School Acoustics

It is generally accepted that noise has a detrimental effect upon the learning and the attainment of primary school children. Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) was originally published in 2004 to provide a design guide for acoustics in new school buildings. The revised document was published in February 2015. BB93 provides performance standards, acoustic criteria, acoustic principles and good design practice.

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BB93 states, ‘The overall objective of the performance standards is to ensure that the design and construction of school buildings provide acoustic conditions that enable effective teaching and learning.

The acoustic criteria set out in BB93 relates to noise intrusion from external sources, sound insulation requirements between rooms, and control of reverberation times within rooms. Guidance is also provided on additional requirements for pupils with hearing requirements

The updated guidance reflects the changes in BB93 requirements between the 2003 and 2015 editions. A summary of the key changes is given below:

  • Suitable natural ventilation strategies are given in BB93 for compliance with the internal noise limits
  • Equipment noise within teaching and learning spaces has to be controlled
  • Updated guidance on how to comply with BB93 sound insulation criteria. This includes examples of construction details, new guidance on curtain walling and clarification of requirements between circulation areas, classrooms and non-teaching rooms
  • Significantly more guidance on the design and limitations of open plan teaching spaces, including updated guidance on speech intelligibility assessment for open plan space
  • New performance standards outlined for refurbished buildings including detailed guidance on how to achieve the standards
  • New noise limits for external school activities
  • New calculation methodology for complying with BB93 in relation to reverberation control in sports halls, swimming pools, gymnasia, dance studios and other normally unfurnished activity spaces
  • New method for assessing the sound insulation performance of window actuators
  • New guidance for the design of music rooms as per the changes in BB93
  • Updated rain noise criteria and calculation methodology

AF Acoustics can undertake a BB93 assessment which will include undertaking a noise survey to ascertain current noise levels on site. Internal noise level design criteria will then be agreed and specified for all areas within the school. Based upon the noise survey data and the agreed internal noise criteria, detailed sound reduction performance specifications can be produced for each of the external building fabric elements. AF Acoustics will specify all internal walls and floors between the rooms within the school. Reverberation times will be set for each of the rooms within the school, and recommendations will be given on the amount of absorptive material required in each room. Near completion of the project we can undertake commissioning testing, including sound insulation tests, reverberation time measurements and indoor ambient noise levels.

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