Imagine trying to learn integral calculus with the drumming of a mechanical room next to you. Or trying to memorize Shakespeare lines or capials in the Far East capitals the band plays a marching tune above. This is a situation that many students in our nation’s schools encounter every day.
Designing and building schools for the proper acoustics is a challenging task, but one that is critical to allow the students to focus on curriculum rather than be distracted by poor reverberation or cross-talk from neighboring classrooms and areas.
Unfortunately, there is very little regulation in this arena, leading designers and builders to wonder where to turn when questions arise. Luckily, with careful research and review, there are a few leading sources to determine best practices and guidelines, and they’re available to the public.
One of these is ANSI S12 American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools, Part 1: Permanent Schools. This standard provides numerous guidelines for designers, especially STC’s and IIC’s for how much sound walls should block between various room adjacencies. For instance, well classroom to classroom partitions need only to block 45 dBs, classroom to hallways require 50 and above and classroom to mechanical room require STC’s 65 and higher.
Furthermore, this ANSI standard provides reverberation criteria in both classrooms and auditorium or assembly settings. By providing an allowable reverberation range, often 0.4 – 0.6 seconds, the standard addresses the difficulties students face when trying to focus with poor room acoustics. Best of all, the standard is free and available for public download. Please find it here.
DoDEA Department of Defense Education Activity, similar to the ANSI standard but less specific, the DoDEA standard provides similar target ratings for walls and floors. It is a good reference for military and large government education facilities.
Once these target STC’s are determined by the designer the next step will be to decide exactly how to hit each rating. This is often best done with the help of a consultant or acoustical expert – and many suppliers (including Commercial Acoustics) offers design-assist support free of charge.
By referring to these public resources designers may benefit from past lessons learned and best practices encountered by those most experienced in the issues when acoustics fall short in our schools.