoustic measurements. squeaking would also be beneficial in
reducing disturbance.)
Discussion A second key issue is the acoustic
One of the key issues relating to acoustics characteristics of each of the different
in music accommodation is sound types of space.
transmission between different rooms The large music room has a very good
which may cause disturbance to music geometry for providing a diffuse sound
practice and teaching. field. The 1.0 seconds Tmf is sufficiently
Clearly, the layout of the building long to provide fullness of tone but short
provides good separation between main enough to maintain clarity which is an
rooms or groups of rooms. The measured important quality in music teaching. The
DnT(0.8s),w from the ensemble room to rise in RT at bass frequencies is beneficial
practice room 2 was 47 dB. in terms of adding ‘warmth’ to the
However, the situation is more acoustic characteristic.
complicated because disturbance to a The music practice rooms also have an

Case Study: A purpose built music suite
Acoustic measurements Table 7.5.3: Comparison of
subjective and objective
Subjective Airborne sound assessments
impressions of Mid-frequency insulation Indoor ambient
the acoustic character reverberation DnT(T noise level
of the space time, Tmf (s) (dB) LAeq (dB)

Music room Moderately 1.0
reverberant. Diffuse
sound field.
Adequate loudness

Practice room Modest 0.4 44 29
(Tutorial 2) reverberation. Non between
diffuse sound field. practice
Reverberation rooms 2
concentrated in and 3
horizontal plane.
Can hear instruments
playing in adjacent
rooms but just tolerable.

Ensemble room Modest 47
reverberation. between the
Adequate loudness. ensemble
Disturbance from room and
practice rooms only practice
during quiet moments. rooms

Corridor Can clearly hear
piano from practice
room and clarinet
from ensemble room.

appropriate geometry in plan, namely two poor distribution of absorption in practice
non-parallel walls. However, absorption is rooms.
not evenly distributed on the room In summary, the main points to note
surfaces which prevents a sufficiently about the acoustic design of the music
diffuse sound field. block are:
The ensemble room appears to be • location of the building at a distance
much favoured by teachers and musicians from other buildings
alike who feel comfortable with its size. A • separation of large music room and
square plan shape is always problematic in groups of rooms by full height walls,
terms of standing waves although this has corridors and buffer zones
been mitigated by using simple and • selection of a simple rectangular plan
effective diffusing panels. shape for the large music room
The associated control room includes a • selection of non-parallel walls for
well designed acoustic double-glazed practice rooms
viewing window and the two spaces • use of simple angled wall panels to
together form a good quality recording provide sound diffusion in the
suite. The window consists of 2 x 6 mm ensemble room
glass panes with a 100 mm air space. • use of solid, acoustically reflective
materials for walls and ceilings in the
Conclusions large music room to ensure sufficiently
The music block is exemplary in most long reverberation.
respects in terms of its fitness for teaching
and practicing music at secondary school
level. The acoustic design is generally
good but there are some minor
shortcomings such as inappropriate
selection of doorsets and door seals, and

Case Study 7.6: A junior school with resource provision for deaf children 7.6
This case study describes a junior school Accommodation
and hearing impaired unit which provide The school was built in the late 1950s
an inclusive environment for hearing and is set away from the road in a quiet
impaired children who are educated location. The school has been pleasantly
through a natural aural approach. The decorated throughout. Some attention
children attached to the unit all have a has been given to reducing internal noise
‘significant’ hearing loss and abilities that by carpeting classrooms and some
fall within the ‘average’ range. The corridors. Most of the ceilings have some
guiding principle that underlies their degree of acoustic treatment. There are
placement within the school is that they no open-plan classrooms within the junior
should be allowed to make best use of school. It is the intention of the school to
their residual hearing. The children have further improve the acoustics of the
full access to the national curriculum and classrooms and a report on sound
are members of a mainstream class. treatment has been commissioned.
Children also have the use of a specialist There are 8 classrooms of similar size.
teaching resource facility as described In addition there is a dedicated ICT
below. space, a drama room, music room and a
large hall. A library has been established
Characteristics of the school in one of the larger corridors.
The junior school is of average size with Attached to the main building by a
about 230 children aged between 7 and covered walkway is a building formerly
11. Sixteen children are included called the hearing impaired unit, but now
specifically within the resource provision renamed as the RPD (resource provision
for deaf pupils, although this number for the deaf). This has extensive sound
includes children currently attending the treatment and the main teaching room is
infants’ school and is liable to fluctuation situated so that it does not face the
depending on the unpredictable changes playground.
in the size of the hearing impaired This case study focuses on two rooms:
population. the main teaching space in the RPD Figure 7.6.1: School
(marked as RPD on the plan) and a room layout



First Floor



ICT Class 6 Class 7 Class 8
Staff Class 4 Class 5
Class 1 Class 2 Class 3

7.6 Case Study: A junior school with resource provision for deaf children

Figure 7.6.2: ‘Circle
time’ in Class 4

typical classroom within the school (Class contributions. Figure 7.6.3 shows the
4 on the plan). layout of the room and the positions of
Figure 7.6.2 shows the children all the children during circle time. The
facing each other during circle time. The teacher is wearing a radio transmitter that
hearing impaired child has been placed transmits her voice directly to the child’s
next to the teacher to ensure that she can hearing aids and to a classroom soundfield
Figure 7.6.3: Class 4
layout hear the teacher well and see all amplification system. This will ensure that
the teacher does not have to raise her
voice and distort her speech unhelpfully.
All children benefit and as a consequence
are better able to participate.
Acoustic and behavioural measures
L L A number of acoustic and behavioural
measures have been obtained in order to
present an account of the acoustic
environment of the classroom. These
measures include:
Staffroom 6.8 m • listening inventories for education
(LIFE UK, see Section 6.5)
T • sound level during school day
(1 minute average dB(A))
• short term sound level measurements
L L (2 minute runs at 6 time intervals)
Windows • room acoustic measures.
3.3 m high LIFE UK is a protocol for evaluating
7.6 m listening abilities of children. Application
L - loudspeaker of the protocol indicates that the class are
T - teacher able to hear the teacher and each other
- child well most of the time, see Figure 7.6.4.
- hearing impaired child The hearing impaired child has a similar
profile with the exception of several

Case Study: A junior school with resource provision for deaf children 7.6
Listening with noise outside classroom
Listening during assembly
Listening with no noise outside classroom
Listening to peers 3 Listening to the teacher whilst class are
when working in groups tidying up after an activity is finished

Listening to teacher 1
Listening to teacher but not being
whilst another adult talks able to see her face

Listening to teacher Listening to teacher but with
during a test noise in corridor

Listening when the Listening to the teacher whilst class
teacher walks around are tidying up and moving around

Listening when overhead Listening to peer LIFE UK scores for Class 4
projector is switched on answer a question
LIFE UK scores for
hearing impaired child
1 - always easy to hear
2 - mostly easy to hear
3 - sometimes difficult to hear
4 - mostly difficult to hear
5 - always difficult to hear

critical areas, primarily the child indicates the corridor. The child indicates that she Figure 7.6.4: LIFE UK
that she needs to be able to see the is making satisfactory use of the personal scores for Class 4
teacher’s face in order to understand what radio system and classroom amplification
is being said. This is consistent with the system to overcome many of the potential
benefits offered by lip-reading in less than obstacles to hearing effectively.
ideal listening conditions. This can be Figure 7.6.5 shows a chart obtained
addressed through the teacher modifying using a noise logging dosimeter placed at
her teaching style. Other areas where the the front of the classroom and out of the
hearing impaired child finds greater reach of the children. The chart presents
difficulty include listening to her peers the one minute history of the sound level
answer questions; listening when there is obtained between 11.30 am and 15.28 pm
another adult talking; and listening when during a typical school day. ‘A’ represents
there is intrusive noise, for example from the class quietly engaged in group work.
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

100 Figure 7.6.5: Sound
levels in Class 4 during the


7.6 Case Study: A junior school with resource provision for deaf children


Sound pressure level, dB



125 200 315 500 800 1250 2000 3250 5000

Third-octave band centre frequency, Hz

Teacher speaking and instructing kids for "think and write, children quiet.
Analyser positioned back left.
Teacher quiet and children working on task with quiet babble.
Analyser positioned back left.
As above but with children becoming progressively louder as the task progresses.
Analyser positioned back right.
Teacher speaking and the children are quiet. Halfway through recording teacher
stops talking and children start to work with light babble.
Analyser positioned back right.
Some teacher talk close to microphone, mostly children's light babble.
Analyser positioned front left.
As above but with recording interrupted by the lunch bell.
Analyser positioned in mid-front right.
Children get ready to leave. The class is noisy.
Analyser positioned in the middle of the class.

Figure 7.6.6: Frequency ‘B’ is the lunch break. During the period controlled circle time discussion. A
spectra for various marked ‘C’ the class are again engaged in classroom soundfield system is used by
classroom activities
quiet group work; the end of period ‘C’ the class teacher and a personal radio FM
coincides with a break. During the period system is used by the one hearing
marked ‘D’ the sound level gradually rises impaired child who uses a hearing aid.
while the children take part in a carefully Period ‘E’ represents the end of the school

Case Study: A junior school with resource provision for deaf children 7.6
day and the sound level rises as children
and adults use the room informally.
Figure 7.6.6 shows the third-octave
band frequency analysis for some of the
classroom activities.

Reverberation time, s
Room acoustic measures

Ambient noise level
Measured levels with the classroom empty
were in the range 32-36 dB LAeq, but
this was after the end of school so did not
include noise from other areas of the
school. Noise from other areas was not
perceived by the teachers as a problem.
Octave band centre frequency, Hz
Sound level changes due to use of
soundfield system
Measurements of the sound pressure level although the ceiling and the carpets Figure 7.6.7:
and LAeq did not show changes that provide some absorption, more absorption Reverberation times in
unoccupied Class 4
could be definitely attributed to the use on the walls would reduce or eliminate
of the system. The teacher being the flutter echoes as well as reducing the
measured had, as judged subjectively, an RTs to acceptable levels.
exceptionally powerful voice, and it is
quite possible that she was able to Room acoustics assessment, RPD
monitor the acoustic impact on the class room
and adjust her speaking level accordingly. The measured RTs are shown in Figure
It is worth noting that the system is 7.6.8. As expected for an RPD room, the
not purely an amplification system, it Tmf is lower than the value of 0.4 seconds
exists to distribute the sound from the given in Table 1.5 for classrooms designed
teacher’s voice evenly about the classroom. specifically for use by hearing impaired
Simultaneous acoustic measures would pupils. Furthermore, the RT across the
have been useful to indicate the extent to frequency range is lower than 0.4 seconds
which this was achieved. as recommended in Table 6.1. There are
Subjectively, there was an increase in no apparent flutter echoes or other
Figure 7.6.8:
clarity at mid and high frequencies. The problems and no complaints of acoustic Reverberation times in
increase in clarity does not imply a problems in this room, which would be unoccupied RPD room
pleasant quality of sound and it was felt
that the sound from the speakers was
rather harsh. This could be a function of
the frequency response of the speakers or
the adjustment of the system.
Reverberation time, s

Room acoustics assessment, Class 4
The measured reverberation times (RTs)
are shown in Figure 7.6.7. The Tmf is
above the value specified in Table 1.5. In
addition, detailed analysis of the measured
impulse responses showed flutter echoes
between the parallel, reflective walls.
These were not at such a level as to be
annoying but they probably reduce
speech clarity in the room. The room has
predominantly reflective wall surfaces and Octave band centre frequency, Hz

7.6 Case Study: A junior school with resource provision for deaf children

considered to be very well designed teaching purposes outside playtime. The
acoustically. largest space faces away from the
playground. The windows are not double-
Teaching resource base glazed and there is no air conditioning,
The RPD is separated from the main however the setting is very quiet and the
school by a short covered walkway. There rooms are large.
are two rooms and the entrance lobby
outside the rooms is large enough to Strengths of the school
provide a space for small group work. The A review of the school shows that there
larger room shown in Figures 7.6.9 and has been considerable investment in
7.6.10 is used for teaching larger groups. ensuring that the school is one that
The whole building has extensive sound reduces acoustical barriers to learning for
treatment, ensuring that the environment hearing and hearing impaired children
has little reverberation. The building is set alike. The key features are:
Figure 7.6.9: Teaching
resource base
in the playground, but is only used for • carpeting to reduce noise in corridors
and classroom noise caused by movement
• attaching rubber ends to chairs and
tables to reduce movement noise
• maximising lighting, and where
appropriate using blinds, so that children
and teachers are visible but not
silhouetted against the light, thereby
ensuring that lip-reading is effective
• using personal radio systems for the
hearing impaired children to limit the
effects of distance from the teacher
• using a soundfield system, which
provides benefit to the hearing impaired
child directly by increasing the strength
and naturalness of the speech signal, and
indirectly by modifying classroom
behaviour in a positive manner
• making use of expertise in the in-
service training of staff throughout the
Figure 7.6.10: Teaching
resource base room layout
• providing an acoustically well-specified
area for supporting those special needs
of hearing impaired children that cannot
Sink be met within the mainstream classroom.

Future developments at the school
The school is about to undergo major
roof repairs. As part of the process the
school will take the opportunity to
upgrade the acoustic treatment within the
7.1 m classrooms, seeking to lower the
reverberation times. This will assist in
reducing noise build up during critical
Audiological learning times of group work and class
and discussion. The lower reverberation times
radio aid will enable the soundfield system to work
Windows more effectively, and possibly enable the
2.8 m high school to use ceiling mounted speaker
7.1 m systems for future installations.

Case Study 7.7: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children 7.7
This case study describes the acoustics of
an all-age special school for hearing
impaired pupils. The school is located on
two sites. The primary aged pupils attend Circulation
a primary special school for hearing
impaired children and the secondary age
pupils attend a special unit within a
mainstream secondary school about one Kitchen Room
mile away from the primary school.
The primary school, the secondary
special unit and the audiology room in
the primary school are described
The primary special school Common
Art/Craft Year 2
The primary school is a school in which
only severely hearing impaired pupils are
taught. It was founded in 1975 and caters
Store Store
for up to 115 children between the ages
of 3 and 11. The school consists of nine
teaching classrooms and a nursery as well
as a hall, a dining room and more
informal open areas which are used for WCs Year 3W
activities such as art and cookery. There is
also an audiology room which is discussed
in more detail later. Elec. intake

Pupils are taught in small groups by a
teacher aided by a classroom assistant.
The teachers wear radio transmitters and
all pupils wear radio hearing aids so that
they can make use of their residual constructions. The dining room and main Figure 7.7.1: Part plan of
hearing. Sign language (accompanied by hall are separated from the nearest primary school showing
speech) is used for teaching. Year 2 and Year 3W
teaching rooms by an area which is used
Classes were observed to gain an for activities such as art. Where there are
insight into the use of the school and two adjacent classrooms, storage areas
measurements of background noise, have been created between them to act as
reverberation time and sound insulation a buffer zone. The school is single storey,
were carried out. so impact noise from footfalls and chairs
being moved above is not an issue. The
Location partitions are blockwork; the doors are
The school is located on the outskirts of a timber hollowcore doors with no seals.
city, a considerable distance away from The roof construction is not known, but
the main road, in a residential area. the quiet location means that ingress of
external noise is not problematic. All
Layout and construction classrooms are naturally ventilated.
A part plan of the school showing the The classrooms for Year 2 and Year 3W
classrooms for Year 2 and Year 3W is are adjacent but are separated by store
shown in Figure 7.7.1. Good internal rooms. Both rooms are entered through a
space planning has generally ensured that common area which is used for art and
noise sensitive areas have not been placed craft work, for storing teaching aids and as
immediately adjacent to noise producing an area in which the classroom assistants
areas, thus avoiding the need for high can prepare teaching material. This
performance sound insulating common area is a useful acoustic buffer

7.7 Case Study: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children

being located so close together.
The sound insulation between the Year
2 classroom and the common art/craft
area via the Year 2 classroom door, which
0.8 was closed, was also measured.
Reverberation time, s

The BB93 standardized weighted
sound level differences, DnT(0.4s),w
0.4 between Year 2 and Year 3W classrooms
0.2 and between Year 2 classroom and the
common art/craft area were as
63 125 250 500 1000 2000 4000 follows:
Octave band centre frequency, Hz Year 2 classroom to Year 3W classroom:
DnT(0.4s),w = 53 dB
Year 2 classroom to common area:
DnT(0.4s),w = 18 dB

Ambient noise levels during lessons
Figure 7.7.2: Measured zone separating the classrooms from the Measurements of ambient noise were
reverberation time in Year corridor. Despite the fact that the two made during a desk-based lesson in the
3W classroom classrooms have been designed so that Year 2 classroom. A teacher, two classroom
noise from one does not disturb teaching assistants and five children were present.
in the other, classes were being taught Maximum sound levels of 85 dB LAmax
with the doors open between each were measured. The equivalent continuous
classroom and the common area. Noise sound level was 65 dB LAeq. Although
from one classroom was thus clearly there was some noise made by the pupils
audible in the classroom next door. trying to talk, the dominant noise source
was due to the teacher talking to the
Surface finishes classroom assistants. Noise from the Year
In classrooms, surface finishes have been 3W classroom was also audible.
used to control reverberation times. All Measurements of ambient noise were
classrooms have thin carpet on the floors. also made during a physical education
The pitched classroom ceilings are lesson in the main hall. The class
covered in mineral fibre tiles; these extend consisted of a teacher, two assistants and
down to cover the walls at high level approximately 10 children. Noise levels
(from the ceiling down to the height of were very similar to those measured in
the tops of the doors). The walls have a the Year 2 class; namely a maximum
painted plaster finish with hardboard sound level of 84 dB LAmax and an
pinboards dispersed around them. equivalent continuous sound level of
The amount of absorption provided 65 dB LAeq.
ensures that the reverberation time is
sufficiently short to provide good Unocupied noise levels
conditions for speech. Noise levels were measured in the Year 2
The measured unoccupied mid- and Year 3W classrooms during a time
frequency RT in the classroom for Year when the rooms were unoccupied. These
3W was 0.3 seconds with a rise to 0.7 results are shown in Table 7.7.1.
seconds at 125 Hz. The full spectrum is The measured values were 40 dB LAeq
shown in Figure 7.7.2. in the Year 2 classroom and 29 dB LAeq
in the Year 3W classroom. The dominant
Sound insulation noise source in the Year 2 classroom was
Sound insulation measurements were from the fan on a computer. In Year 3W
carried out between the Year 2 and Year there was no computer on, but at high
3W classrooms because these represented frequencies noise from a fluorescent light
a ‘worst case’ sound transmission fitting was dominant.
configuration, no two other classrooms

Case Study: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children 7.7
Discussion from one would disturb the other. This
A fundamental issue in the design of was not perceived to be a problem by the
rooms for teaching hearing impaired teaching staff, as the classes were being
children is the level of background noise taught with the doors open. Effective
which should be allowed. Background frame and perimeter seals would improve
noise is amplified by hearing aids and the performance of the doors slightly, but
reduces the signal to noise ratio of the door constructions would need to be
speech, reducing the effectiveness of the changed to incorporate solid cores in
pupils’ residual hearing. order to significantly improve the sound
The quiet location of the primary insulation.
school and the absence of mechanical The control of reverberation time is
ventilation in the building ensures that vital, firstly to ensure that speech is
indoor ambient noise levels in classrooms intelligible and secondly to prevent an
(29 dB LAeq in classrooms without excessive build up of reverberant noise
computers) are low. This is lower than the which can impair speech discrimination.
recommended maximum indoor ambient The measured classroom mid-frequency
noise level for classrooms for teaching reverberation time of 0.3 seconds meets
severely hearing impaired pupils (see the performance standards in Table 1.5.
Table 6.1 of Section 6). It is often recommended that classroom
A potential disadvantage of low ceilings are sound absorptive around the
background noise levels is that there is perimeter but reflective in the centre to
little masking of intrusive noise, so good aid propagation of the teacher’s speech to
sound insulation is essential. The layout the rear of the classroom. In this school,
of the school has been designed to tackle the classrooms were very small and pupils
this by not locating noise-sensitive rooms sit near the teacher because of the small
adjacent to noise-producing rooms. numbers in each class, so sound
The sound insulation between the Year propagation to the back of a large
2 and Year 3W classrooms of 53 dB classroom is not an issue. In larger
DnT(0.4s),w meets the performance classrooms for teaching hearing impaired
standard in Table 1.2. This would be children, however, a central sound
exceeded between other classrooms in the reflective ceiling zone may be
school which are further apart than the advantageous.
Year 2 and Year 3W classrooms. If Key design points to note are:
teaching were to be carried out with the • quiet site location, away from any
doors between rooms shut, there would major noise sources such as roads, railways
be little risk of noise from one classroom and industrial premises
disturbing the class in the adjacent room. • separation of classrooms by buffer
The measured sound insulation of zones such as store rooms, corridors and
18 dB DnT(0.4s),w between the Year 2 lobbies
classroom and the common area is poor • use of carpet and sound absorptive
and implies that the door is a weak sound ceiling tiles in all classrooms to control
insulating element. If a class was being reverberation times.
taught in the Year 2 or Year 3W
classroom while a separate teaching
activity was going on in the common
area, then it is highly likely that noise

Octave band centre frequency (Hz) Table 7.7.1: Measured
unoccupied noise levels in
63 125 250 500 1k 2k 4k 8k classrooms

Year 2 LAeq (dB) 38 33 44 37 33 29 23 20

Year 3W LAeq (dB) 39 28 22 17 17 17 25 25

7.7 Case Study: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children

A special unit in a mainstream Location
secondary school The secondary unit is surrounded on
three sides by open countryside, and is far
The special unit for hearing impaired from any main roads. The unit is at one
pupils is located in a refurbished block of end of the school, so that the potential
the mainstream secondary school and for noise break-out from other classrooms
consists of six teaching classrooms, the is minimised. Background noise levels on
resources area, a speech therapy room and the site are low.
an office for the headteacher of the unit.
When in the special school unit, pupils Layout and construction
are taught in small class groups. Pupils are The special school accommodation is
encouraged to communicate using sign divided between the ground and second
language, lip-reading, speech and residual floors, with mainstream accommodation
hearing with the help of hearing aids. For in between on the first floor. Figure 7.7.3
30% of the time, hearing impaired pupils shows the plan of the ground floor.
are taught in integrated classes in the Unlike the primary school, classrooms
mainstream school. are located immediately adjacent to each
The special school unit forms an other with no non-sensitive buffer zones
interesting comparison with the primary in between. Partitions between adjacent
age part of the same school which is classrooms are studwork and consist of
located in a nearby primary school, and is one layer of 12.5 mm plasterboard and
some 20 years older. one layer of 19 mm plasterboard on each
The unit was visited only four months side of a 48 mm stud. The partition
after it was opened. During the visit, between the headmaster’s office and the
discussions were held with the headmaster speech therapy room is built of staggered
of the hearing impaired unit to obtain his 70 mm studs with two layers of 15 mm
opinions on its acoustics. Measurements plasterboard on each side and mineral
Figure 7.7.3: Ground wool in the cavity. The partitions have
of background noise, reverberation time
floor plan of secondary
and sound insulation were carried out. been built to full height up to structural
school unit for hearing
impaired pupils slab level. The headmaster complained,
however, that there were gaps at the
partition heads which reduced the sound
insulation of the partitions, meaning that
External sound from one classroom could often be
Store heard in the adjacent room. Examination
of the partition heads revealed that pipe
penetrations of the partitions had not
Tea room Classroom 5
always been properly sealed.
In many cases adjacent classrooms have
connecting doors. All the doors in the
special school are single solid core timber

Headmaster's doors of 40 - 50 mm thickness with wiper
Office seals acting on a raised timber threshold
Classroom 4
and compression frame seals. External
windows are double-glazed with a deep
Speech Therapy cavity (approximately 200 mm) and are
room openable via a sliding casement
Classroom 3
The party walls between the specialist
school and the adjoining mainstream
Male WC school accommodation are masonry.
(part of mainstream
school building) The first floor mainstream classrooms
have been carpeted to reduce impact
noise transmission to the ground floor

Case Study: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children 7.7
classrooms, although the carpet has only a Unoccupied noise levels
thin pile and does not appear to have Noise levels were measured in classroom 4
underlay beneath it. Floor slabs are of and the speech therapy room during a
concrete. No mechanical ventilation is time when the rooms were unoccupied,
provided. but when there were staff elsewhere in the
building. The noise spectra are shown in
Surface finishes Table 7.7.2.
All the classrooms have thin pile carpets The corresponding indoor ambient
and mineral fibre suspended ceilings. The noise levels are 26 dB LAeq in classroom 4
plasterboard walls have a sound reflective and 19 dB LAeq in the speech therapy
finish. Pinboards on the walls are timber, room. The dominant noise sources in
backed by an airspace and provide some classroom 4 were a faint buzzing noise
control of low frequency reverberation from the radiator and from fluorescent
times. The speech therapy room also has a light fittings. Talking in other classrooms
thin carpet and a suspended mineral fibre in the unit was just audible. The main
tile ceiling. The amount of absorption noise sources in the speech therapy room
provided ensures that the reverberation were a clock ticking and a fluorescent
time is sufficiently short to provide good light fitting buzzing. The headmaster’s
conditions for speech. voice as he talked on the telephone in his
office next door was clearly audible
Reverberation time although the words were not intelligible.
The measured unoccupied mid-frequency It should be noted that at high
RT of classroom 4 was 0.4 seconds with a frequencies the reported octave band
small rise to 0.5 seconds at 125 Hz. noise levels in the speech therapy room
The measured unoccupied mid- were actually due to electrical noise in the
frequency RT of the speech therapy room sound level meter; actual noise levels were
was 0.3 seconds with a flat spectrum probably lower.
down to 125 Hz.
Sound insulation Measured noise levels in a typical
Sound insulation measurements were classroom and the speech therapy room
carried out between classrooms 4 and 5 were very low (26 dB LAeq and 19 dB
which are horizontally adjacent. LAeq respectively) and are lower than the
The weighted BB93 standardized level recommended noise levels in Table 6.1.
difference between classrooms 4 and 5 This is appropriate in rooms in which
was 34 dB DnT(0.4s),w . hearing impaired pupils are taught, to
The sound insulation between several ensure good speech signal to noise levels.
other areas was also measured and the There was no unpleasant tonal content in
following weighted BB93 standardized the frequency spectra.
level differences obtained: Very low unoccupied ambient noise
• classroom 5 to mainstream classroom levels mean that any extraneous noise
directly above: DnT(0.8s),w = 48 dB intrusion will be especially audible. The
• headmaster’s office to speech therapy site location and high performance
room: DnT(0.4s),w = 47 dB external windows ensure that noise ingress
• male toilets to speech therapy room: from outside does not cause problems.
DnT(0.4s),w = 52 dB The teaching staff have, however,

Octave band centre frequency (Hz) Table 7.7.2: Measured
unoccupied noise levels in
Leq (dB) 63 125 250 500 1k 2k 4k 8k
Classroom 4 and the
Classroom 4 34 30 29 18 22 13 12 13 speech therapy room
Speech therapy room 28 23 15 12 12 11 11 12

7.7 Case Study: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children

complained about the sound transmission disturbed by noise from the speech
between horizontally adjacent rooms. The therapy room and whilst in the
sound insulation appears to be of a lower unoccupied room the headmaster’s voice
standard than they had expected in a new was audible but not intelligible. This level
purpose-built unit. These subjective of privacy means that although the
comments are borne out by the results of headmaster’s conversations would remain
the objective sound insulation confidential, intrusive noise may disturb
measurements. The DnT(0.4s),w of 34 dB the concentration of both the headmaster
measured between classrooms 4 and 5 is and of users of the speech therapy room.
lower than that required for classrooms in A higher standard of studwork wall
mainstream schools. Where background construction between rooms may have
noise levels are low, hearing impaired been considered to be impracticable in
pupils cannot discriminate between the special school design. An alternative
intrusive noise and speech as easily as solution would have been to locate non-
pupils with full hearing, and a higher sensitive acoustic buffer zones, such as
standard of sound insulation is needed. A storage areas, between the headmaster’s
minimum DnT(0.4s),w value of 50 dB is office and other noise producing rooms.
required, see Table 1.2. A value of 48 dB DnT(0.4s),w was
Measurements showed that the sound measured from one of the ground floor
insulation performance of the partition classrooms for hearing impaired pupils to
did not rise at high frequencies as would the mainstream classroom directly above
normally be expected. This confirms the it on the first floor. This is an appropriate
existence of small gaps which were found standard of sound insulation for the
at the partition heads. Notwithstanding mainstream classroom and no complaints
this, the mid frequency level difference have been made by the teaching staff.
across the partition is poor (between 30 Visual inspection of the doorsets
dB and 35 dB). This indicates that the confirmed that they were of suitable
studwork partition selected was not of a quality and likely to meet the 30 dB Rw
sufficiently high performance. A partition sound insulation specification for doorsets
with staggered studs, increased in Table 1.3.
plasterboard thicknesses and mineral wool Reverberation times in the classrooms
in the cavity would provide a higher are well controlled due to the provision of
standard of sound insulation. The overall acoustic absorption on the floors and
sound insulation performance between ceilings. The mid-frequency RT of
adjacent classrooms is, however, 0.4 seconds meets the performance
ultimately limited by the communicating standards in Table 1.5. The wooden wall
door. Although the doors are of a very panels help to control the RT at low
high standard (this is discussed further frequencies, on which hearing impaired
below) they are still a weak sound people often rely for information. The
insulation element. Whilst this may not be teaching staff judged the classroom
a serious problem between classrooms acoustics to be satisfactory.
and the corridor, the presence of doors The RT in the speech therapy room is
between classrooms is inconsistent with also well controlled due to the carpet and
the requirement for a high standard of mineral fibre suspended ceiling. The mid-
sound insulation. Connecting doors are frequency value of 0.3 seconds meets the
not recommended. performance standards in Table 1.5.
The sound insulation measured
between the headmaster’s office and the Conclusions
speech therapy room was 47 dB The acoustic design of the special school
DnT(0.4s),w . This is below the unit is good, in terms of room acoustics
performance standard in Table 1.2 for and unoccupied noise levels, although
sound insulation between an office and a there are some deficiencies in the sound
speech therapy room. The headmaster insulation provided by the party wall
had complained that he was sometimes constructions.

Case Study: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children 7.7
Key points to note are: Layout and construction
• The site is in a quiet location, away The location of the audiology suite within
from any major noise sources such as the primary school is shown in Figure
roads, railways and industrial premises. 7.7.4. The audiometric test room is
• Communicating doors between entered directly from the corridor. The
adjacent classrooms limit the sound test room also has an external wall and a
insulation that can be achieved and are window onto an enclosed courtyard.
inconsistent with the need for low levels The walls of the audiometric test room
of intrusive noise. are a single skin of 100 mm thick
• Partitions are full height, but poor blockwork of an unknown density. The
workmanship has resulted in small gaps at single leaf doors into the technician’s
partition heads. room and the corridor are a hollowcore
• Sound transmission problems between timber construction with no frame or
the headmaster’s office and the speech threshold seals. Noise from the corridor
therapy room could have been avoided by was clearly audible in the test room.
better space planning. There is a fixed double glazed window
• Use of carpet and sound absorptive between the test room and the
ceiling tiles in all classrooms and the technician’s room which incorporates a
speech therapy room helps to control deep acoustic cavity between the panes of
mid-frequency reverberation times. glass. The external window which looks
• Wooden pinboards backed by an onto the courtyard is single glazed and is
airspace help to control low frequency openable.
reverberation times. The roof construction is not known,
• First floor classrooms are carpeted but the quiet site location means that
which reduces impact noise transmission. ingress of external noise is not
However, there was no underlay which problematic. There is no mechanical
would have reduced the impact ventilation system.
transmission further.

Audiology room

In the primary school for hearing
Figure 7.7.4: Plan of
impaired children there is an audiology audiology facility
facility, which consists of a technician’s
room and an audiometric test room.
The tests carried out in the
audiometric test room are generally
carried out in the ambient acoustic field Secretary
Deputy Store

rather than using headphones. Activities Head
range from testing hearing saturation
levels and hearing aid discomfort (during
which high noise levels of up to 90 dB(A) Head Teacher
are generated in the room) to testing for External
speech discrimination against background Audiometry
noise, which requires low ambient noise Test Room
Measurements were carried out of Technician's
indoor ambient noise, sound insulation Room
Staff Room
and reverberation time in the audiology
suite. In addition, a discussion was held
with the audiologist who uses the suite to Circulation
Tea Room Cleaner
obtain his opinion of the suitability of the

7.7 Case Study: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children

Surface finishes Acoustic measurements
The audiometric test room is carpeted
and has a mineral fibre suspended ceiling. Reverberation time
Apart from where there are windows or The unoccupied mid frequency
doors, the entire wall area is also lined reverberation time, Tmf, in the
with mineral fibre tiles. Subjectively, the audiometric test room was 0.2 seconds
room is very dead acoustically. with a small rise to 0.3 seconds at 125 Hz.
The RT across the frequency spectrum is
Audiologist’s opinion shown in Figure 7.7.5.
The audiologist finds intrusive noise very
disturbing to his work, particularly when Sound insulation
he is carrying out tests of speech The sound insulation measured between
discrimination against background noise. the technician’s room and the audiometry
This means that the times when he can test room was 36 dB DnT(0.4s),w.
carry out certain measurements are
determined by possible activity in the Unoccupied noise levels
corridor. When there is no activity in the Noise levels were measured in the
corridor, the background noise levels in audiometry test room when the room was
the room are sufficiently low for his tests. unoccupied. The results are shown in
Conversely, when loud noises are Table 7.7.3.
generated in the audiometric test room The noise level corresponds to an A-
(for example when hearing aid discomfort weighted sound pressure level of
is being tested), these can clearly be heard 21 dB LAeq. The dominant noise source
in the corridor, although this does not was water running through the radiator.
cause disturbance to teaching. Voices in the corridor outside were
The audiologist did not express any audible. It should be noted that at high
dissatisfaction with the internal room frequencies the reported octave band
acoustics, but noted that achieving low noise levels in the audiometry test room
[1] ‘Acoustics: Audiology’,
ambient noise levels should be a first were due to electrical noise in the
Health Technical
Memorandom 2045, priority when designing audiology measurement system; actual noise levels
HMSO, 1996. facilities and that good room acoustics would have been lower.
were worthless without sufficiently low
background noise levels or good enough Discussion
sound insulation. Guidance for the acoustic design of
Figure 7.7.5: Measured audiology facilities in hospital audiology
reverberation time in
departments is given in Health Technical
audiometry test room
Memorandum 2045 "Acoustics:
Audiology"[1], but the suite in the school
is used for educational audiology and as
such is provided by the County in which
the school is situated rather than by the
Health Service.The guidance includes
maximum permissible ambient sound
0.8 pressure levels in third octave bands and
Reverberation time, s

0.6 reverberation times for audiometric test
rooms, depending on the audiometric
tests which will be carried out in the
0.2 rooms. Because the use of each
audiometric facility is specialised, the end
63 125 250 500 1000 2000 4000 users of any facility should be consulted
Octave band centre frequency, Hz
and reference made to HTM 2045[1]
before the acoustic design of a facility is
In this test room the background noise

Case Study: An all-age special school for hearing impaired children 7.7
Octave band centre frequency (Hz) Table 7.7.3: Measured
noise levels in audiometry
Leq (dB) 63 125 250 500 1k 2k 4k 8k
test room, unoccupied
Audiometry test room 35 24 21 17 12 10 11 13

levels are sufficiently low for the site measurements. Thus the reverberation
audiologist to carry out his tests. The time in the test room has been well
background noise spectrum does not controlled by the selection of surface
contain any unpleasant tones, due to the finishes. Recommendations are also made
quiet nature of the school site. for reverberation times in third octave
The limited sound insulation afforded bands from 31.5 Hz to 100 Hz. Due to
by the single leaf masonry wall and the the small size of the test room,
poor quality single door mean that reverberation times could not be
intrusive noise levels in the test room are measured accurately at these low
high when there is activity in the corridor. frequencies.
The high intrusive noise levels disrupt the
audiologist’s work. An appropriate sound Conclusions
insulation performance for the wall Although background noise levels are low
between the test room and the corridor and the reverberation time is well
would be very dependent on the specific controlled, the poor sound insulation
requirements of the audiologist and the means that the test room is unsatisfactory
school, but it is likely that a double leaf for its purpose.
masonry wall construction plastered on Key points to note are:
both sides (each leaf at least 415 kg/m2 • The site is in a quiet location, away
including plaster) would be the minimum from any major noise sources such as
required. The door from the corridor into roads, railways and industrial premises, so
the test room is a weak sound insulation background noise levels are low.
element and would limit the performance • The audiometric test room is poorly
of any upgraded wall construction. The located adjacent to a noisy corridor.
best solution would be to allow entry to • The 100 mm blockwork wall between
the test room only via the staff room and the test room and the corridor is
technician’s room. Failing this, a lobbied insufficient in controlling noise intrusion.
door arrangement would be required. • The single door between the test room
HTM 2045 recommends that and the corridor is a weak sound
reverberation times at all frequencies insulation element.
between 125 Hz and 4 kHz are between • The reverberation time is well
0.2 seconds and 0.25 seconds in controlled by the use of carpet, a mineral
audiology test rooms. The measured fibre tile suspended ceiling system and
reverberation times are generally within mineral fibre tiles on all the walls.
this range, given the accuracy of the on-

Case Study7.8: Acoustic design of building envelope and classrooms
at a new secondary school 7.8

50 dB

55-60 dB Church

55-60 dB

60-65 dB

aircraft take-off
and landing

and lig Airport runway
ht railw
ay to
south east

Figure 7.8.1 shows a site plan, based Standard products such as attenuated Figure 7.8.1: Site plan
on the site survey carried out at the start trickle ventilators inserted into window showing external noise
levels, LAeq
of the project. The high external noise openings, as are often used in housing,
levels are generated by low-flying aircraft would not have achieved the required air
and traffic on nearby busy roads. One flow rates. Alternative purpose designed
option would have been to acoustically systems were therefore required.
seal the building envelope and Classrooms are naturally ventilated by
mechanically ventilate the building. means of inlet vents under the external
However, this was too expensive for the windows and passive stacks located at high
available budget. The design team also level at the rear of the rooms, adjacent to
wished to reduce lifetime costs and opted the central corridors. The inlet louvres
for a naturally ventilated building which duct air into the classrooms via grilles just
would maintain the same internal noise inside the perimeter convector grilles.
levels. These inlet grilles are controlled by
Being an inclusive school, the design classroom users by easy to operate
had to accommodate pupils and other openable flaps covering the grilles.
members of the community with hearing Both inlets and outlets are acoustically
problems. The target for background insulated to prevent the entry of external
noise was set at 35 dB(A). At the same noise.
time the design had to provide fresh air at Depending on the prevailing weather,
a rate of up to 8 litres per second for each wind driven or temperature driven
of the usual number of occupants. This ventilation provides sufficient fresh air.
equates to approximately 4.5 air changes • The more windy the weather, the
per hour in both ground and first floor greater the pressure difference across the
classrooms. building envelope and the greater the air

Case Study: Acoustic design of building envelope and classrooms
7.8 at a new secondary school

aerofoil cover creates up draft of used air in
acoustically attenuated ducts
fixed louvres added after building completion to prevent rain sunlight entering through rooflight heats extract duct
penetration in storm conditions will reduce aerofoil effect to assist air movement by stack effect

summer sun
early or
late sun profiled metal deck roof
acoustically filled above
partition walls
used air out
louvres closed at night in winter sunlight controlled by
open in summer adjustable rooflight louvre blinds

fresh air in air heated by radiators in winter Manually operated fresh air vents.
through rises and mixes with cool fresh air In winter - some fresh air vents closed
acoustically entering through vents during daytime to reduce heat loss
attenuated and all closed at night.
openings exposed thermal mass In summer - open at night
for night ventilation

downstands acoustically
exposed thermal mass lined fresh air in
heat retained in concrete floor slab used air out through
re-emitted at night by convection and wind-assistance acoustically
night ventilation in summer louvres closed at night in winter attenuated
prevents daytime overheating open in summer openings


Figure 7.8.2: Schematic movement in the ducts. duct over the first floor corridor which
diagram of ventilation • The temperature difference when the then rises to the outlet at roof level. The
paths through two storey passive stack effect is enhanced by
internal spaces are warmer than outside,
section of building
as in winter, drives the stack effect providing roof glazing over the combined
ventilation causing air to rise up the section of duct which is painted black and
central ducts. encased over a drop ceiling area in the
• The central ducts which leave the back corridor. Solar gain raises the air
Figure 7.8.3: Ground of the classrooms join into a combined temperatures in the top section of
floor air vents ductwork causing the air to rise. This is
particularly effective in hot weather.
• An aerofoil is positioned at the duct
outlet to enhance the wind driven stack
2 layers Ventilation flap
of self-extinguishing effect. The problem of wind blown rain in
fire retardent
nylon mesh
storm conditions led to modification of
Linear grill
Overhanging sill to the aerofoils to incorporate louvres
prevent direct passage beneath the aerofoil sections. This will
of sound Fixed divider
probably have made the aerofoils on their
Insect mesh
own considerably less effective.
Acoustic infill glued to Radiator
aluminium casing • The windows are openable and are
designed to increase the maximum
80 mm cavity insulation possible ventilation rate so that when the
wind and stack driving forces are small
there will still be adequate ventilation,
although this will obviously let in some
ambient noise.
Ground level
The ventilation system is completely
under the control of the occupants in
individual spaces, who can open and close
flaps over the inlets below the windows

Case Study: Acoustic design of building envelope and classrooms
at a new secondary school 7.8
and high level adjustable louvres at the
back of the classrooms, controlled by a
short pole.
Ground floor vents (Figure 7.8.3) and 2 layers Ventilation flap
first floor vents (Figure 7.8.4) are of of self-extinguishing
fire retardent
different design. These proprietary/ nylon mesh Linear grill
purpose designed external vents on the
window walls are acoustically insulated. Fixed divider
The airborne sound insulation of Acoustic infill
prototype ground floor and first floor
ventilators was tested in the laboratory.
The resulting element-normalized level
differences in octave bands and the Insect mesh
resulting Dn,e,w values are shown in
Table 7.8.1. As a result of these tests, the
ground floor vent design was modified to
improve its performance. This included
the addition of an overhanging sill and Sound reducing and
insulating aluminium faced
extended internal nibs of sound absorbing composite panel
material. The final design, shown in
Figure 7.8.3, appears as effective
acoustically after installation as the first
floor vents. • 120 mm (compressed to 110 mm) Figure 7.8.4: First floor
The passive stacks are acoustically lined thermal insulation air vents
which prevents cross-talk between • 30 mm acoustic insulation
classrooms which share the same • vapour control layer
discharge ductwork. Four classrooms are • 0.9 mm gauge polyester powder
ventilated via one final extract duct. coated steel (internal support decking).
Air flow tests were carried out in There is no void within the roof except
typical classrooms. These showed that on between the profiles of the support
a typical spring day, with a moderate wind decking. The profile voids are filled at
(10-15 kph), with all the vent flaps and partition lines with inserts of acoustically
louvres open, air entered at between 0.8 absorbent material.
and 1.6 m/s depending on location There is some flanking transmission
within the building, and left through the through the continuous profiled steel roof
high level louvres at between 0.3 and 0.7 construction, which reduces the sound
m/s, again depending on location. This insulation between rooms.
corresponds to a fresh air rate of 5.3 air
changes per hour. Concrete floor
At first floor level, the floor finish on the
Metal deck roof precast concrete floor is a steel mesh
The roof structure, from outside in, is as reinforced sand/cement screed on 50 mm Table 7.8.1: Element-
follows: normalized level
thick acoustic mineral wool board, which
differences for prototype
• 0.9 mm gauge stucco embossed prevents the transmission of impact sound ground floor and first floor
aluminium external covering to the ground floor rooms below. vents

Octave band centre frequency (Hz)

Dn,e (dB) 63 125 250 500 1k 2k 4k 8k Dn,e,w (dB)

Ground floor vent 28.0 21.6 22.5 25.8 40.8 57.9 54.0 53.9 33

First floor vent 24.5 19.6 22.2 28.4 42.2 50.8 53.4 53.0 34

Case Study: Acoustic design of building envelope and classrooms
7.8 at a new secondary school

Internal partitions in insulation was found in some ground
Internal partitioning generally uses two floor rooms where partitions directly abut
layers of 12.5 mm plasterboard each side the precast concrete first floor. The
of metal studs, with quilt in the cavity, conclusion was that variability in
giving a construction width of 200 mm. construction standards, rather than
Laboratory test results for this form of detailing, was the key factor.
construction indicate a sound reduction Generally, staff and pupils at the school
index of 52 dB Rw. Performance on site do not consider noise between spaces to
is usually at least 5 dB less than this. Tests be a problem, and are happy with the
carried out on site show a considerable acoustics.
variation in performance, from 44 dB to Classrooms are provided with acoustic
38 dB Dw. The walls therefore meet the treatment in specific ceiling areas to bring
standard of 38 dB for classrooms given in the mid-frequency reverberation times
Building Bulletin 87, that was required at below 0.8 seconds. At first floor level, this
the time of the design. However some fail is provided at the rear of the rooms, over
to meet the 43 dB Dw design target for the sloping soffit which encloses services
the project, which is lower than the and also helps to reflect daylight from the
present standard given in Table 1.2. rooflights into the back of the room. On
There are a number of causes of the the ground floor, suspended ceilings run
performance loss. On the first floor, along both sides of classrooms to enclose
flanking sound carried through the services and cut off indirect sound paths.
lightweight roof was seen to be a In the centre, the first floor precast
contributory factor, despite the use of concrete floor slab is exposed to absorb
fillers in the profile voids. However, the re-radiated solar radiation and to reinforce
best performance was also recorded in direct speech sound paths.
one of the first floor rooms. A reduction

Case Study7.9: Acoustically attenuated passive stack ventilation of an
extension to an inner city secondary school 7.9
Sound insulation of the building
The noise levels to which various parts of
the building envelope would be exposed
exte w were calculated by extrapolation from the
baseline noise measurements according to

ing s
the Calculation of Road Traffic Noise.

Design calculations of internal noise levels
stre Commercial were made on an iterative basis to

determine required acoustic specification
of the windows, the roof and the wind
scoop system so that background noise
levels given as guidance in BB87 would
not be exceeded.
The building envelope comprised:

• walls: part brick/block cavity, part

housing blockwork with a terracotta tile rain
screen and mineral fibre in the cavity
• windows: double glazing incorporating
10 mm and 6.4 mm laminated glass
The site plan shows that the new
extension is adjacent to a heavily polluted • main roof: proprietary double skin steel
roofing system (38 dB Rw)
inner city road. The road is a very busy
two lane highway and is the main source • mansard roof: proprietary roofing
system, supplemented by an internal
of noise in the area.
plasterboard lining with mineral fibre infill
Acoustic design • roof lights: double glazing
incorporating 4 mm glass.
The acoustic design was based on the
Recommendations were given for the
noise limits recommended in Building
attenuation of external noise through the
Bulletin 87(BB87) of 40 dB LAeq,1h in
wind scoop system. It was recognised that
classrooms and not more than 50 dB
new measures to attenuate external noise
LAeq,1h in a gymnasium. These values are
might affect the airflow characteristics and
now superseded by the performance
therefore any suggestions would need to
standards in Section 1 of Building
be confirmed by the manufacturer.
Bulletin 93.
The manufacturer of the wind scoop
system arranged for acoustic tests to be
Noise survey
undertaken in a UKAS test laboratory. A
Noise surveys were carried out on site
number of different internal lining
before and after the completion of the
treatments were tested. The results are
new extension. The aim was to establish
summarised in Table 7.9.1.
the external noise levels and use these
Initial calculations for the classrooms
data to calculate the required sound
indicated that a 5 m length of lined duct
insulation for the building envelope.
would provide sufficient attenuation to
The measured free-field external noise
reduce the internal noise to approximately
level was 70 dB LAeq. The major source
40 dB LAeq. For classrooms on the
of noise was road traffic on the very busy
second floor, the wind scoop ducts were
main road.
not long enough and it was necessary to
The rooms with most exposure to road
increase the attenuation by fitting an
traffic noise are:
additional attenuator. For classrooms on
Ground Floor: Gymnasium
the lower floors the length of the wind
First Floor: Language classrooms 1, 2 and 3
scoop duct was sufficient and no
Second Floor: Mathematics classrooms 2, 3,
additional attenuator was required. The
4 and 5 and ICT rooms 1 and 2.
proposed duct details are summarised in
Table 7.9.2.

Case Study: Acoustically attenuated passive stack ventilation of an
7.9 extension to an inner city secondary school

Table 7.9.1: Laboratory Test element Dn,e,w (C;Ctr) (dB)
measurement data for the
airborne sound insulation 620 mm x 620 mm square hole 13 (0;0)
of the wind scoop system Vent, unlined with dampers open 16 (0;0)
Vent, unlined with dampers closed 26 (0;-1)
Vent lined with acoustic tile, dampers open 26 (0;-3)
Vent lined with acoustic tile, dampers closed 35 (-1;-5)
Vent lined with open cell foam, dampers open 26 (0;-3)
Vent lined with open cell foam, dampers closed 35 (-1;-4)
Vent lined with open cell foam, linear ceiling grille fitted 27 (-1;-4)

Table 7.9.2: BB87 BB87 background
background noise levels noise levels
and proposed duct details Classroom Floor LAeq,1hr (dB) Treatment

Mathematics 2, 3, 4 and 5 2 40 Internal acoustic lining plus
500 mm attenuator

ICT 1 and 2 2 40 Internal acoustic lining plus
1800 mm attenuator

Languages 1, 2 and 3 1 40 Internal acoustic lining

Gymnasium Ground 50 Thermal insulation only to
blockwork ducts

Post-completion measurements of predicted values.
indoor ambient noise levels The measured results in the
Following completion of the building, Gymnasium, Languages 1, Mathematics 2
measurements of the indoor ambient and Mathematics 3 were found to meet
noise levels were carried out at a number the design limits. The failure to meet the
of different locations in each room and internal noise limit in Languages 3, ICT 1
averaged. Simultaneous measurements and ICT 2 can be explained by the factors
were taken of the free-field external noise noted in the comments column, that is,
level which was 70.6 dB LAeq,5h and excessive noise transmission via unsealed
Table 7.9.3: Comparison within 1 dB of the level measured prior to window frames and the noise from
between the BB87
development. The measurement results computer fans in the operational ICT
background noise levels,
calculated and measured are summarised in Table 7.9.3 where they rooms.
indoor ambient noise levels are compared with the design targets and Internal noise measurements were also

BB87 background
noise levels Calculated Measured
Room LAeq,1h (dB) LAeq,1h (dB) LAeq,1h (dB) Comments

Gym 50 45 42 Significant flanking transmission around
escape door
Languages 1 40 37 38
Languages 3 40 40 43 Some window frames not yet sealed
Mathematics 2 40 39 38
Mathematics 3 40 40 38
Mathematics 4 40 41 41
ICT 1 40 42 44 Computer noise present
ICT 2 40 33 42 Computer noise present

Case Study: Acoustically attenuated passive stack ventilation of an
extension to an inner city secondary school 7.9
fresh air from
exhausted air prevailing westerly
opposite to wind
prevailing wind extra cooling
in summer
acoustic lining
in all ducts

classroom classroom

stair well

Fan assisted
sports hall

carried out with the ventilation system The acoustic consultant suggested that Figure 7.9.1: Section
open and closed. The results did not attenuated ventilators should also be fitted through new extension
display any significant change in level nor in Mathematics classroom 1, the shows stack ventilation in
was there any significant variation in the Mathematics office and the staff room as
sound pressure level around the room. opening the windows in these rooms
would result in noise levels exceeding the
Ventilation design BB87 guidance of 40 dB LAeq,1hr .
The close proximity of the road meant Taking into account the characteristics
that open windows could not be used for of the new building and site conditions,
ventilation because road traffic noise adequate ventilation has been achieved as
would cause problems and airborne described below.
pollutants emitted by the heavy road
traffic could be carried into the building (i) Teaching areas (Classrooms, ICT
through low level open windows. Rooms, Science Laboratory and
The rooms exposed to traffic noise are Gymnasium)
therefore ventilated using a wind scoop All new teaching spaces are naturally
system with the exception of a manager’s ventilated by a wind scoop type system
office which is provided with a noise- through terminals mounted at roof level.
attenuated ventilator unit. This type of The roof terminals are designed to be
unit was originally developed to comply omni-directional allowing the intake of
with the requirements of the Noise fresh air regardless of the prevailing wind
Insulation Regulations 1975. The unit direction. Each terminal is divided into
either comprises a variable speed powered equal quadrants; two are positively
ventilator which is designed to be pressurized by the wind to create a fresh
installed in the building façade and a air intake, the remaining two on the
permanent air vent, or it may be a single leeward side are negatively pressured
unit which combines both. There are allowing stale air to be exhausted.
normally two speed settings and the Air is ducted from the terminals either
Regulations set limits on noise directly into the second floor rooms or Fugure 7.9.2: The roof
transmission through the units and the down to the ceiling of the first floor terminals, viewed from
self noise of the fan. classrooms and gymnasium. Each terminal inside during construction

Case Study: Acoustically attenuated passive stack ventilation of an
7.9 extension to an inner city secondary school

The proposed system takes full
advantage of the prevailing site
conditions. Fresh air is both drawn in
Prevailing Wind Exhaust air
and exhausted at the highest level. Wind
speeds at 15 m above the ground will be
higher than at street level due to fewer
obstructions by surrounding buildings.
Anti bird mesh Acoustic lining fitted to The quality of the air also generally
internal dividers,
capping and trunk improves with increasing distance from
the source of pollution, which in this
case is road traffic. Heavy pollutants from
vehicle exhausts tend to remain at street
level particularly in conditions of high
atmospheric pressure.
The ventilation strategy also allows for
Motorised volume night time cooling of the building.
control damper Eggcrate Studies have shown that air quality by
ceiling diffuser
main roads improves at night due to
lower traffic flows. At the end of each day
stale air left in the building can be fully
replaced and then warmed, depending on
the season, ready for the next morning.
Figure 7.9.3: Section has been carefully sized according to the
through ventilation stack volume of the space to be ventilated, the (ii) Rooms for specialist activities
shows stack operation and (Changing rooms, toilets, shower areas
number of people who will normally
acoustic treatment and science laboratories)
occupy each space and any potential
source of additional heat, for example Natural ventilation is not suitable for
solar gain or computers. The performance certain parts of the building. Therefore
of each terminal has been modelled for a limited mechanical intake and extract are
variety of wind speeds to ensure that used in areas which require a high rate of
adequate fresh air can be provided. ventilation, for example in changing
Each terminal is individually controlled rooms where high levels of water vapour
by dampers set in the ends of the duct to and body odours need to be removed.
modify the ventilation rate according to The mechanical system extracts air at low
the actual conditions in each room. level, with a simple heat recovery
During summer time the control is based apparatus used to reclaim heat, and
on room temperature because higher replacement air is filtered to remove
ventilation rates are required to keep the airborne particles.
rooms within acceptable comfort levels. The science laboratory requires specific
With passive stacks, temperature extract ventilation to fume cupboards.
differences within the room and the This is achieved by mechanical extract
length of the ducts will result in improved ventilation systems that exhaust away
extract. During the winter the quantity of from the other roof terminals, with make-
fresh air needs to be minimized, reducing up air being naturally induced via a wind
heat losses via exhaust air, hence there is scoop and opening window lights.
control by an air quality sensor. This case study demonstrates that free-
A manual override allows users to have field external noise levels can be reduced
control of the system depending on their by approximately 30 dB inside naturally
experience of room conditions. All ventilated classrooms using a sound
windows are openable to allow additional attenuated passive stack ventilation
Figure 7.9.4: Three of fresh air to be introduced, for example, system.
the roof teminals, during
during changeover of lessons when
indoor ambient noise levels are less

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
learning spaces in a secondary school 7.10
An investigation was carried out into the
acoustic conditions in open plan learning
spaces in a secondary school, construction
of which was completed in 1991. Figure HARD
7.10.1 shows the site. The ground and AREA

first floor plans can be seen in Figure

The curriculum model divides the day
into 3 hour subject modules. Team
teaching is fundamental to the curriculum
and to facilitate this, there are several
relatively large open plan learning bases,
as shown in Figure 7.10.2, that typically
hold around seventy students.
0 50m ARK
Some of the learning bases are used for CAR P

teaching particular subjects such as
Mathematics or English. All the learning
bases are subdivided into smaller areas so
that different lessons or activities can take
Figure 7.10.1: Site

LEARNING BASE 1 (English) Figure 7.10.2: Open plan
learning base 1


video AREA A
Soft seating
PCs area


PCs Class/launch presentation
Teacher's Teacher's
PC space office

TO Corridor

Cloakroom Toilets


1 Reception
2 Office
3 Store LB2 LB4
4 Meeting room 3
5 Medical inspection 2 2
6 Principal
7 Music practice
8 Changing room LB3 LB5 ILC2
9 Science prep. s 12 11
s s s
10 Darkroom 2 2 2 A3 2
11 Kiln T4
12 Heat bay t t t t 14
18 18 A1 A2
13 Technicians base/materials ST ST
t T3 t t t 13
14 Hospitality suite 17
15 Training kitchen 20 T2 10 2 ST
LAB E 16 12
16 Sound Laboratory TS RA1 9 PA RA3
Dining RA2 6
17 Music Tech. Servery Careers 9 3 17 9
18 Cloakroom 21
19 Foyer Shop LAB
20 Wash-up 15 LAB LAB LAB 5 3 9 7 8 9
p 9 4
21 Greenhouse 3 14 s ST9 s
(LB - Learning Bases) VS ST8
ST16 Low screens RE
LB1 English 2
learning spaces in a secondary school

ILC1 3 Glass partition
LB2 2
3 ST7
LB3 Business Studies ST Future 2
1 Main
LB4 Humanities 15 Finance Office 2 19 CONF
Entrance ST3
LB5 Mathematics 2
6 t RA
ILC Independent Learning Centre s
4 s t 5
TS Technology Store ST2 ST5
A1–3 Art 7 7
T1–4 Technology 7 ST1
E Electronics Drama/Assembly
RA Resource Area Hall Plant
RA1 Sixth Form ICT Resource 8 t
Conf Conference Room

Gymnasium Swimming Pool
ST Study Room/Genral Teaching
RE Religious Education 8 t Music
3 Drama
PA Performing Arts t
Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan

LAB Science Laboratory
VS Video Studio
Figure 7.10.3: School

s Stairs
t Toilets Ground floor First floor
Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
learning spaces in a secondary school 7.10
place at the same time. Typically, moveable
screens or lockers are used to separate the
different areas within a learning base.

Acoustic measurements
Measurements of sound pressure level,
reverberation time, speech intelligibility
and airborne sound insulation were made
in the school to assess the acoustic
environment. These measurements were
made in learning base 1 (English learning
base), the art area, the workshop and
technology areas, and language teaching
rooms (study area 1 and study area 5). was measured according to BS EN Figure 7.10.4: Students
Sound pressure levels were measured 60268-16 to assess speech intelligibility. in area A of learning base 1
over 30 minute periods (starting on the Airborne sound insulation was
hour or half-hour) during the school day measured between adjacent language
to determine LAeq,30min, LA90,30min, teaching classrooms. These classrooms
LA10,30min, LAFmax and LAFmin. were enclosed rooms and did not form
Observations of classroom activity were part of the open plan teaching space.
noted in order to attribute measured In addition to the acoustic
levels to specific activities and events. measurements, teaching staff completed a
In the open plan area of learning base questionnaire about the effect of the
Figure 7.10.5: Learning
1, the Speech Transmission Index (STI) school layout on their work. base 1 – sound pressure
levels in area A

100 LAFmax
90 LA10
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

80 LA90




8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –

8.30 – 10.15 Discussion 10.20 – 13.00 Similar At 13.40 approximately 70 Year 10 pupils occupied all
between teacher and activity as early morning areas of the learning base with roughly equal numbers
around 12 sixth form with 1 teacher and around in areas A, B and C, and remained there until 16.00. At
students in area A 12 students least two of the groups were involved in activities
requiring speech during the whole of this period. For
most of the time, one of the three groups was involved
Students return from Area unoccupied in an activity such as reading or private study that did
short break at 10.20 at 13.00 not require communication with others. Area D was
used occasionally by up to three students working with

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
7.10 learning spaces in a secondary school

110 LAFmax
100 LA10
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

90 LA90
80 LAFmin

8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –
8.30 – 10.15 Discussion 10.20 – 13.00 Similar At 13.40 approximately 70 Year 10 pupils occupied all
between teacher and activity as early morning areas of the learning base with roughly equal numbers
around 12 sixth form with 1 teacher and around in areas A, B and C, and remained there until 16.00. At
students in area A 12 students least two of the groups were involved in activities
requiring speech during the whole of this period. For
most of the time, one of the three groups was involved
Area unoccupied in an activity such as reading or private study that did
Students return from
at 13.00 not require communication with others. Area D was
short break at 10.20
used occasionally by up to three students working with
Figure 7.10.6: Learning
base 1 – sound pressure
levels in area C

Learning base 1 Between 08.30 and 11.00 the teacher
The open plan layout of learning base 1 is and students occupied area A. During this
shown in Figure 7.10.2. Figure 7.10.4 time the difference between LAeq,30min
shows students working in area A of in areas A and C was between 7 and 10
learning base 1. dB (see Figure 7.10.7). The
measurements thus demonstrate that
Sound pressure levels there is a maximum of 10 dB attenuation
Figures 7.10.5 and 7.10.6 show graphs of of airborne sound between areas A and C.
the continuous sound pressure levels Therefore, if another class were present in
measured in areas A and C. Figure 7.10.7 area C carrying out a quiet activity such
shows the difference in LAeq,30min as private reading, the students in area C
between area A and area C of learning would be able to clearly hear the activity
base 1 (area A – area C). noise emanating from area A. These
It was intended that observations made measurements indicate that if the airborne
during the measurements would allow sound insulation were measured between
analysis of individual events that cause areas A and C then it would not meet the
disturbance. This aim proved not to be minimum performance standard for
possible. For example, when a telephone airborne sound insulation of 45 dB
rang in learning base 1 there was no DnT(0.8s),w required between general
observed reaction from the students. The teaching areas.
telephone in the room was used to inform Between 11.00 and 13.00 the level in
teachers that the students could go for area C was sometimes higher than in area
lunch and appeared to be viewed as A. The reason for this is not known
nothing unusual by the students. because area C was unoccupied, but

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
learning spaces in a secondary school 7.10
Figure 7.10.7: Learning
10 base 1 – difference in
8 sound pressure levels
(area A - area C), dB(A)
Difference in LAeq,30min

between area A and area C
8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –

could be due to sound generated from Speech intelligibility
the playground outside. For the speech intelligibility measurements,
When all areas in the learning base the STI was measured in area C of
were occupied between 14.00 and 16.00, learning base 1.
LAeq,30min increased to levels between STI was measured at two microphone
65 and 70 dB. To gauge the effect of this positions with an artificial mouth used to
increase in LAeq,30min on speech transmit the measurement signal. Six
intelligibility, it is instructive to consider measurements were made at each
the required signal to noise ratio in a microphone position. The artificial mouth
classroom which is generally taken to be a was sited by the white board in a position
minimum of 15 dB, or, ideally, 20 to 25 dB that was used by the teacher when
when hearing impaired children are being addressing the class and referring to
taught. In these noise levels, a teacher’s information on the white board. The
voice would have to be raised to a level of signal level at a point 1 m in front of the
at least 80 to 85 dB in order to be heard artificial mouth was adjusted until a level
by the students. It is unlikely that a of 68 dB(A) was measured. The positions
teacher would be able to shout at a of the artificial mouth and the
sufficiently high level to communicate microphones are shown on Figure 7.10.8.
with hearing impaired students. Thus, STI measurements were made when
based upon measured sound pressure the space was empty. Masking sound from
levels, the open-plan space is inadequate a loudspeaker was used to simulate
in terms of speech intelligibility. occupied conditions with groups of
The measurements that indicate approximately 12 students in each class
inadequate signal to noise ratios were base. In the afternoon when all the areas
corroborated by the fact that staff of learning base 1 were occupied,
reported difficulties in listening to measured levels in the learning base were
students in the open-plan setting. In between 65 and 70 dB LAeq,30min (see
addition, some students also reported that Figures 7.10.5 and 7.10.6). Case Study
it was difficult to hear the teachers when 7.2 indicates that there is little point in
they spoke quietly. measuring speech intelligibility at such
high masking sound levels because the
Reverberation time speech intelligibility is likely to be ‘Bad’,
The mid-frequency reverberation time in ‘Poor’ or ‘Fair’ with low signal to noise
learning base 1 was 0.6 seconds, which ratios where the signal (speech) level is
meets the performance standards in similar to the noise level.
Table 1.5. To assess the effect of sound

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
7.10 learning spaces in a secondary school

sound level was adjusted until 54 dB
LAeq was measured in the same position
2.20m 2.20m
as that used to measure the level of the
0.82m AM M1 4.45m
teacher speaking. When masking sound
was generated simultaneously in areas A
2.60m and B, the same shaped sound signal was
fed to the loudspeakers in each area and
5.40m M2 the level adjusted until 57 dB LAeq was
measured at a position midway between
areas A and B.
Measured STI data are shown in Tables
Movable partitions
7.10.1 and 7.10.2.
From the tables it can be seen that the
Figure 7.10.8: Learning transmission from adjacent areas on speech intelligibility was ‘Good’ at
base 1 – artificial mouth speech intelligibility in area C, microphone positions M1 and M2 when
position (AM) and measurements were conducted with and there was no masking sound. Hence,
microphone positions M1
without masking sound generated in the when the other areas in the learning base
and M2 in area C
learning base. Two masking conditions are not occupied, the speech intelligibility
were used: 1) masking sound in area A; is acceptable. When there was masking
2) masking sound simultaneously in areas sound in area A or areas A and B (ie with
A and B. The masking sound was either one or two of the other teaching
produced from a loudspeaker using a areas simulated as being occupied),
white noise signal shaped to the sound speech intelligibility was ‘Good’ at
spectrum recorded whilst the teacher microphone position M1 but ‘Fair’ at
addressed her students during a tutorial microphone position M2. The reason for
session with the sixth form students. The the reduction in speech intelligibility at
spectrum was measured at a distance of microphone position M2 is because it is
approximately 5 m from the teacher, the closer than position M1 to the other
level at that point being 54 dB teaching areas, where masking sound was
LAeq,30min. When masking sound was generated. Therefore, when other areas in
generated in area A only, the masking the learning base are occupied, the speech
intelligibility between the teacher and

Table 7.10.1: Learning No masking Masking sound Masking sound in
base 1 – measured STI sound in area A areas A and B
values at microphone
position M1, with and STI STI STI
without masking sound
Average 0.702 0.666 0.644

Standard deviation 0.041 0.054 0.048

Rating Good Good Good

Table 7.10.2: Learning No masking Masking sound Masking sound in
base 1 – measured STI sound in area A areas A and B
values at microphone
position M2, with and STI STI STI
without masking sound
Average 0.655 0.569 0.571

Standard deviation 0.037 0.031 0.084

Rating Good Fair Fair

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
learning spaces in a secondary school 7.10
students sitting near microphone position after they had finished a more noisy
M2 is not acceptable. In the afternoon, activity. This was to reduce disturbance to
when all the areas of learning base 1 were the reading of a play in area A.
occupied, measured levels in the learning The school has tried to teach languages
base were between 65 and 70 dB in the open-plan learning bases, however,
LAeq,30min (see Figures 7.10.5 and it had been decided that such lessons can
7.10.6). STI measurements were not only be taught effectively in enclosed
made with this masking sound condition classrooms. It is not known whether this
as the speech intelligibility would be was due to ambient levels being too high
expected to be ‘Bad’, ‘Poor’ or ‘Fair’ due for good speech intelligibility in open-plan
to the low signal (speech) to noise ratio as areas or whether it was due to disturbance
in Case Study 2. from adjacent areas in a learning base. It
The teachers in this school adopted is to be expected that conditions for
strategies to make the best use of their language teaching need to be more closely
surroundings, for example, gathering controlled than for teaching some other
students more closely around them (see subjects. Measuring STI enables speech
Figure 7.10.15) to help overcome intelligibility in rooms to be objectively
problems with speech intelligibility and to assessed. However it does not enable
reduce disturbance to those involved in disturbance to be quantified since this
other activities within the room. It could depend on how distracting the
appeared that co-operation between staff activities are in adjacent areas.
working in the same open-plan area and
careful planning of lessons was an Workshop and technology areas
important aspect in coping with the
speech intelligibility problems in these Sound pressure levels
areas. For example, a teacher in area C Figures 7.10.9 and 7.10.10 show graphs
notified her colleague in area A that her of the continuous sound pressure levels Figure 7.10.9: Workshop
class would be engaged in quiet reading recorded in the workshop and technology area sound pressure levels

110 LAFmax
100 LA10
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

90 LA90
80 LAFmin

8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –


8.30 Room occupied by 9.20 Students 10.30 Students 13.00 Students 14.05 Approximately 25
approximately 25 students and break for engaged in engaged in students in the room.
staff. Little practical activity. breakfast practical activities, practical activity Saws and sanding
Students mostly working on a eg sawing wood machines being used.
bench close to the whiteboard.

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
7.10 learning spaces in a secondary school

areas. The levels in these areas are Art area
significantly higher than would be
expected in classrooms due to the Sound pressure levels
machinery noise. During the period of The art area on the first floor is shown in
highest noise, 76 dB LAeq,30min, the Figure 7.10.3. During the measurements
signal to noise ratio would result in it was occupied by Year 7 students and
inadequate speech intelligibility for a teaching staff. The room was divided by
teacher talking to a group of students. partitions into three areas, indicated as
A1, A2 and A3.
Reverberation times Measurements were taken in areas A1
The mid-frequency reverberation time in and A2, which held between 20 and 25
the workshop was 1.2 seconds, which students. Throughout the day, activities
does not meet the performance standards undertaken in the art area did not appear
in Table 1.5. to change significantly. Noise sources
The mid-frequency reverberation time included hairdryers which were used to
in the technology area was 0.8 seconds, dry items of art work. Figures 7.10.11
which does not meet the performance and 7.10.12 show graphs of the sound
standards in Table 1.5. pressure levels recorded in areas A1 and
A mid-frequency reverberation time of A2 respectively. For most of the day the
1.2 seconds in the workshop combined noise level varies from 65 to 75 dB
with levels greater than 70 dB LAeq,30min LAeq,30min. Thus, for a teacher talking to
will provide inadequate speech a group of students in the art area, the
intelligibility. However, in rooms where signal to noise ratio would be inadequate
Figure 7.10.10: students use machine tools such as lathes, for good speech intelligibility.
Technology area sound
good speech intelligibility is essential for
pressure levels

100 LAFmax
90 LA10
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

80 LA90




8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –


8.30 Approximately 20 9.20 Students 10.35 Students 13.00 No 14.05 Approximately 25
students in the room. break for using computers. machines being students in the room.
Engaged in group work breakfast Discussions used apart from Using computers,
and using computers. between students computers discussions being held
Teacher had to raise and a small routing and a small routing
voice to address machine being machine being used.
students from his desk. used.

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
learning spaces in a secondary school 7.10
110 LAFmax
100 LA10
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

90 LA90
80 LAFmin

8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –
Figure 7.10.11:
8.30 Lessons begin and continue 13.00 Students return Art area – sound pressure
until lunchtime after lunch levels in area A1

Reverberation time Language teaching rooms (study
The mid-frequency reverberation time in areas 1 and 5)
the art area was 0.9 seconds, which does These rooms were enclosed classrooms
not meet the performance standards in that were originally intended to be sixth
Table 1.5 for an art room. form study rooms. However, they were
subsequently designated as language
teaching rooms owing to the difficulties

110 LAFmax
100 LA10
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

90 LA90
80 LAFmin

8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –

8.30 Lessons begin and continue 13.00 Students return Figure 7.10.12:
until lunchtime after lunch Art area – sound pressure
levels in area A2

Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
7.10 learning spaces in a secondary school

110 LAFmax
100 LA10
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

90 LA90
80 LAFmin

8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –

Figure 7.10.13: experienced in teaching two different LA90,30min, indicating that the signal to
Language study area 1 languages (eg German and French) noise ratio could potentially provide
sound pressure levels
simultaneously in different areas of the reasonable speech intelligibility. When the
open plan space. spaces were occupied and students
and/or staff were speaking, there was a
Sound pressure levels greater difference between LAeq,30min
Figures 7.10.13 and 7.10.14 show the and LA90,30min in the enclosed
sound pressure levels recorded in study classrooms than in the fully occupied
areas 1 and 5 respectively. When the open-plan spaces. This indicates that the
classrooms were unoccupied the measured signal to noise ratios are likely to be
levels were less than 50 dB LAeq,30min. higher in the enclosed classrooms than in
When there was speech in the room, the open-plan spaces.
LAeq,30min was typically between 65 and
Figure 7.10.14: 75 dB. In general, LAeq,30min was Reverberation time
Language study area 5
between 15 dB and 20 dB higher than The mid-frequency reverberation time in
sound pressure levels

100 LAFmax
90 LA10
Sound pressure level, dB(A)

80 LA90




8:30 –

9:00 –

9:30 –

10:00 –

10:30 –

11:00 –

11:30 –

12:00 –

12:30 –

13:00 –

13:30 –

14:00 –

14:30 –

15:00 –

15:30 –

16:00 –


Case Study: An investigation into the acoustic conditions in open-plan
learning spaces in a secondary school 7.10
each study area was 0.5 seconds, which
meets the performance standards in
Table 1.5.

Airborne sound insulation
The measured airborne sound insulation
between study area 1 and study area 2 is
40 dB DnT(0.8s),w, which does not meet
the performance standards in Table 1.2.

Teaching in an open-plan area in a
secondary school requires a different type
of working from teaching in traditional
enclosed classrooms. This is due in part to
the noise levels in open-plan teaching
areas. In this school, both students and When all areas of the learning base Fugure 7.10.15:
teachers in the open-plan areas reported were occupied, measured sound pressure Students in learning base 1
being disturbed by noise, whilst in levels were between 65 and 70 dB gathered around the
teacher in area A
enclosed classrooms very little disturbance LAeq,30min. At these levels, the signal to
was reported. Some of the techniques noise ratios are likely to be less than 10 dB
observed in primary schools in Case and speech intelligibility will be
Study 9.2 were used when it was inadequate. When the teaching areas were
important to ensure that students could occupied and students and/or teachers
hear the teacher during noisy periods. For were speaking, there was a greater
example, students were gathered more difference between LAeq,30min and
closely around their teacher. Also, LA90,30min in the enclosed classrooms
teaching staff in the area co-operated with than in the open-plan spaces. This
each other to minimise disturbance to suggests that the signal to noise ratios are
classes in adjacent areas. generally higher in enclosed classrooms
It is concluded that it is difficult to than in open-plan areas. Hence, speech
justify the use of open-plan areas in intelligibility is likely to be better in
secondary schools in terms of their enclosed classrooms than in fully occupied
acoustic environment. This is a similar open-plan areas.
conclusion to that in Case Study 7.2 for In many open-plan teaching spaces it is
open-plan primary schools. High noise difficult to achieve clear communication
levels in occupied open-plan areas are the of speech between teacher and student,
primary cause of inadequate speech and between students. For this reason,
intelligibility, especially for those students careful consideration should be given as
furthest from the teacher. STI to whether to include open-plan teaching
measurements demonstrated that for spaces in a secondary school. If open-plan
these students, the performance standards areas are required then rigorous acoustic
in Table 1.6 of Section 1 were not met. design is necessary to meet the required
performance standards in Section 1.

Introduction to appendices

The ten appendices provide supporting information for the main sections
of Building Bulletin 93, including explanations of acoustic terms, sample
calculations and other background information.

There are many technical terms and principles of the behaviour of sound in
descriptors used in acoustics, which can buildings. There are many acoustics text
not be covered in-depth in these short books available, some of which are listed
appendices. However, to help non- in the bibliography These can be referred
acousticians, Appendices 1 to 3 include to for a more complete description of all
definitions of those acoustic terms which acoustic terms and descriptors.
are used in BB93, and describe the basic


Appendix 1 – Basic concepts and units 161

Appendix 2 – Basic principles of room acoustics 165

Appendix 3 – Basic principles of sound insulation 167

Appendix 4 – Classroom sound insulation – sample calculations 171

Appendix 5 – Sound insulation of the building envelope 175

Appendix 6 – Calculation of room reverberation times 177

Appendix 7 – Calculation of sound absorption required in corridors,
entrance halls and stairwells 181

Appendix 8 – Equipment specifications for sound field systems in schools 185

Appendix 9 – Noise at Work Regulations relating to teachers 191

Appendix 10 – Example submission to Building Control Body 193

Appendix 1: Basic concepts and units

Nature of sound sound pressures to which the ear may
Sound is usually generated by the typically be exposed to a more
vibrations of a surface, which give rise to manageable range of numbers.
pressure fluctuations in air or some other
elastic medium. Sound is transmitted Sound pressure level
through the medium as sound waves, and The sound pressure level, Lp, is a measure
may be described in terms of sound of the total instantaneous sound pressure
pressure or sound power. Noise is at a point in space. The threshold of
generally defined as unwanted sound. hearing occurs at approximately 0 dB
sound pressure level (which corresponds
Decibels to a reference sound pressure of 2.10-5 Pa)
Sound levels are usually measured in and the threshold of pain is around 140
decibels (dB) and relate absolute values to dB. Some typical sound pressure levels are
a reference value. The decibel scale is shown in Figure A1.1.
logarithmic and it ascribes equal values to
proportional changes in sound pressure, Sound power level
which reflects the response of the human The sound energy radiated by a source
ear to sound. For example, an increase in can also be expressed in decibels. The
sound pressure from 10 to 20 Pa would sound power is a measure of the total
sound the same to the human ear as an sound energy radiated by a source per
increase from 1 to 2 Pa. Use of a second, in Watts. The sound power level,
logarithmic scale has the added advantage Lw, is expressed in decibels, referenced to
that it compresses the very wide range of 1 pW.

Figure A1.1: Typical
sound pressure levels

Jet aircraft at
5 metres
Artillery fire at
1 metres
Platform of under-
ground train station
Large symphony
orchestra (forte)

Noisy office

suburban area

Quiet home

Bedroom or
quiet whisper

Empty theatre


0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140

Threshold of audibility Threshold of feeling

Sound pressure level, dB(A) Threshold of pain

Appendix 1: Basic concepts and units

Addition of sound levels the air molecules which transmit the
Because the decibel scale is logarithmic, sound and is measured as the number of
levels in decibels can not be simply added cycles per second or Hertz (Hz). The
together. To combine two sound levels, human ear is sensitive to sound in the
A dB and B dB, to give the total sound range 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Examples of the
level, C dB, the following equation is frequency ranges of musical instruments
used: and the human voice are shown in Figure
A1.2. For acoustic engineering purposes,
C = 10 lg (10A/10 + 10B/10) dB A1.1 the frequency range is normally divided
up into discrete bands. The most
When two identical sounds occur commonly used are octave and one-third
simultaneously, the resulting level is only octave bands.
3 dB higher than for a single source. By
contrast, an increase of 10 dB normally Octave bands
represents a doubling of perceived For an octave band the upper limiting
loudness of the sound. Hence doubling frequency of each band is twice the lower
the amount of sound energy results in limiting frequency. Octave bands are
very much less than a doubling in described by their centre frequency values
subjective loudness. and bands typically used for building
To combine more than two levels, the acoustics purposes range from 63 Hz to
following equation is used: 4 kHz.

One-third octave bands
L = 10 lg (10A/10 + 10B/10+ 10C/10+ Each octave band can be divided into
10D/10+……) dB A1.2 three one-third octave bands. The one-
third octave bands are described by their
Frequency of sound centre frequency values and bands
Figure A1.2: Frequency Frequency is analogous to musical pitch. typically used for building acoustics
range of musical It depends upon the rate of vibration of purposes range from 50 Hz to 5 kHz.
instruments and vocals

C 4096 Frequency (Hz)
B 3840
G 3072
E 2560
D 2304
C 2048
B 1920
G 1536
E 1280
D 1152
C 1024
B 960
G 768
E 640
D 576
C 512
A 440
G 384 Piccolo
E 320
D 280
Middle C 256
240 Oboe Flute
G 192 Soprano
F Violin
E 160 Alto Clarinet
D 144
C 128 Trumpet
B 120
A Viola
G 96 Tenor
French horne
E 80 Baritone
D 72
Bass Bass clarinet
C 64
B 60 Cello
G 48 Bassoon
E 40
D 46 Tuba
C 32
Double bass
B 30

Appendix 1: Basic concepts and units

Octave band centre frequency (Hz) 63 125 250 500 1k 2k 4k

A-weighting correction (dB) –26.2 –16.1 -8.6 -3.2 0 1.2 1.0

A-weighted levels measurement period. The most Table A.1.1: A-weighting
The sensitivity of the ear is frequency commonly used percentile levels are: corrections

dependent. Sound level meters are fitted LA1,T - This is the A-weighted level
with a weighting network which exceeded for 1% of the measurement
approximates to this response and allows period. It is often used to represent
sound levels to be expressed as an overall typical maximum levels that occur during
single figure value, in dB(A). For clarity the measurement period.
and convenience, the ‘A’ is often included LA10,T - This is the A-weighted level
in the acoustic descriptor, eg LAeq, rather exceeded for 10% of the measurement
than in brackets after the units. For period. It is often used to represent the
example, A-weighted levels can be quoted sound level from road traffic.
as 55 dB LAeq. LA90,T - This is the A-weighted level
The A-weighted level can also be exceeded for 90% of the measurement
calculated manually from octave band or period. It is often used to represent the
one-third octave band data. For octave background level.
band data, see Table A1.1, values are
added to the respective sound levels and Maximum and minimum sound levels
the resulting values for all octave bands LAmax,T is the maximum sound pressure
are combined logarithmically (using level measured during the measurement
Equation A1.2) period T. LAmin,T is the minimum sound
pressure level measured during the
Measurement of time-varying sounds measurement period T.
Most sounds are not steady and the
sound pressure level fluctuates with time. Sound level meter time constants
Therefore, it is necessary to express the To give meaningful results, sound level
results of a measurement over a period of meters use sound pressure levels averaged
time in statistical terms. Some commonly over short intervals (within the overall
used descriptors are discussed below. measurement period, T). Time constants
for this averaging, defined in international
Equivalent continuous sound level standards, include ‘fast’ (125 ms) and
The most widely used unit is the ‘slow’ (1 s).
equivalent continuous A-weighted sound The percentile levels described above
pressure level (LAeq,T). It is an energy are affected by the choice of time
average and is defined as the level of a constant. By definition, all percentile
notional sound which (over a defined levels must be measured with the fast time
period of time, T) would deliver the same constant.
A-weighted sound energy as the actual LAeq,T is not affected by the sound
fluctuating sound. level meter time constant.
LAmax,T and LAmin,T can be measured
Percentile level with either fast or slow time constants so
A percentile level is the highest level it is important that the results state which
exceeded for a certain percentage of a time constant has been used.

Appendix 2: Basic principles of room acoustics

Reflection and absorption of sound Absorption classes
Once emitted from a source, sound waves The absorption of surfaces varies with
in a room travel through the air until they frequency. Therefore, absorption
reach a boundary surface or other coefficients are generally given for each
obstacle. When a sound wave reaches a octave band. A surface is categorised as
surface it will be partly reflected off the being in a particular absorption class, A to
surface back into the room and continue E (according to BS EN ISO 11654:1997)
travelling in a new direction, and it will depending on its absorption coefficients
be partly absorbed by the surface with the across the frequency range. To determine
absorbed energy being dissipated as heat. the absorption class the octave band
values are plotted on a graph from BS EN
Absorption coefficient, α ISO 11654:1997 as shown in Figure A2.1.
The amount of sound energy that can be Note that a very reflective surface may be
absorbed by a surface is given by its unclassified.
absorption coefficient, α. The absorption
coefficient can take values in the range 0 Scattering coefficient, s
to 1. A surface that absorbs no sound (ie When sound is reflected from a surface it
a totally reflective surface) has an is partly reflected in a specular direction
absorption coefficient of 0 and a surface (ie the angle of incidence equals the angle
that absorbs all sound incident upon it of reflection) and partly scattered into
has an absorption coefficient of 1. Thus other directions. The amount of reflected
the higher the value of α, the more sound sound energy that will be scattered is
will be absorbed. In practice, most given by the surface’s scattering
surfaces have values between 0 and 1. coefficient, s. This is in the range of 0 to 1
Some typical absorption coefficients are where a perfectly smooth surface giving
given in Table A6.1 and on the DfES pure specular reflection has a scattering
acoustics website. coefficient of 0 and a very irregular
surface scattering all sound away from the
Figure A2.1: Absorption
classes from BS EN ISO
11654: 1997
Practical absorption coefficient, αp

Absorption class A
0.8 Absorption class B

0.6 Absorption class C

0.4 Absorption class D

Absorption class E
0 Unclassified
125 250 500 1000 2000 4000
Octave band centre frequency, Hz

Appendix 2: Basic principles of room acoustics

specular direction has a scattering details of the sound field that determine
coefficient of 1. Scattering coefficients are peoples’ subjective responses. There are
a relatively new measure in room many other measures used to represent
acoustics so there is little data currently various aspects of subjective response to
available but they are important in room room acoustics. For school acoustics there
acoustics computer modelling. is a need to have criteria for subjective
speech intelligibility for which the
Reverberation time, T objective measure selected for BB93 is the
After being emitted from a source, sound Speech Transmission Index.
waves are repeatedly reflected from room
surfaces and, as a result of absorption, Speech Transmission Index, STI
gradually reduce in strength. The The intelligibility of speech in a room is a
reverberation time, T, of a space is a complex function of the location of the
measure of the rate at which the sound speaker, the location of the listener,
decays. It is defined as the time taken for ambient noise levels, the acoustic
the reverberant sound energy to decay to characterisics of the space, and the
one millionth of its original intensity loudness and quality of the speech itself.
(corresponding to a 60 dB reduction in In addition, if a sound reinforcement
the sound level). system is used, it depends on the design
The reverberation time is proportional and adjustment of this system. The
to the volume of the room and inversely Speech Transmission Index, STI, is an
proportional to the quantity of absorption objective measure defined in BS EN
present: 60268-16:1998, which accounts for all
these factors.
T = 0.16 V / ∑ Siαi s A2.1 To measure the STI, a special sound
source is located at the position of the
where Si and αi are respectively the talker (with the normal microphone in
surface area and absorption coefficient of place for any sound reinforcement
each surface i in the room. An example of system). The resulting signal is detected at
the application of this equation is given in the listening position. Signal processing
Appendix 6. using the modulation transfer function
between transmitted and received signals
Mid-frequency reverberation time, Tmf is carried out to determine the STI.
The sound absorption of surfaces usually STI is a value between 0 and 1, the
varies with frequency and therefore the higher the value, the better the speech
reverberation time in a space also varies intelligibility. Speech intelligibility ratings
with frequency. Hence, values of T are corresponding to STI values are as
normally given in frequency bands. In follows:
BB93 the reverberation time criteria are
set in terms of the average value of the
STI Speech Intelligibility
three octave bands, 500 Hz, 1 kHz, and
2 kHz, denoted as Tmf
0.1 to 0.3 Bad
0.3 to 0.45 Poor
Tmf = (T500 + T1k + T2k) / 3 s A2.2
0.45 to 0.6 Fair
0.6 to 0.75 Good
Other acoustic measures
0.75 to 1 Excellent
Sound heard in a room generally
comprises an extremely complicated
combination of many reflected and
scattered sound waves. This situation is
made manageable by considering only the
overall statistics of the sound field such as
the reverberation time. Unfortunately,
this does not convey all the intricate

Appendix 3: Basic principles of sound insulation

Airborne sound insulation • flanking sound transmission (see
Speech, AV systems, and musical Section 3) through flanking elements (eg
instruments are all sources of airborne flanking walls, suspended ceilings, access
sound in buildings. Sound in a room (the floors etc)
source room) causes the surrounding • wall and floor dimensions
surfaces, such as walls, ceilings and floors • reverberation time of the receiving
to vibrate. This vibration is transmitted room.
through the building structure and
radiated into other rooms (receiving Standardized level difference, DnT
rooms) in the building. Depending upon The reverberation time, T, measured in a
the building construction, varying room may be significantly different from
amounts of energy are lost during the the value predicted at the design stage
sound transmission process, resulting in due to a lack of detailed knowledge of
airborne sound insulation between rooms. finishes, furniture and fittings and their
The greater the airborne sound insulation absorption characteristics. This means that
between two rooms, the lower the resulting the predicted sound level difference, D,
sound level in the receiving room. which depends on T, is also subject to
change. To avoid problems, a reference
Measurement of airborne sound reverberation time, To, can be used in
insulation predictions of D. When the building is
The site measurement procedures for constructed and D is measured, the
airborne sound insulation are given in BS measured reverberation time, T, is
EN ISO 140-4:1998. Normally, pink referenced to To. This gives the
noise or white noise is played through an standardized level difference, DnT.
amplifier and loudspeaker in the source
room, to provide a high sound level DnT = D + 10 lg (T / To) dB A3.2
across the frequency range of interest.
The sound level in the source room must BB93 standardized level difference,
be high enough to ensure that the levels DnT(Tmf,max)
in the receiving room are above the DnT is widely used to set sound insulation
background noise level. criteria for dwellings, where To is taken as
The resulting sound levels in the 0.5 seconds. Although BB93 uses DnT in
source and receiving rooms are measured the sound insulation criteria for schools, a
in one-third octave bands. As the sound value of To = 0.5 seconds would not be
levels vary with location, they are appropriate for many school rooms.
averaged either across a number of fixed Hence, To is specified in BB93 as the
microphone positions or by using a maximum value of Tmf given in Table 1.5
continuously moving microphone. The of Section 1. This new descriptor for
resulting time and space averaged sound airborne sound insulation in schools is
levels are denoted L1 in the source room written as DnT(Tmf,max) to highlight the
and L2 in the receiving room. alternative value of To that is used.

Level difference, D Sound reduction index, R
D is the difference in sound levels in dB The sound reduction index, R, of an
between the source room and the element such as a wall, floor, door or
receiving room in one-third octave bands: window describes the sound transmitted
through that element. It is measured in a
D = L1 - L2 dB A3.1 laboratory with suppressed flanking
transmission. R varies with frequency and
This level difference depends on:
is expressed as a value for each one-third
• direct sound transmission through the octave band or octave band.
separating element (ie separating wall
or floor)

Appendix 3: Basic principles of sound insulation

Apparent sound reduction index, R´ Measurement of impact sound
Using field measurements of the level insulation
difference, D, it is possible to estimate the The site measurement procedures for
value of the sound reduction index, R, for impact sound insulation are given in BS
a partition. However, because field EN ISO 140-7:1998. Impact sound
measurements include flanking insulation is measured using an ISO
transmission, the resulting quantity is standard tapping machine, which consists
called the apparent sound reduction of a series of hammers driven by an
index, R´. electric motor so as to produce a
The apparent sound reduction index, continuous series of impacts on the floor
R´, of wall or floor constructions in under consideration. The resulting sound
schools (and all other buildings), is level in the receiving room is measured in
usually lower than the laboratory one-third octave bands. The receiving
measured value of R. The difference room is usually the space directly below
between the results is usually due to the floor excited by the tapping machine,
flanking transmission and a lower although the impact sound insulation can
standard of workmanship on site. also be measured in other neighbouring
Guidance on flanking transmission is rooms. As the sound levels will vary with
given in Section 3. Problems due to location in the receiving room, they are
workmanship can be reduced by close averaged either across a number of fixed
supervision during the construction microphone positions or by using a
process. continuously moving microphone.

Weighted sound reduction indices and Impact sound pressure level, Li
level differences The impact sound pressure level, Li, is the
Rw, R´w, Dw, DnT,w, DnT(Tmf,max) time and space averaged sound pressure
Most constructions provide higher level in the receiving room, while the ISO
airborne sound insulation against mid and standard tapping machine excites the floor
high frequency sounds (such as speech) or stairs above the receiving room.
than low frequency sounds (such as the
bass in music). This typical characteristic Standardized impact sound pressure
is defined in BS EN ISO 717-1:1997 as a level L´nT
rating curve that can be applied to one- The impact sound pressure level, Li,
third octave band values of R, R´, D, depends on the reverberation time, T, of
DnT or DnT(Tmf,max) from 100 Hz to the receiving room. In the same way that
3.15 kHz. The rating curve is used to D is standardized to give DnT for
calculate the following single-number airborne sound insulation to avoid
quantities: weighted sound reduction changes caused by variations of T, an
index, Rw; weighted apparent sound equivalent descriptor is defined for impact
reduction index, R´w; weighted level sound as the standardized impact sound
difference, Dw; weighted standardized pressure level, L´nT:
level difference, DnT,w; weighted BB93
L´nT = Li - 10 lg (T /To) dB A3.3
standardized level difference
BB93 standardized impact sound
pressure level L´nT(Tmf,max)
Impact sound insulation
L´nT is widely used for dwellings, where
In the case of impact sound, the building
To is taken as 0.5 seconds. In a similar
construction is caused to vibrate as a
manner to airborne sound insulation for
result of a physical impact, such as
schools, a value of To = 0.5 seconds is not
footsteps on floors or stairs. The resulting
appropriate for many school rooms so To
vibration is radiated into other rooms in
is specified in BB93 as the maximum
the building.
value of Tmf given in Table 1.5 of Section
1. This new descriptor for impact sound

Appendix 3: Basic principles of sound insulation

insulation in schools is written as
L´nT(Tmf,max) to highlight the alternative
value of To that is used.

Weighted standardized impact sound
pressure levels L´nT,w and
To reduce the impact sound pressure level
data from values in frequency bands to a
single-number quantity, BS EN ISO 717-
2:1997 contains a rating curve that can
be applied to one-third octave band
values of L´nT or L´nT(Tmf,max) from
100 Hz to 3.15 kHz. The rating curve is
used to calculate the following single-
number quantities: the weighted
standardized impact sound pressure level,
L´nT,w or the weighted BB93
standardized impact sound pressure level,
It is important to note that impact sound
insulation is measured in terms of an
absolute sound level, so that a lower
number indicates a better standard of
impact sound insulation. This is the
opposite of airborne sound insulation,
which is based on differences in levels so
that a higher number indicates a better
standard of airborne sound insulation.

Appendix 4: Classroom sound insulation – sample calculations

Figure A4.1 shows a secondary school
classroom adjacent to a science laboratory, Corridor
plantroom and corridor. In this example, Wall 2
the designer has decided to build the
separating walls between these spaces with
masonry. The calculations below are used
Wall 3 Wall 1
to determine the specification of the S = 21 m2
masonry wall (eg mass per unit area,
Plantroom Classroom Science Laboratory
thickness, surface finishes) required to Volume = 168 m3
meet the performance standards in
Section 1.

There are three walls to consider:
• Wall 1 - between classroom and science
• Wall 2 - between classroom and
corridor Wall 1
Figure A4.1: Plan of
• Wall 3 - between classroom and From Tables 1.1, 1.2 and 1.5 in Section 1 secondary school
plantroom. the minimum performance standards for classroom and adjacent
the airborne sound insulation are: spaces
The performance standards for
airborne sound insulation are contained Classroom to Science Laboratory:
in Section 1. For each of the three walls 40 dB DnT(0.8s),w
the following apply:
Science Laboratory to Classroom:
• The performance standard for Wall 1 is 45 dB DnT(0.8s),w
in terms of the weighted BB93
As the two room dimensions are similar
standardized level difference,
and the values of Tmf,max are both 0.8 s,
DnT(Tmf,max),w, in Table 1.2. To
the specification for the masonry wall is
determine the blockwork specification,
based on the more stringent criterion,
the weighted sound reduction index of
45 dB DnT(0.8s),w.
the wall is estimated from
As an initial estimate, the procedure
described in Section 3.10 can be used to
• The performance standard for Wall 2 is estimate the weighted sound reduction
in terms of the weighted sound reduction index, Rw, for the separating wall. The
index in Table 1.3. first stage is to calculate Rw,est.

• For Wall 3, between the plantroom and Rw,est = DnT(Tmf,max),w +
the classroom, there are no explicit 10 lg (S x Tmf,max / V) + 8 dB
performance standards in Section 1.
Rw,est = 45 +
Therefore the sound insulation between
10 lg (21 x 0.8 / 168) + 8 dB
the plantroom and the classroom needs to
ensure that the performance standards are Rw,est = 43 dB
met for the indoor ambient noise level in
To obtain Rw the factor X is added to
the adjacent classroom (Table 1.1). The
Rw,est to account for less favourable
sound insulation is calculated using the
mounting conditions and workmanship
noise levels of the actual equipment in the
than in the laboratory test. From Section
3.10, X can be estimated to be 5 dB.

Rw = Rw,est + X dB

Rw = 43 + 5 dB

Rw = 48 dB

Appendix 4: Classroom sound insulation – sample calculation

Therefore, suitable specifications for an estimate of the type of separating wall
masonry separating walls and appropriate performance needed to achieve 45 dB
surface finishes that achieve at least 48 dB DnT(0.8s),w and takes no account of
Rw can be identified by the designer. flanking transmission which is usually
critical in determining the performance.
Wall 2 Therefore, at this stage the designer
The performance standards for the should seek specialist advice from an
airborne sound insulation of the corridor acoustic consultant to assess whether the
wall and door are given in Table 1.3: proposed combination of separating and
flanking walls is likely to achieve the
Wall between a classroom and a corridor:
performance standards.
40 dB Rw

Door between a classroom and a corridor: Wall 3
30 dB Rw Wall 3 has to provide sufficient sound
insulation to ensure that the indoor
In this example there are no ventilators ambient noise levels in the classroom do
or glazing in the wall. If there were not exceed 35 dB LAeq,30min (Table 1.1).
ventilators then they would have to meet As there will be other noise sources
the performance standard in Table 1.3. contributing to the indoor ambient noise
Glazing in the corridor wall does not have level, the level due to noise transmitted
a separate performance standard because through Wall 3 will have to be significantly
the performance standard for the wall is less than 35 dB LAeq,30min. BB93 does
for the combined sound insulation of any not recommend a standard method for
glazing and the wall. An example of a this situation but one approach is to
corridor wall with glazing is included at design Wall 3 so that the noise
the end of this appendix. transmitted from the plantroom is at least
From Section 3, Figure 3.11, a 44 mm 10 dB below the indoor ambient noise
thick timber door with half hour fire level in the classroom. Using this method,
rating typically achieves 30 dB Rw if it is the noise transmitted through Wall 3
“a well fitted solid core doorset where the needs to be less than 25 dB LAeq,30min in
door is sealed effectively around its the classroom.
perimeter in a substantial frame with an The noise transmitted from the
effective stop”. plantroom to the classroom depends on
the frequency spectrum of the noise in the
Blockwork Specification plantroom and the sound insulation
The minimum Rw values for the walls spectrum of the separating wall. For these
are: calculations, plantroom equipment
Wall 1: 48 dB Rw locations and noise emission data are
Wall 2: 40 dB Rw required. Precise equipment details are
usually not known until the later stages of
Figure 3.9 can be used to draw up an a project, therefore generic sound level
initial specification for the walls along data are normally used in calculations and
with laboratory test reports from the the assumptions quoted in the
manufacturer. For Wall 1 and Wall 2 the specification.
following specifications might be The calculations are often complex and
proposed: normally require an acoustic consultant.
Wall 1: 100 mm medium density blocks Guidance for these calculations can be
(140 kg/m2) with a 13 mm plaster finish found in the following references:
on both sides CIBSE (2002). Guide B5: Noise and
Vibration Control for HVCA. CIBSE.
Wall 2: 100 mm low density block ISBN 1903287251.
(70 kg/m2) with a 13 mm plaster finish Fry, A. ed. (1988). Noise control in
on both sides building services. Oxford: Pergamon.
The Rw specification for Wall 1 is only ISBN 0080340679.

Appendix 4: Classroom sound insulation – sample calculation

Wall 2 with glazing An alternative approach is to improve
Walls between classrooms and corridors the masonry wall specification to allow
may contain glazing, therefore this the use of another glazing configuration.
example is a reassessment of Wall 2 with From Figure 3.9 the following
the following areas: masonry wall should give at least
45 dB Rw: 100 mm medium density
Area blocks (140 kg/m2) with a 13mm plaster
Masonry 16.6 m2 finish on each side.
Glazing 5.6 m2 From Figure 3.8, glazing with different
Door 1.8 m2 Rw values can be assessed to see whether
Total wall 24 m2 the criterion of 40 dB Rw will be met by
The door is treated in the same way as the combined value for the wall and
in the example above with a value of glazing. A potential solution would be to
30 dB Rw. use glazing with sound insulation of
The combined Rw criterion for the 35 dB Rw. This is 10 dB lower than the
masonry wall and the glazing also remains 45 dB Rw sound insulation of the
at 40 dB Rw. masonry wall. For a glazing area of 25%
This combined criterion would be of the wall area that excludes the door,
achieved if the masonry wall and the Figure 3.8 gives a correction factor of
glazing each provide at least 40 dB Rw. approximately 5 dB. The combined Rw is
A masonry wall specification for this has calculated from the Rw for the glazing
already been described above and there plus the correction factor, which equals
are three glazing configurations given in 40 dB Rw. Hence this combination of
Figure 3.10, which also provide masonry wall and glazing meets the
40 dB Rw. However, these glazing performance standard. Further reductions
configurations can sometimes be relatively in glazing specification could be obtained
expensive due to the use of thick and/or by reducing the area of glazing or by
laminated glass and/or wide cavities. using a wall with a higher Rw.

Appendix 5: Sound insulation of the building envelope

This appendix describes two methods that where
can be used to calculate the indoor Dn,e is the element-normalised sound
ambient noise level due to external noise level difference of the ventilator (dB).
as described in Section 3. The first
The overall A-weighted internal level is
method calculates the indoor ambient
obtained by combining (as in Equation
noise level according to the principles of
A1.2) the contributions from all elements
BS EN 12354-3:2000. The second
and ventilators within each frequency
method calculates the indoor ambient
band, adding the relevant A-weighting
noise level using the measured façade
correction to each resultant frequency
sound insulation data from an identical
band level, and then combining all the A-
construction at another site.
weighted frequency band levels together.
Principles of the calculation method Elements: Laboratory sound
based on BS EN 12354-3:2000 insulation data
This section describes the calculation Laboratory testing of building elements
procedure based on BS EN 12354- should be conducted in accordance with
3:2000. BS EN ISO 140-3:1995 to obtain the
The chosen frequency range should required sound reduction index, R.
include all frequency bands that
determine the indoor ambient noise level, Ventilators: Laboratory sound
LAeq,30min. However, for many external insulation data
noise levels, it is appropriate to calculate Laboratory testing of ventilator units
the façade insulation using octave bands should be conducted in accordance with
between 125 Hz and 2 kHz. BS EN 20140-10:1992 to obtain the
Two main equations are used to required element-normalized level
calculate the internal level in each difference, Dn,e,w.
frequency band. Some ventilators may have the facility
The first equation gives the internal to control the air flow rate, either by
level due to sound transmission through being fully opened or fully closed, or by
an element of the building envelope: having some form of variable control. In
such cases calculations should be based on
L2 = L1,in – R + 10lg (S/V) + 11 the performance in the fully open
+ 10lg T dB A5.1 position.
where The mounting position of ventilators,
L2 is the internal level due to the sound for example in the middle or near an edge
transmitted through the element (dB) of a wall, or in a corner, affects the
L1,in is the external free-field sound level airborne sound insulation. Manufacturers’
incident on the element (dB) data on ventilators should give
R is the sound reduction index of the information on the position of the
element (dB) ventilator during the laboratory test
S is the internal surface area of the according to BS EN 20140-10:1992. This
element (m2) should be used to ensure that the
V is the room volume (m3) laboratory mounting position is
T is the room reverberation time (s). representative of the mounting position in
the field.
The second equation gives the internal
Some ventilators are available in a
level due to sound transmission through a
variety of sizes but performance data may
ventilator installed in the building
correspond only to one size. In such cases
an estimate can be made for the area
L2 = L1,in – Dn,e – 10lgV + 21 correction, Ac, to be added to each
+ 10lg T dB A5.2 frequency band Dn,e value. The area

Appendix 5: Sound insulation of the building envelope

correction Ac in dB is given by: Principles of the calculation method
based on field test data
Ac = 10 lg ( Aref / Aactual ) dB A5.3
This section describes the calculation of
where the indoor ambient noise level using the
Aref is the area in m2 of the ventilator measured façade sound insulation data
from the laboratory sound insulation test from an identical construction at another
Aactual is the area in m2 of the ventilator site.
to be used. The chosen frequency range should
include all frequency bands that determine
Excel spreadsheet the indoor ambient noise level,
An Excel spreadsheet to calculate the LAeq,30min. However, for many external
sound insulation of building envelopes noise levels, it is appropriate to calculate
based on BS EN 12354-3:2000 is the façade insulation using octave bands
available via the DfES acoustics website. between 125 Hz and 2 kHz.
This Excel spreadsheet allows users to Field tests of building envelope
select from a range of typical building insulation according to BS EN ISO 140-
elements and ventilators and enter data 5:1998 give results in frequency bands
obtained from laboratory tests of expressed as the standardized level
elements or ventilators. difference, D2m,nT.
The spreadsheet provides two options, The internal level in each frequency
A and B, to calculate internal levels using band may be calculated according to the
octave bands between 125 Hz and 2 kHz. following equation:
Option A allows the user to enter
L2 = L1,in – D2m,nT + 6 + 10lg T dB
measured free-field octave band data as a
‘user-defined spectrum’. Option A is the
preferred option. However, if measured
L2 is the internal level due to the sound
data are not available then option B can
transmitted through the facade (dB)
be used to give an estimate based upon an
L1,in is the external free-field sound level
A-weighted value and an assumed
incident on the facade (dB)
spectrum shape, either C or Ctr from BS
D2m,nT is the standardized level
EN ISO 717-1:1997. Estimations using
difference (dB)
option B can be useful with some
T is the room reverberation time (s).
prediction methods such as CRTN for
road traffic noise and CRN for railway
The overall A-weighted internal level is
noise, which generate only A-weighted
obtained by adding the relevant A-
levels. The user can enter external free-
weighting to each frequency band level,
field LAeq levels and choose from the
and then combining all the A-weighted
generic spectra described in BS EN ISO
frequency band levels, according to
717-1:1997. The C spectrum (Spectrum
Equation A1.2.
No. 1) is used to represent railway traffic
at medium and high speed, and road
traffic travelling at greater than 80 km/h.
The Ctr spectrum (Spectrum No. 2) is
used to represent noise from urban road
traffic, jet aircraft at large distances,
propeller driven aircraft, and railway
traffic at low speeds.
Spectra of aircraft noise at relatively
close distances are likely to depend greatly
on aircraft type and operation, and
specialist advice should be sought.

Appendix 6: Calculation of room reverberation times

For empty rooms with volumes less than where α1,…,αn are the absorption
200 m3, simple room geometry and a coefficients of the different surfaces in the
reasonable distribution of sound room and S1,…,Sn are the areas of the
absorption, the reverberation time, T, can surfaces having absorption coefficients
be calculated using Sabine’s formula and α1…αn.
absorption coefficients appropriate to the Absorption coefficients can be obtained
room surfaces as shown below. from the spreadsheet on the DfES
acoustics website and/or from
0.16V manufacturers’ data. Values for some
T= seconds
A common materials, used in the worked
where V is the volume of the room in m3 example which follows, are given in
and A is the absorption area in the room Table A6.1.
in m2. Two decimal places should be used for Note: Reverberation time
Table 1.5 gives the recommended mid- the absorption coefficient values for calculations using Sabine’s
formula in all octave bands
frequency reverberation times for rooms. calculations.
can be carried out using
The mid-frequency reverberation time, In empty teaching rooms with volumes the method illustrated in
Tmf, is the arithmetic average of the less than 200 m3 and simple room the worked example that
reverberation times in the 500 Hz, geometry, the absorption area, A, needed follows. However,
1000 Hz and 2000 Hz octave bands. to give the required reverberation time, T, neglecting air absorption
can be obtained by rearranging Sabine’s slightly underestimates the
T + T1000 Hz + T2000 Hz equivalent sound
Tmf = 500 Hz s formula as follows:
absorption area in a room.
For n surfaces in a space, the total A= m2
absorption area, A, can be found using Table A6.1: Absorption
the following equation: For such rooms the formula can also be coefficient data for some
A = α1S1 + α2S2 +...+ αnSn used to estimate the amount of additional common materials

Sound absorption coefficient, α
Material 250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz

Fair-faced concrete or plastered masonry 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.02 0.03

Fair-faced brick 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.07

Painted concrete block 0.05 0.06 0.07 0.09 0.08

Windows, glass façade 0.08 0.05 0.04 0.03 0.02

Doors (timber) 0.10 0.08 0.08 0.08 0.08

Glazed tile/marble 0.01 0.01 0.01 0.02 0.02

Hard floor coverings (eg linoleum,
parquet) on concrete floor 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.05 0.06

Soft floor coverings (eg carpet) on
concrete floor 0.03 0.06 0.15 0.30 0.40

Suspended plaster or plasterboard
ceiling (with large airspace behind) 0.15 0.10 0.05 0.05 0.05

Appendix 6: Calculation of room reverberation times

absorption area required to give a desired The procedure is illustrated in the
mid frequency reverberation time. (Note worked example shown below.
that the absorption due to any surface Specialist advice may be needed for
that is to be covered with additional large (>200 m3) rooms or rooms where
absorption must be discounted.) music is to be performed

Worked example
A school laboratory is required to have a mid-frequency reverberation time of less than
0.8 seconds. The room is rectangular in plan, is 7 m wide, 9 m deep and has a ceiling
height of 3 m. There is one door and the glazing is located in one of the 7 m x 3 m
walls. The room volume is 7 m x 9 m x 3 m = 189 m3. The glazing has an area of
6 m2 and the door has an area of 2 m2.

Step 1 Calculate the surface area related to each material in the room (ie floor, walls,
doors, ceiling and windows)

Surface Surface finish Area (m2)
Floor Hard floor covering 63
Door Timber 2
Walls (excluding door and glazing areas) Painted concrete block 88
Ceiling Suspended plaster 63
Windows Glass 6

Step 2 Obtain values of absorption coefficients for the room surfaces. In this case, the
values are taken from Table A6.1.

Absorption coefficient α
Surface Area (m2) 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz
Floor 63 0.04 0.05 0.05
Door 2 0.08 0.08 0.08
Walls 88 0.06 0.07 0.09
Ceiling 63 0.10 0.05 0.05
Windows 6 0.05 0.04 0.03

Step 3 Calculate the absorption area (m2) related to each surface in octave frequency
bands (Absorption area = surface area × absorption coefficient)

Absorption area (m2)
Surface Area (m2) 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz
Floor 63 63 × 0.04 = 2.52 63 × 0.05 = 3.15 63 × 0.05 = 3.15
Door 2 0.16 0.16 0.16
Walls 88 5.28 6.16 7.92
Ceiling 63 6.30 3.15 3.15
Windows 6 0.30 0.24 0.18

Appendix 6: Calculation of room reverberation times

Step 4 Calculate the sum of the absorption areas (m2) obtained in Step 3

500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz
Total absorption area (m2) 14.56 12.86 14.56

Step 5 Calculate the reverberation time for the room using Sabine’s formula

500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz
T= seconds 2.08 2.35 2.65

Step 6 Calculate the mid-frequency reverberation time (Tmf) from the reverberation times in the 500 Hz, 1000 Hz
and 2000 Hz octave bands.
2.08 + 2.35 + 2.65
Tmf = = 2.36 seconds

This reverberation time exceeds the required value.

Step 7 Identify a sound absorbing material that is suitable for use in a school laboratory and determine the best
position for the material.

A manufacturer produces a non-flammable sound absorbing material that can be cleaned relatively easily. The
following absorption coefficient data is provided for the material.

250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
α 0.20 0.45 0.85 1.00 1.32

Because the room is used as a laboratory, it is decided that the most appropriate place for the sound absorbing
material is on the ceiling or high on the walls.

Step 8 Estimate the required area of the sound absorbing material and calculate the mid-frequency reverberation
time when it is in place.

As a first estimate, it is decided to cover the entire ceiling with the sound absorbing material. The total absorption
areas in the 500 Hz, 1000 Hz and 2000 Hz octave frequency bands are then calculated.

Absorption area (m2)
Surface Area (m2) 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz
Floor 63 2.52 3.15 3.15
Door 2 0.16 0.16 0.16
Walls 88 5.28 6.16 7.92
Ceiling 63 63.0 x 0.45 = 28.35 63 x 0.85 = 53.55 63 x 1.00 = 63.00
Windows 6 0.30 0.24 0.18
Total absorption area 36.61 63.26 74.41
0.16V Reverberation time (s)
T= A seconds 0.83 0.48 0.41

Note: Because the mid-frequency reverberation time is required, calculations need only be conducted in the
500 Hz, 1000 Hz and 2000 Hz octave bands. However, should reverberation times need to be calculated for all
octave bands, the calculation method is the same as that illustrated for each octave band.

Appendix 6: Calculation of room reverberation times

Step 9 Calculate the new mid-frequency reverberation time.

0.83 + 0.48 + 0.41
Tmf = = 0.57 seconds
This reverberation time meets the reverberation time requirements in Section 1.1 for the school laboratory.

Appendix 7: Calculation of sound absorption required in
corridors, entrance halls and stairwells

Approved Document E contains guidance For an absorptive material of surface
on the addition of sound absorption to area S in m2, and sound absorption
common areas in buildings containing coefficient, α, the absorption area A is
dwellings. Where the addition of sound equal to the product of S and α. The total
absorption to common areas in schools, absorption area, AT, in square metres is
such as corridors, entrance halls or defined as the hypothetical area of a
stairwells, is required, it is advised that totally absorbing surface, which if it were
the approach described in Approved the only absorbing element in the space
Document E be used. would give the same reverberation time as
Approved Document E describes two the space under consideration.
methods, A and B, for controlling For n surfaces in a space, the total
reverberation in common internal parts of absorption area, AT, can be found using
buildings. These methods are reproduced the following equation.
below from Approved Document E.
AT = α1S1 + α2S2 +...+ αnS n

Method A For entrance halls, provide a minimum
For entrance halls, corridors or hallways, of 0.20 m2 total absorption area per cubic
cover an area equal to or greater than the metre of the volume. The additional
floor area, with a Class C absorber or absorptive material should be distributed
better. It will normally be convenient to over one or more of the surfaces.
cover the ceiling area with the additional For corridors or hallways, provide a
absorption. minimum of 0.25 m2 total absorption
For stairwells or a stair enclosure, area per cubic metre of the volume. The
calculate the combined area of the stair additional absorptive material should be
treads, the upper surface of the distributed over one or more of the
intermediate landings, the upper surface surfaces.
of the landings (excluding ground floor) Absorption areas should be calculated
and the ceiling area on the top floor. for each octave band between 250 Hz
Either, cover at least an area equal to and 4 kHz inclusively.
this calculated area with a Class D Absorption coefficient data (to two
absorber, or cover an area equal to at least decimal places) should be determined as
50% of this calculated area with a Class C follows:
absorber or better. The absorptive For specific products, use laboratory
material should be equally distributed measurements of absorption coefficient
between all floor levels. It will normally data determined using BS EN
be convenient to cover the underside of 20354:1993 Acoustics – Measurement of
intermediate landings, the underside of sound absorption in a reverberation room.
the other landings, and the ceiling area The measured third octave band data
on the top floor. should be converted to practical sound
Method A can generally be satisfied by absorption coefficient data, αp in octave
the use of proprietary acoustic ceilings. bands, according to BS EN ISO
However, the absorptive material can be 11654:1997 Acoustics – Sound absorbers
applied to any surface that faces into the for use in buildings – Rating of sound
space. absorption.
For generic materials, use the octave
Method B band data in Table 7.1 of Approved
In comparison with Method A, Method B Document E or the more comprehensive
takes account of the existing absorption data on the DfES acoustics website. These
provided by all surfaces. In some cases, contain typical absorption coefficient data
Method B should allow greater flexibility for common materials used in buildings
and require less additional absorption and may be supplemented by other
than Method A. published data.

Appendix 7: Calculation of sound absorption required in corridors,
entrance halls and stairwells

Worked example surface area (27 m2) glazed. The corridor
A school has an entrance hall that has has parquet on a concrete floor and its
parquet on a concrete floor (7 m x 5 m) unglazed walls are of painted concrete
with a ceiling height of 3.2 m. The ceiling blocks.
area is equal to that of the floor. The 5 m Each end of the corridor consists of
x 3.2 m façade is completely glazed and wooden doors, of surface area 2.4 m x
incorporates a glass door. Wooden doors 2.7 m. In addition there are two wooden
having a total surface area of 2.4 m x 2.7 doors, each of area 2 m x 1.8 m, leading
m lead to the corridor described below. to classrooms off the corridoor.
The walls are of fair-faced brick. The sound absorption coefficients
The corridor has equal floor and necessary to control reverberation in the
ceiling areas of 20 m x 2.4 m and a two spaces using Method B are calculated
ceiling height of 2.7 m. The 20 m x 2.7 m as shown below.
external wall of the corridor has half its

Example calculation for an entrance hall (Method B)

Step 1 Calculate the surface area related to each absorptive material (ie for the floor, walls, doors and ceiling).

Surface Surface finish Area (m2)
Floor Parquet on concrete 35.00
Doors (wooden) Timber 6.48
Walls (excluding door area) Fair-faced brick 54.32
Façade (and door) Glazing 16.00
Ceiling To be determined 35.00

Step 2 Obtain values of absorption coefficients for the floor, walls, glazing and doors. (The values below are taken
from Table 7.1 of Approved Document E.)

Surface Area Absorption coefficient (α) in octave frequency bands
(m2) 250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Floor 35.00 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.05 0.06
Doors (wooden) 6.48 0.10 0.08 0.08 0.08 0.08
Walls 54.32 0.02 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.07
(façade & door) 16.00 0.08 0.05 0.04 0.03 0.02
Ceiling 35.00 To be determined

Step 3 Calculate the absorption area (m2) related to each surface in octave frequency bands.
(Absorption area = surface area x absorption coefficient)

Surface Absorption area (m2)
250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Floor 1.05 1.40 1.75 1.75 2.10
Doors (wooden) 0.65 0.52 0.52 0.52 0.52
Walls 1.09 1.63 2.17 2.72 3.80
Glazing (façade and door) 1.28 0.80 0.64 0.48 0.32

Step 4 Calculate the sum of the absorption areas (m2) obtained in Step 3
250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Total absorption area (m2) 4.07 4.35 5.08 5.47 6.74

Step 5 Calculate the total absorption area (AT) required for the entrance hall.
The volume is 112 m3 and therefore AT = 0.2 x 112.0 = 22.4 m2.

Appendix 7: Calculation of sound absorption required in corridors,
entrance halls and stairwells

Step 6 Calculate additional absorption area (m2) to be provided by the ceiling. If values are negative in any octave
band then there is sufficient absorption from the other surfaces to meet the requirement without any additional
absorption in this band.
(Additional absorption = AT –total absorption area (from Step 4))

250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Additional absorption area (m2) 18.33 18.05 17.32 16.93 15.66

Step 7 Calculate required absorption coefficient (α) to be provided by ceiling
(α = Additional absorption area / area of ceiling)

250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Required absorption coefficient 0.52 0.52 0.49 0.48 0.45

Step 8 Identify a ceiling product from manufacturers’ laboratory measurement data that provides absorption
coefficients that exceed the values calculated in Step 7.

Example calculation for a corridor (Method B)

Step 1 Calculate the surface area related to each absorptive material (ie for the floor, walls, doors and ceiling).

Surface Surface finish Area (m2)
Floor Parquet on concrete base 48.00
Glazing 27.00
Doors Timber 20.16
Wall (excluding door area and glazing) Painted concrete block 73.80
Ceiling To be determined 48.00

Step 2 Obtain values of absorption coefficients for the floor, walls, glazing and doors. (The values below are taken
from Table 7.1 of Approved Document E.)

Absorption coefficient (α) in octave frequency bands
Surface Area 250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Floor 48.00 0.03 0.04 0.05 0.05 0.06
Glazing 27.00 0.08 0.05 0.04 0.03 0.02
Doors 20.16 0.10 0.08 0.08 0.08 0.08
Wall (excluding door area
and glazing) 73.80 0.05 0.06 0.07 0.09 0.08
Ceiling 48.00 To be determined

Step 3 Calculate the absorption area (m2) related to each surface in octave bands.
(Absorption area = surface area x absorption coefficient)

Absorption area (m2)
250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Floor 1.44 1.92 2.40 2.40 2.88
Glazing 2.16 1.35 1.08 0.81 0.54
Doors 2.02 1.61 1.61 1.61 1.61
Wall (excluding door area
and glazing) 3.69 4.43 5.17 6.64 5.90

Appendix 7: Calculation of sound absorption required in corridors,
entrance halls and stairwells

Step 4 Calculate the sum of the absorption areas (m2) obtained in Step 3

250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Total absorption area (m2) 9.31 9.31 10.26 11.46 10.93

Step 5 Calculate the total absorption area (AT) required for the corridor.
The volume is 129.6 m3 and therefore AT = 0.25 x 129.6 = m2.

Step 6 Calculate additional absorption area (m2) to be provided by ceiling. If values are negative in any octave
band then there is sufficient absorption from the other surfaces to meet the requirement without any additional
absorption in this band.
(Additional absorption = AT – total absorption area (from Step 4))

250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Additional absorption area (m2) 23.09 23.09 22.14 20.94 21.47

Step 7 Calculate required absorption coefficient (α) to be provided by ceiling
(α = Additional absorption area / area of ceiling)
250 Hz 500 Hz 1000 Hz 2000 Hz 4000 Hz
Required absorption coefficient 0.48 0.48 0.46 0.44 0.45

Step 8 Identify a ceiling product from manufacturers’ laboratory measurement data that provides absorption
coefficients that exceed the values calculated in Step 7.

Appendix 8: Equipment specifications for
sound field systems in schools

Standard loudspeakers
A standard specification for loudspeakers is difficult, since there are circumstances
when specialised solutions are required. The specification provided below is a general
recommendation for typical loudspeakers used in a set of four to six in a classroom
within the normal range of sizes.

Specification Descriptor Standard Recommended value or range Comments
Characteristic sensitivity Lp >85 dB @ 1 W
RMS power >10 W continuous band limited pink noise
150 Hz to 8 kHz
Frequency response +/– 3 dB over range 150 Hz to 8 kHz
Coverage angle Min 90° H x 60° V Wall mounting type
Min 90° H x 90° V Ceiling mounting type
Loudspeaker type 2-way, Must be matched to
100 V preferred amplifier and system
suitably wired.
Enclosure Flame retarding for wall mounted
Fire rated back enclosure for all ceiling
loudspeakers that penetrate a fire rated
Acoustically rated back enclosure for all
ceiling loudspeakers that penetrate a
ceiling separating classroom floors.
Brackets Brackets for wall mounted enclosures
should provide lockable adjustment
vertically and horizontally. Fixing to wall
and loudspeaker to be a minimum of two
secure screws or bolts each.
Secondary safety bond to be provided
between loudspeaker and mounting surface.

Appendix 8: Equipment specifications for sound field systems in schools

NXT or other distributed mode loudspeakers
These loudspeakers use new and emerging technology. An ‘exciter’ causes a panel to vibrate and the panel emits
sound. The characteristics of the exciter, its location on the panel and the panel material are all important for
correct operation. Products include ceiling tiles, wall mounting posters, projection screens and whiteboards that
serve also as loudspeakers. There are advantages in the use of these loudspeaker types, as they provide a better
average sound coverage in a room and provide a better average speech intelligibility under some conditions. The
reason for this is not fully understood. Fewer NXT type loudspeakers are required, and it may be found that one
wall mounted whiteboard model will suffice for the smaller classroom.

Specification Descriptor Standard Recommended value or range Comments

Characteristic sensitivity Lp >85 dB @ 1 W

RMS power >10 W continuous band limited pink noise
150 Hz to 8 kHz

Frequency response +/– 3 dB over range 150 Hz to 8 kHz

Coverage angle Average 120° H x 120° V

Loudspeaker type 100 V preferred for ceiling type as Must be matched to
several will be connected in parallel. amplifier and system
suitably wired.

Enclosure Most require no enclosure, but usually
have to be spaced away from the wall
on a mounting frame. Units for classroom
use should be of Class 1 or better for
spread of flame. Where used in an
acoustically separating ceiling, provision
must be made to maintain the sound
insulation behind the loudspeakers.

Brackets Adjustment of aiming angle is not
necessary. Brackets must provide a
minimum of two fixing points.

Appendix 8: Equipment specifications for sound field systems in schools

Mixer Amplifier

Specification Descriptor Standard Recommended value Comments
Symbol or range

Inputs 1 mic/line Mic (-50 dBu sensitivity) • 1 mono, compatible with teacher
line (-10 dBu sensitivity) radio microphone receiver
switchable • 1 stereo (mixed to mono),
to enable music playback,
connection to computer
1 stereo line Stereo phono or 3.5 mm audio output. Alternatively built-in
jack (-10 dBu sensitivity) cassette player
• Prefer minimum of 1 additional
mono input to enable second
1 mic/line Min/line switchable as microphone for class discussion
above use when child using personal
FM system is present.

Equivalent input noise Mic input <-110 dB

Frequency response +/– 3 dB over range Mic or line input
80 Hz to 15 kHz

Outputs 1 line level -10 dBu, unbalanced, For connection of personal FM
phono or mini-jack or induction loop amplifier.
continuous band limited Can be formed by resistively
pink noise 150 Hz to 8 kHz attenuating the speaker output.

1 speaker 100 V, 40 W For connection of 100 V type
continuous band limited loudspeakers. Amplifiers are available
pink noise 150 Hz to 8 kHz with both low impedance and 100 V
outputs. Usually only one should be
used at a time. Amplifier MUST match
with type of loudspeaker used.

Dynamic range >75 dBA from Allows for usable listening range and
amplifier noise floor to scope for adjustment of controls.
clipping point

Distortion THD+N < 2% from 150 Hz to 8 kHz

Equalisers Bass min +/– 6 dB variation Minimum 2 band equaliser operating
@ approx 100 Hz on the mixed output signal.
Treble min +/– 6 dB variation Preferred minimum 2 band equaliser
@ approx 10 kHz operating on each input.

Hum and noise >85 dB below Under normal range of control
maximum output level settings.

Appendix 8: Equipment specifications for sound field systems in schools

Radio Microphone System
A diversity receiver is preferred. See sidebar for further details.

Specification Descriptor Standard Recommended value or range Comments

System main parameters Wideband FM Radio Microphone These channels are provided
System operating in the VHF high for service to the hearing
band channels allocated for use in impaired without requirement
personal FM systems. for a licence.
Must conform to IR 2030, published
by the Radiocommunications Agency
under the category Short Range
Devices. See for
latest standards.
If necessary to accommodate a large These channels require a
number of channels within a single licence, with an associated
school or site, licensed radio annual fee.
microphone units operating in the
UHF band can be used.

Channel selection It is preferred that the system has This enables a spare unit to
a user programmable support all units within a
channel selection. school or group of schools.
Also enables channels to be
easily changed in the event of
interference or the desire to
tune the system to match a
compatible personal FM receiver
brought in by a student.

Microphone input Compatible with plug-in dynamic and
electret microphones. Robust
connector with locking mechanism
and high quality cable retention is
required. A permanently wired
microphone is not acceptable.

Transmitter antenna Can be used with a 1/4 wave cable
connection antenna. Robust connector with locking
mechanism and high quality cable
retention is required. A permanently
wired antenna is not acceptable.

Transmitter controls Volume Transmitter should be provided with a Some cheaper transmitters
and indicators or gain means to adjust the level of the signal. provide no gain adjustment.
This should be recessed or This limits use with other
screwdriver controlled to minimise the microphones and some users.
risk of accidental adjustment. This actually controls the
modulation of the radio section
of the transmitter.
On/Off A switch should be provided to enable An on/off switch should not
Switch the transmitter to be switched off be used unless the receiver is
to preserve battery life. This should also turned off.
be recessed to prevent If the TX is off, the receiver
accidental operation. may pickup an alternative
source on the same channel.

Appendix 8: Equipment specifications for sound field systems in schools

Mute A switch should be provided to This allows the audio to
switch enable the audio signal output be turned off to allow
from the transmitter to be muted private conversation, etc.
without turning off the transmitter.
Battery A means of indicating the battery An alternative means of
switch transmitter to be switched off to testing batteries can be
preserve battery life. This should be provided instead.
recessed to prevent accidental
Transmitter It is preferred that there is a means Transmitter level is actually
level of checking the operating level of easy to measure at either end.
indicator the transmitter, either on the
transmitter unit, or on the receiver.
Channel Channel selection should be
selector available by means of an easy to
understand control that is protected
against accidental operation.

Receiver antenna Diversity receiver with dual antennas. Diversity provides
Built-in or detachable telescopic protection against signal
or helical antennas. loss due to reflections in the
room. Reduces signal

Receiver controls Volume An output volume control aids in Alternatively, given
and indicators Control setting up a system. compatibility with the
amplifier, the gain may be
adjusted there instead.
On/Off A front panel operable on/off switch
switch is required.

System frequency 100 Hz to 10 Hz ± 1 dB Performance of whole
response transmitter to receiver system
without microphone connected.

Dynamic range ≥ 85 dB This sets the maximum signal
to noise ratio available from
the equipment. It is the
performance of the whole
transmitter to receiver system
without the microphone

Distortion THD+N < 0.5% from 150 Hz to 8 kHz at any
signal level

Transmitter battery Life ≥ 6 hours from a rechargeable nicad Battery life should be
battery under continuous measured under real operating
transmission conditions conditions. Many published
figures are not trustworthy as
Battery compartment should be they are actually for a standby
robust, enabling battery to slide in. condition.
A loose, plug-on battery
connection is not acceptable.

Appendix 8: Equipment specifications for sound field systems in schools

Headworn Microphone

Specification Descriptor Standard Recommended value or range Comments

Microphone type Omni-directional headworn
microphone. Robust cable and
connector with locking mechanism
and good cable retention. Condenser
microphone types must be compatible
with radio microphone transmitter
powering system or contain easily
changed battery with long service life.

Frequency response 100 Hz to 12 kHz ± 3 dB when used Microphone response is
in recommended operating position partly dependent upon
surrounding surfaces.
Microphone response should
be considered when used as
intended, not in an anechoic

Sensitivity Microphone sensitivity should match
the gain range of the transmitter
enabling full transmitter modulation
to be achieved when worn as
recommended and used with a
raised voice level.

Dynamic range > 65 dBA

Sensitivity > -46 dBV re 1 V/Pa
Suitable for use in close proximity
to the mouth

Appendix 9: Noise at Work Regulations relating to teachers

There is growing concern about the employees (together with manufacturers
possibility of long-term hearing damage of equipment).
to those teachers who generally work in Action levels are defined in terms of
the noisier school environments, for daily personal noise exposure LEP,d which
example PE teachers, CDT teachers and takes account of both level and exposure
music teachers. The Health and Safety time. LEP,d is similar to LAeq,T (see
Executive has recently carried out a study Appendix 1) but is always normalised to
of noise exposure among these teachers an exposure time of 8 hours. For
due to their potential for exposure to example, a person exposed to a
high noise levels. It is known that continuous noise level of 85 dB(A) for
orchestral musicians are at risk of noise 8 hours per day experiences a daily
induced hearing damage[1,2] and personal noise exposure of 85 dB(A)
therefore peripatetic music teachers may LEP,d. For each halving of the daily
experience additional risk. It is necessary exposure time, the LEP,d reduces by
under the Noise at Work Regulations[3] 3 dB(A), so that a daily exposure of 4
to ensure that teachers of ‘noisy’ subjects hours to a noise level of 85 dB(A) is
are not exposed to levels of noise likely to equivalent to 82 dB(A) LEP,d , and a daily
cause, or increase, risk of hearing exposure of 2 hours to a noise level of
damage. The noise levels to which 85 dB(A) is equivalent to 79 dB(A)
teachers are exposed can be reduced to LEP,d. Similarly, a doubling of exposure
some extent by good acoustic design of time increases LEP,d by 3 dB(A).
schools, for example by ensuring that the
reverberation time is short so as not to Current Regulations
increase the noise level in a room. The Regulations apply to employers,
However, there will inevitably be some employees and self-employed people (who
occasions when the noise associated with have the duties of both employers and
a particular teaching activity approaches, employees). Peripatetic music teachers,
or is above, the levels known to pose a for example, may fall into this last category.
risk to hearing. Whatever the level of noise, employers
The risk of noise induced hearing have a duty under the Regulations to
damage is a function of both noise level reduce the noise level to the lowest level
and the duration of exposure to the noise. reasonably practicable.
The noise levels to which employees may The first action level is 85 dB(A) LEP,d.
be exposed, and the wearing of hearing If any employee is likely to be exposed to
protection, are currently subject to the this level or above, employers’ duties
Noise at Work Regulations 1989[3]. under the Regulations include the
However, in February 2003 the European following :
Union published a new directive, the • to ensure that a competent person
Physical Agents (Noise) Directive[4], makes a noise assessment which is
relating to noise at work which will result adequate to identify which employees are
in the UK legislation being changed in exposed to this level or above
2006. • to inform employees of the risks of
The main points of the current noise and ways in which the risk may be
regulations, the European Directive and reduced
the likely changes to UK legislation in • to provide, and maintain, hearing
2006 are summarised below. protection for those who request it.

Employees also have a duty at this
Action levels
action level to maintain any equipment
The current regulations are expressed in
that is provided by the employer to
terms of action levels, that is levels of
reduce the risk of hearing damage, and to
noise exposure at which certain actions
report any defects in the equipment.
are required by employers and/or

Appendix 9: Noise at Work Regulations relating to teachers

The second action level is 90 dB(A) apply, and 140 Pa at which the duties at
LEP,d. If any employee is likely to be 85 dB(A) LEP,d are required. 200 Pa
exposed to this level or above, employers’ remains as an overall peak exposure limit.
additional duties under the Regulations Another feature of the new directive
include the following : which may be relevant to teachers is that
• to reduce noise exposure of employees it will be possible to assess noise exposure
through noise control measures other on a weekly, rather than a daily basis, if
than hearing protection exposure varies significantly from day to
• to mark hearing protection zones where day.
noise reaches the second action level with
recognised signs Further information
• to provide hearing protection to all The above summary of some aspects of
employees and to ensure that it is worn. the Noise at Work Regulations is included
for information, but does not purport to
At this action level employees must
be a complete statement of the
again maintain any equipment provided,
Regulations. Employers and employees
and must also wear the hearing protection
who believe that they may have duties
under the Regulations should obtain a
The regulations also specify a peak
copy of the Regulations and should be
action level of 200 Pascals (equivalent to
familiar with the requirements. For a full
an unweighted sound level of 140 dB).
version of the regulations see the HMSO
This represents an instantaneous sound
web site[5]. For information on the
level, caused for example by a loud bang.
effects of noise, the current regulations,
Where this level is exceeded, employers
the new Directive and its implications for
and employees have the same duties as at
the UK see the Health and Safety
the second action level. Exposure to the
Executive website[6]. The text of the
peak action level is normally linked with
Directive may be found on the website of
the use of cartridge operated tools, guns
the Official Journal of the Euopean
or similar loud explosive noises, but can
Union[4]. For a discussion of the
occur during the loud playing of a
implications for music teachers see
musical instrument[1].

Changes to the Regulations
New legislation will come into force in
February 2006 to comply with the
Physical Agents (Noise) Directive. For
musicians, who may include music
teachers, the new legislation will not be
[1] R Canham and B Shield. Noise surveys of
enforced until 2008.
orchestral musicians at the Barbican concert
The main changes to the legislation are
hall. Proc. Institute of Acoustics 21(6),
that, in effect, the action levels will be
217-225, 1999.
lowered by 5 dB(A). In general, the
[2] A Wright Reid. A sound ear. Association of
actions currently required at 85 and
British Orchestras 2001.
90 dB(A) LEP,d will be mandatory at
[3] Noise at Work Regulations 1989.
80 and 85 dB(A) LEP,d respectively. In
[4] Directive 2003/10/EC of the European
addition an overall personal exposure level
Parliament and of the Council of 6 February on
of 87 dB(A) LEP,d is to be introduced;
the minimum health and safety requirements
this is the limit of exposure at the ear
regarding the exposure of workers to the risks
which means that the level at the ear
arising from physical agents (noise). Official
(with or without hearing protection)
Journal of the European Union L042,
must never exceed 87 dB(A) LEP,d.
15 February 2003, 38-44.
Two peak exposure limit values are
included in the directive: 112 Pa at which
the duties required at 80 dB(A) LEP,d

Appendix 10: Example submission to Building Control Body

All submissions to the Building Control Example submission This example submission
Body (BCB) should clearly identify the The following items are provided in focuses on only a few of
the rooms, although the
relevant performance standards from support of the submission to the Building same level of detail would
Section 1, how they will be met, and the Control Body to demonstrate compliance be required for all relevant
performance that the design is expected with the acoustic requirements of Part E rooms in the school.
to achieve. Calculations, test reports etc of the Building Regulations.
should preferably be included in The ground floor plan of the rooms
appendices to the submission, rather than and the acoustic performance standards
in the main body of the submission. The are shown in Figure A10.1. On the first
extent of acoustic information required to floor there are classrooms above the
satisfy the BCB may vary between