Sound Education: Acoustic Standards in Educational Facilities

The Importance of Acoustics
Few spaces demonstrate the importance of acoustics better than an educational facility. Such an environment must facilitate a wide variety of activities, the most crucial of which is learning. Unfortunately, the acoustics in many educational facilities are less than acceptable. In some cases, the acoustic conditions detract from the educational experience and hinder the learning process.

A New Standard
Recognizing the trend of sub-par acoustics, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recently introduced a standard for the acoustical design of schools, S12.60-2002, "Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools."

The new standard is in effect and includes several requirements focusing on noise isolation in educational facilities. The standard is broken down into sections outlining guidelines for background noise levels, Reverberation Time, Sound Transmission Class, and Impact Isolation Class. The standard is followed by annexes that give more information on how to achieve the specified standards.

Why Bother?
Many recent studies demonstrate that acoustics is a significant inhibitor to productivity and that the presence of noise is directly related to lower test scores. With the approval of this new standard, designers gain an increased awareness of the importance of acoustics in educational facilities and are given specific guidelines to help ensure the success of the facility. It is the responsibility of the design professional to take acoustic factors into consideration in order to ensure this success.

Responsible Design
Knowledge of acoustic principles and mathematical calculations are necessary in order to confirm compliance with this standard. Although an architect or designer is expected to understand the importance of acoustics, they are not expected to be an acoustical expert. Part of the designer's responsibility may include seeking the advice of a competent acoustical consultant in the early stages of design. Acoustical consultants can verify whether or not a proposed design will comply with this standard and make further recommendations on how to comply.

Given the demand for healthy, functional spaces, acoustics must be considered in design. Design professionals are challenged to broaden their scope of responsibility and meet the requirements set forth in ANSI S12.60-2002 when planning an educational facility.

Click here for a summary of the requirements set forth in the new standard. We have included additional information in italics following each section's summary.

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