The 2002 International Congress and Exposition on Noise Control Engineering Dearborn, MI, USA.

August 19-21, 2002

Classrooms acoustics in Belgian schools: experiences, analysis, design
G. Vermeir and L. De Geetere Laboratory of Acoustics Laboratory of Building Physics Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium Celestijnenlaan, 200D, B 3001 LEUVEN BELGIUM

In the context of the I.INCE Technical Initiative on Noise and Reverberation Control for schoolrooms, a state-of-the-art evaluation study is realized in the context of the Belgian situation. First an overview is given of the existing acoustical requirements and some description is given of the type of classrooms. In approximately 50 classrooms (nursery, primary and secondary) a detailed room acoustical analysis has been carried out. This included careful registration of the situation (dimensions, finishing, photographs) and registration of the impulse responses. These enabled to obtain the reverberation time as function of frequency as well as the typical quantities related to speech intelligibility. The results of this objective analysis are analyzed in view of specific requirements for the unoccupied rooms.

1. Introduction
At first, we limit ourselves to rooms for education in smaller groups, larger auditoria are not the subject of the presentation. The acoustics of these classrooms relates to the quality of the listening conditions in spaces for education. Bad listening conditions can be due to the room acoustics but also to noise intrusion from outside, to noisy installations or to acoustic disturbances coming from other classrooms. But in this text we mainly focus on internal room acoustical conditions. This text presents a quality survey on the room acoustical conditions of classrooms in Belgium.

2. Requirements
As a preparation to this study work we collected the requirements and guidelines existing in the Belgian context [1-4].

fast) of . Table 1 Requirements on sound insulation School buildings Rooms for reading and studying Classrooms Higher Education Common Rooms with noisy activities (gymnastic rooms. When two numbers are given.2 Criteria for maximum allowable background noise The NBN S01-401(1987) Belgian Standard considers the following categories of outdoor noise: 1 equivalent outdoor sound level LAeq ≤55 dB(A) 2 55 dB(A)<LAeq ≤65 dB(A) 3 65 dB(A)<LAeq ≤75 dB(A) 4 LAeq > 75 dB(A) The interior equivalent A weighted noise level due to sources outside the rooms have to be reduced to the values as given in the following table. the first means the minimum for a situation of so-called ‘comfort’. The numbers in the table are a provisional translation of the older existing standard in the new quantities as formulated in NBN EN ISO 717-1 (1999).w or R’w+Ctr (R’A). working rooms) 52-47 52-47 32-27 38-32 38 44-39 59-54 59-54 52-47 52-47 39-44 52-47 27-22 32-27 38-32 35-30 59-54 59-54 39-44 39-44 52-47 22 27-22 32-27 35-30 59-54 59-54 35-30 59-54 39-44 32-27 38-32 38 39-44 59-54 52-47 Music rooms Walls Outer walls To adjacent buildings To staircases or elevators Outdoor equivalent sound level from 55 to 65 dB(A) More than 65 and less than 75 dB(A) 75 dB(A) and more To corridors To rooms for music To rooms with noisy activities To classrooms (normal) To classrooms (higher education) Rooms for reading and studying Interior walls 2.1 Requirements for air-borne sound insulation in school buildings The Belgian standard concerning sound insulation in buildings is in a process of revision.2. the second means the minimum requirement. The numbers relate to the in situ sound insulation measurement quantities DnT. The exceeding (measurement A.

meeting rooms.1).. meeting rooms.5 m axim um for classroom s.5 requirem ents for state school buildings (Belgium ..2). m eeting room s. lower than the corresponding value of line C on graph below. ) should have sound absorbing ceiling finishing • sports rooms. .. cafetaria…) should have a reverberation time between the corresponding values on lines A and B on the graph below..3 Technical requirements on official school buildings (Type Bestek 110. The control of reverberation is specified as follows: • spaces for circulation (corridors. Table 2 Requirements on background noise School buildings Lecture and study rooms Music rooms. 1. The requirements on the background levels are those of NBN S01-401(1987) (paragraph 2. swimming pools should have a reverberation time.5 0.0 10 100 3 1000 volume of the space [m ] Figure 1 : Requirements for maximum allowable reverberation time in the rooms of official Belgian school buildings. libraries Rooms for gymnastics and sports Laboratories 1 30 30 35 55 Categories outside noise 2 3 Max allowable LAeq (dB(A)) 35 30 40 55 40 35 45 60 4 45 40 50 60 2. entrance rooms..0 C A reverberation time [s] rooms and halls for sport and swim ming 1. Typebestek 110. 1979) The requirements on sound insulation are the ‘comfort’ values in NBN S01 400 (1977) (paragraph 2. staircases.the equivalent sound level due to a short time operation of sources outside the room (less than 10% of the time) should be reduced to 6 dB(A) but maximum values lower than 33 dB(A) are always accepted. • other rooms (classrooms. 1979) 2. 0.0 B m inim um for classroom s... 2.

05 m (nursery) and 1. In order to keep the measuring system easy transportable a monitor loudspeaker (Fostex 6301B) and a battery powered omnidirectional microphone (B&K Type 4130) as source and receiver. In total 50 classrooms were visited and detailed recordings where made. In most cases 4 positions were chosen for the receiving microphone. non-parallel walls and creative structural solutions appear. After 1975 the classrooms have even more relation to the corridors and uncovered brickwork and ceiling concrete appear. Before 1975 the ideas of flexibility are introduced. The measuring technique reduces effect of background noise and allows to obtain good results starting from the 250 Hz octave band.3 m for 30 pupils.3.2 m (other). 9-15] 5. average height of the rooms. MLS-sequences were generated as well as recorded by a battery operated portable PC. surface of boundaries. It gives the range of the geometrical characteristics: volume. Possible effects of background noises will not be included in the results for STI. The measured reverberation times are given as T500 (obtained on a 20 dB interval. Before 1940 guidelines had the shoebox form with typical dimensions like 8x6. The classrooms are separated from the corridors by ‘cupboard-walls’ with glazed upper parts. Inclined ceilings. the step is removed. 5-8] 4.7 m. over different types of classrooms and over the different levels and methods of education. The post-processing of the impulse-response results is done in conformity with ISO 3382 and IEC 60268-16. ceiling with plaster on laths. The advice is given for a RT of 0.0 software. directed to the pupils in front of the blackboard at a height of 1. for the 500 Hz octave band) and T1000 (equivalent for the 1000 Hz octave band). The acoustical measurements are based upon recordings of the impulse responses. One can conclude that the results of this work are very representative for the actual acoustical conditions in Belgian classrooms. [ref. but typical classrooms have dimensions 9x6x3. The source is positioned on a logical location for the teacher. in many cases a wood covering in the lowest 80 cm of the walls. respectively for obtaining the reverberation time (RT) and the speech transmission index (STI). They were distributed over the classroom surface and at heights of respectively 1. The locations were selected all over the different periods of construction. in some cases a lowered ceiling with sound absorbing inlay tiles is used for absorption. floor surface. Measurements In all visited classrooms a careful recording was made of all relevant data as: dimensions and type of finishings.8 to 1 s. Absorbing plaster renderings are considered as most practical solution. There was a step for the teacher.25x4m (lxbxh) for 30 to 50 pupils. . The measurements were carried out in the unoccupied state with two operators present. Typology of the classrooms The school buildings can be classified in time categories. The average of both values is what is called the nominal value of RT. Speech intelligibility and background noise are considered. [ref. These rooms had/have hard floor tiles or parquet (in the town schools). The signal processing is performed using the DIRAC 2. Overview of global measuring results The following table shows an overview of the basic characteristics of the data obtained from the in-situ analysis.

A large spread has been observed of course due to the variations in geometry and finishings.5 0.84 and a minimum value of 0.35 Tnom [s] 0. minimal and average value as measured.32 1.35 1.5 1. 2.82 0.82 0. The global relation is clear and no surprising deviations were found even if we verified the individual measuring results.86 0.5 2.36 A global overview of the RT results over the frequency range is given in figure 2. Increasing reverberation time generally mean that lower STI-values have to be expected.70 4.0 reverberation time [s] max min average 1. Total boundary surface (m²) 103 337 210 45 Volume (m³) min value max value Average value Stdv 69 334 188 57 Floor surface (m²) 21 103 53 14 Equivalent height (m) 2.Table 3 Global characteristics of the set of classrooms. The average values of STI over the respective receiver positions.37 T1000 [s] 0.68.33 1. Analysis The data allow verifying the global relation between reverberation time and speech intelligibility.70 0. indicating maximal.52 with an average value of 0. There is a global tendency to rather frequency independent values. 6. Due to limited size and due to the effects of diffusion by the furnishing no destructive effects like flutter-echoes were registered.84 0. varies between a maximum value of 0. . This means that for the conditions of this analysis the results for STI are strongly related to the RT.80 3.58 0.58 T500 [s] 0. The measurement results are presented in two categories: one for classrooms with explicit measures intended for the control of room acoustics and the other when this was not the case.0 0.58 0.0 250 500 1000 octave band [Hz ] 2000 4000 Figure 2 Range and average value of the measured RT.

8 treated classrooms untreated classrooms nominal RT [s] Figure 3 Relation between nominal RT and STI-values for all classrooms.0 all measurements RT nominal fitted nominal RT unoccupied [s] Figure 4 Simulated effect of the presence of 25 students on RT.3 0.9 0.1.6 1.2 1.2 0.81 m2 at 1000 Hz as indicated in [16] (figure 4).7 m2 at 500 Hz and 0.6 nom RT occupied [s] 1.8 0.6 1.4 1.6 0.8 1.0 1.4 0.0 0. 2.7 0. In order to simulate this effect we introduced the estimated additional absorption for 25 students. .4 0.8 2.4 1.2 0.2 0. We used values of 0.8 0.0 1.2 1.8 1.4 0.6 STI 0. However the presence of the students will increase the absorption.4 1.0 0. The extrapolation of the measured STI-values to the expected STI-values with occupation is based on the relation between RT and STI as found for an exponential decay of the sound energy [9].0 0.0 0.8 1. The result is given in figure 5.6 0.2 1.5 0.0 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.0 1.6 0.

4 STI occu pied [s] 0.0 treated classrooms untreated classrooms 0.e.9 s in order to obtain good speech intelligibility conditions in the occupied classrooms.6 0.6 0.8 0.9 s as nominal RT. It is also clearly illustrated that the real conditions are far from the optimum values mentioned by some authors (0. teachers)… . Conclusions The results of a representative sample of the classrooms in Belgium show an average nominal RT of 0. Lower values of the RT could be favorable and the optimal values depend on the combination with possible effect of background noise. The graph learns that this condition asks for an unoccupied (rounded) 0.8 0. pupils.9 esti mated STI occupied 1.5 0. But of course we should be careful not to give too detailed interpretations to the results: 5 % of the classrooms come very close ! [ref.1.4 s and lower) [17. However in none of the cases the RT was lower than 0. Nearly all treated rooms (black points) fulfill this conditions with two exceptions where the ceiling is treated with a not very effective acoustic plaster (circled two black box data points).3 s (5 classrooms out of the 50 exceeded this limit i. 10% of the cases).5 0. Relating the expected STI for occupied conditions to the measured RT (unoccupied) delivers a useful graph (figure 6).7 0 .9 0.5 0.9 1.6 0.0 0.3 0.4 0. None of the rooms fully obtained the STI-occupied of 0.7 0.6 0.7 0. Figure 6 Relation between STI(occupied) and simulated STI with nominal occupation by 25 the measured RT (unoccupied).4 treated classrooms untreated classrooms linear fit 0.9 1 2 measured STI unoccupied n omin al RT uno ccupied [s] Figure 5 Measured STI (unoccupied) vs.84 s.2 0.5 s as suggested in the case of hearing impaired or mentally challenged students [20] relates to a STI value in occupied situation (without noise) of approximately 0.18] ! But however complaints were only sporadically registered from the side of the responsible (direction.3 limit for RT.33 s ! A RT value of 0.4 0 .8 0. However.5 0.7.0 0. this guideline is much too tolerant. This limit was exceeded for 20 of the tested rooms (40%).85 which could be seen as related to a 0. This average fulfills the Belgian guideline of 1. It is shown that the guideline should rather be 0.7 0.8 0. We can put forward that a condition for good to excellent speech intelligibility asks for a STI-value of 0. 16-20] 7.8 (only 20% of the tested classrooms fulfill this condition).

Acoustics – Measurement of the reverberation time of room with reference to other acoustical parameters. accepted for publication in Noise Control Engineering. 6. Technical Committee on Architectural Acoustics. International Standard IEC 60268-16. 15. Bestuur der Gebouwen. 13. Michel Vallet. 16. Narjoux Felix.1980. 4. Some European Standards on Noise in Educational Buildings. L. NBN S 01-401. 2001. Verpoest Luc. Coffen Bob (ed. Nijs. Van Bogaert A. 1997. Bistafa Sylvio R.A resource for creating learning environments with desirable listening conditions. Microphone Power Supply Type 2810. 17.M. 2. Houtgast T. Microphone Preamplifier Type 2642. 2001. Acoustical Engineering. 67. Architectural guidelines to improve the acoustical quality in rooms for mentally challenged people. International Standard ISO 3382. Steeneken. H. Predicting speech intelligibility in rooms from the modulation transfer function. 1999. van Berlo. A physical method for measuring speech-transmission quality. Classroom acoustics . JASA.0 – User manual. JASA. 2000. Steeneken. Paris. Bruël & Kjaer.. Logica en Actie in de Scholenbouw. 3. Ministerie van openbare werken. 8. 1977.J.G. Bradley John S. General acoustics. Akoestiek. http://www. Experimental investigation of the acoustical characteristics of university classrooms. Twee eeuwen scholenbouw. Les Ecoles Publiques en Belgique et en Hollande. Acustica. 931-939. 318-326. JASA. M. JASA. Effect of noise and occupancy on optimal reverberation times for speech intelligibility in classrooms. Proc. ASA. Houtgast T. 10. 2. 9. 1878. 46..Acknowledgements The authors express their gratitude to Debby Wuyts and Jan van den Bergh. I. 13p. They organized and executed the measuring campaign as part of their thesis work to obtain the masters degree in architectural engineering. Product data: ½” Condenser Microphone Cartridge Type 4130.M. . H. 14. consulted on 12/3/02).. 1998. Reverberation time and maximum background-noise level for classrooms from a comparative study of speech intelligibility 11. 5. 861-875. Kriteria van de akoestische isolatie. Hodgson Murray.. (consulted on 1/02/2002).. 2002 19.1980. 18. (criteria for acoustical insulation).. 20. Nosal 2. Sound system equipment – Part 16: Objective rating of speech intelligibility by speech transmission index. geldend als vaste bijlage bij de bijzondere bestekken betreffende offerteaanvragen voor geïndustrialiseerde gebouwen” (administrative and technical regulations). 7. 107. References 1. DIRAC 2. 1810-1819.fostex. 13 p. 106. D. Hodgson Murray. 1972. Grenswaarden voor de geluidniveaus om het gebrek aan komfort in gebouwen te vermijden (criteria for background levels). 12.htm (pictures and information on ‘Freinet education’ in Dutch.).70-72.htm. van der Voorden. TYPE-BESTEK 110 van 1979. 2000. NBN S 01-400.. 4. http://www.. 325-328.NOISE 2002.

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