At long last, an updated version of Building Bulletin 93, Acoustic Design of Schools, has been published by the Department for Education. Based heavily on the Priority Schools Building Project acoustic standards and guided by the Association of Noise Consultants working party, of which our Director was a member, this document supersedes both the PSBP standard and the previous version of BB93.
BB93:2014 addresses many of the criticisms put forward by acoustic consultants regarding the original version since its release in 2004. In particular, the new standard includes:
Clarity on where the standard applies
Separate guidance for new build and refurbishment/conversion
Clarity on minimum acceptable alternative performance standards
Clear guidance on rain noise
Full consideration of the needs of children with special hearing or communication needs
A requirement for acoustic commissioning testing
The revised standard means that the acoustic design of schools will be consistent between consultants and will be more appropriate to support the needs of pupils. Contractors will be forced to include some items which in the past it was possible to justify the exclusion of, so build costs might be expected to rise slightly, but not significantly. Most importantly, more pupils, and in particular those with special needs, will get the acoustic conditions they need in order to learn.
As consultants, we’re delighted – it doesn’t improve our fees, but it allows us to ensure that we can defend good acoustic design against value engineering exercises, and deliver the acoustic standards we know are needed.
Good school acoustic design can not only decrease both speaker and listener fatigue, it also provides a happier, more comfortable environment with fewer distractions, enabling both teachers and pupils to work effectively. For example, research shows that noise levels within classrooms can be correlated to pupil performance, with excessive noise having a detrimental effect on test scores (noise affects the processing of verbal and non-verbal tasks, particularly with regard to reading). Research has also shown that good acoustic conditions improves pupil behaviour – and this isn’t the only benefit to teachers, who are less likely to suffer from voice strain when acoustic conditions are correct.
A few extra pounds spent on good acoustics could save who knows how much in the future? A child who can hear the teacher well is more likely to be engaged and get better results. They go on to get job, support themselves, and contribute to the economy. A child who can’t hear the teacher, becomes disengaged and fails their exams is more likely to be a net cost to the economy. We know which we think is a better outcome for everyone – not least the children.
So we’re delighted at the update to BB93, and already putting it into practice on our current school projects – a new build Free School in Birmingham, and a refurbished primary in the North East.
Want to know how we can help your school become more effective? Contact us!