NCEF Resource List: Classroom Acoustics
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Information on acoustical standards, studies, and methods of calculating acoustical quality in classrooms and other school spaces, compiled by the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

References to Books and Other Media

Assessment of Acoustic Quality in Classrooms Based on Measurements, Perception and Noise Control Adobe PDF
Paulo Henrique Trombetta Zannin, Daniele Petri Zanardo Zwirtes and Carolina Reich Marcon Passero
(Chapter 10 in Noise Control, Reduction and Cancellation Solutions in Engineering, Mar 2012)
This chapter presents an analysis of the acoustic quality of real classrooms based on in situ measurements and computer simulations of acoustic parameters such as Reverberation Time, Speech Transmission Index, Sound Insulation of Façades, and External and Internal Sound Pressure Levels. This chapter also discusses an assessment of the perception of teachers and students about the acoustic quality of the school environment. Lastly, computer simulations were performed in order to identify, from the standpoint of noise control, what actions would be required to improve the acoustic quality of the evaluated classrooms. p202-232

Critical Review: Do Personal FM Systems Improve Speech Perception Ability for Aided and/or Unaided Pediatric Listeners with Minimal to Mild, and/or Unilateral Hearing Loss? Adobe PDF
De Souza, Lindsay
(University of Western Ontario: School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, 2012)
This critical review examines whether FM devices improve speech perception abilities in unaided and/or aided pediatric listeners with minimal to mild and/or unilateral hearing loss in a classroom environment. Study designs included: single subject with alternating treatments studies and a single group repeated measures design. Overall, the evidence provided by the existing literature suggests that the use of FM devices in a classroom by unaided and/or aided pediatric listeners with minimal to mild and/or unilateral hearing loss does appear to improve speech perception abilities. However, further research is necessary to confirm this trend. [Author's abstract] 5p

The Impact of Sound Field Systems on Learning and Attention in Elementary School Classrooms Adobe PDF
Dockrell, Julie E. and Shield, Bridget
(Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, United Kingdom, 2012)
An evaluation of the installation and use of sound field systems (SFS) was carried out to investigate their impact on teaching and learning in elementary school classrooms. The evaluation included acoustic surveys of classrooms, questionnaire surveys of students and teachers and experimental testing of students with and without the use of SFS. Students’ perceptions of classroom environments and objective data evaluating change in performance on cognitive and academic assessments with amplification over a six month period are reported. Teachers were positive about the use of SFS in improving children’s listening and attention to verbal instructions. Over time students in amplified classrooms did not differ from those in nonamplified classrooms in their reports of listening conditions, nor did their performance differ in measures of numeracy, reading or spelling. Use of SFS in the classrooms resulted in significantly larger gains in performance in the number of correct items on the nonverbal measure of speed of processing and the measure of listening comprehension. Analysis controlling for classroom acoustics indicated that students’ listening comprehension scores improved significantly in amplified classrooms with poorer acoustics but not in amplified classrooms with better acoustics. Both teacher ratings and pupil performance on standardized tests indicated that SFS improved performance on children’s understanding of spoken language. However, academic attainments showed no benefits from the use of SFS. Classroom acoustics were a significant factor influencing the efficacy of SFS; children in classes with poorer acoustics benefited in listening comprehension while there was no additional benefit for children in classrooms with better acoustics. [Authors' abstract] 41p

Proximity of Public Elementary Schools to Major Roads in Canadian Urban Areas
Amram, Ofer; Abernethy, Rebecca; Brauer, Michael; Davies, Hugh; and Allen, Ryan W
(International Journal of Health Geographics , Dec 21, 2011)
Epidemiologic studies have linked exposure to traffic-generated air and noise pollution with a wide range of adverse health effects in children. Children spend a large portion of time at school, and both air pollution and noise are elevated in close proximity to roads, so school location may be an important determinant of exposure. No studies have yet examined the proximity of schools to major roads outside of the US. Data on public elementary schools in Canada's 10 most populous cities were obtained from online databases. School addresses were geocoded and proximity to the nearest major road, defined using a standardized national road classification scheme, was calculated for each school. Based on measurements of nitrogen oxide concentrations, ultrafine particle counts, and noise levels in three Canadian cities we conservatively defined distances <75 m from major roads as the zone of primary interest. Census data at the city and neighborhood levels were used to evaluate relationships between school proximity to major roads, urban density, and indicators of socioeconomic status. Conclusions: asubstantial fraction of students at public elementary schools in Canada, particularly students attending schools in low income neighborhoods, may be exposed to elevated levels of air pollution and noise while at school. As a result, the locations of schools may negatively impact the healthy development and academic performance of a large number of Canadian children. [Authors' abstract]

Classroom Audio – A Study of Acoustic Barriers to Learning [Online Course]
(Hanley Wood University, Oct 2011)
Classroom audio may seem like a small thing, but acoustic quality of a room greatly impacts how students learn. We’ll look at principles of sound and how that affects the classroom environment and the ability to learn. Unfortunately, most classrooms in the U.S. are not free of acoustic barriers to learning. It is very difficult to provide a high quality education in a room that suffers from excessive background noise and high amounts of reverberation and reflection. This course will highlight the flaws in classroom acoustic environments, while defining key concepts and how they relate to sound transmission and impact learning.

Building Design and Classroom Acoustics.
Amarante Andrade, Pedro; Morsomme, Dominique; and Epstein, Ruth
(Paper presented at the Occupational Voice: Assessing the Voice in the Work Place, University College of London , Mar 29, 2011)
Teachers and students suffer from the impact of noisy classrooms. This is due to poor sound isolation, traffic and noise generated by electronic data processors, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) interference and reverberation levels. For teachers, this resulted in increased vocal loading and fatigue, frequently leading to vocal issues. Furthermore, poor acoustic conditions influence children language acquisition process, sometimes leading to impaired concentration, behavioural disorders, and attention deficit. The problem is more enhanced in children with hearing impairment (temporary or permanent) or with other disabilities. Lack of information and normative data on the aspects of building design and classroom acoustics have prompted this review, which comprises of sources originated from Canada, France and Belgium. [Authors' abstract]

Achieving Acoustical Standards in the Classroom. Study of HVAC Systems and Classroom Acoustics. Adobe PDF
(Trane, 2011)
In recent testing, Trane has been able to prove that the ANSI/ASA S12.60 recommended sound levels can be met in new and existing schools buildings with minimal or no added cost using off-the-shelf HVAC equipment and industry-accepted design and construction practices. Trane built a classroom in its mock-up facility and tested a single-zone air handling unit and packaged rooftop unit. This paper describes those tests, the conclusion, and the resulting recommendations. 10p

Acoustics for Schools. The SRS Guide to BB93 and Building Acoustics for Education. Adobe PDF
(Sound Reduction Systems, Acoustics for Schools, Bolton, England, 2011)
Detailed research has demonstrated that poor acoustics adversely affect both teaching and learning. England's Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) has been implemented to address these issues, promoting good acoustic design and construction of new school facilities. In particular, BB93 offers guidance in these core areas: target ambient noise levels for teaching areas; acoustic separation between adjacent spaces; lower reverberation time to promote speech intelligibility. This guide is intended to be an introduction to the aims of BB93, illustrating how each target can be met and demonstrating example constructions and installations. 8p

Effects of Noise and Reverberation on Verbal Short-term Memory in Young Adults in a Classroom-like Setting. Adobe PDF
Klatte, M.; Lachmann, T. , and Meis, M.
(German Research Foundation, 2011)
Analyzes the combined effects of noise and reverberations on short-term memory for spoken words. Results showed that classroom reverberation increases ambient noise levels and thereby listening effort. 2p

Implementing Classroom Acoustics Standards: a Progress Report.
Mazz, Marsha
(U.S. Access Board, 2011)
This reports on progress in implementing classroom acoustics standards that sets specific criteria for maximum background noise (35 decibels) and reverberation time (0.6 to 0.7 seconds) for unoccupied classrooms. Provides a list of resources and a list of entities that have adopted the classroom acoustics standards and directives, including states, school districts, and countries.

References to Journal Articles

Acoustics and Daylighting
Spector, Marc
School Planning and Management; , p50-53 ; May 2012
Clean, quiet, safe, comfortable and healthy environments are an important component of successful teaching and learning.

Music Rehearsal Room Acoustics: Comparisons of Objectives and Performance Measures.
Freiheit R.
Journal of Acoustical Society of America; v 131 n4 ; Apr 2012
A comparison of the acoustic performance criteria for high school music education rehearsal rooms to standard classrooms in the United States and Asia. High school music rehearsal rooms have acoustical requirements that are very different from traditional classrooms, where academic subjects are typically taught in a lecture-based setting. Due to the extended frequency range and dynamics of music rehearsals, most standard classroom acoustic treatments will not provide effective results for music rehearsal rooms. A number of acoustic measurements will be discussed - comparing rehearsal rooms and standard classrooms. Potential problems and solutions will be identified. [Author's abstract]

LEED For Schools Targets Acoustics, IAQ And Lighting
Kessler, Helen
Building Operating Management; Apr 2012
Of all of the LEED for Schools credits, the acoustics credit has done more than any other to integrate systems — including structural, mechanical, daylighting and architectural — because acoustics considerations, to be affordable, must be considered in the earliest phase of design.

Investigations into Vocal Doses and Parameters Pertaining to Primary School Teachers in Classrooms
Pasquale Bottalico and Arianna Astolfi
Journal of Acoustical Society of America; v131 n4 , p2817-2827 ; Apr 2012
Investigations into vocal doses and parameters were carried out on 40 primary school teachers (36 females and 4 males) in six schools in Italy, divided into two groups of three, A and B, on the basis of the type of building and the mid-frequency reverberation time in the classrooms, which was 1.13 and 0.79?s, respectively. A total of 73 working-day samples were collected (66 for females and 7 for males), from which 54 traditional lessons were analyzed separately. The average value over the working days of the mean sound pressure level of the voiced speech at 1?m from the teacher’s mouth was 62.1?dB for the females and 57.7?dB for the males, while the voicing time percentage was 25.9 and 25.1?%, respectively. Even though the vocal doses and parameters did not differ for the two school groups, the differences in the subjective scores were significant, with enhanced scores in group B. A 0.72?dB increase in speech level per 1?dB increase in background noise level, LA90, was found during traditional lessons, as well as an increase in the mean value of the fundamental frequency with an increase in LA90, at a rate of 1.0?Hz/dB. [Authors' abstract]

Binaural Room Impulse Response Database Acquired From a Variable Acoustics Classroom
Peng, Z; Lau, SK; Wang, LM; Browne, S; Roy, KP
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America; v131, n4 ; Apr 2012
Room measurements were conducted in a variable acoustics classroom mockup space (epod) at Armstrong World Industries in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. Binaural room impulse responses were measured in the epod using a head and torso simulator. Five reverberation time (RT) scenarios were achieved with various combinations of absorptive wall panels and acoustical ceiling tile. These provided a range of mid-frequency RTs from 0.4 to 1.1 seconds. Three of the five RT scenarios were achieved using two different material configurations to also consider material location effects. For each of the eight material configurations, two student-teacher orientations were tested. One orientation had all desks facing the front of the room across the long dimension of the space, while the other had all furniture facing the front of the room along the short dimension of the space. Binaural impulse responses were measured at nine student positions in the longitudinal orientation and ten student positions in the transverse orientation, both using two teacher positions. This database of 252 binaural impulse responses from a variable acoustics classroom provides realistic test cases rather than simulations. These are being used for acoustic investigations on various topics including effects of classroom furniture orientation or acoustic material arrangements. [Authors' abstract]

The ABCs of Green Acoustics
Moeller, Niklas
Construction Specifier; , p30-41 ; Mar 2012
The lack of attention historically paid to acoustics has been detrimental to the overall performance of sustainable space. Article addresses the absorb, block, and cover ABC) rule, three principle methods used by acoustic professionals for noise control.

Measurement and Prediction of Voice Support and Room Gain in School Classrooms
David Pelegrín-García, Jonas Brunskog, Viveka Lyberg-Åhlander, and Anders Löfqvist
Journal of Acoustical Society of America; v131 n1 , p194-204 ; Jan 2012
Objective acoustic parameters have been measured in 30 school classrooms. These parameters include usual descriptors of the acoustic quality from the listeners’ standpoint, such as reverberation time, speech transmission index, and background noise level, and two descriptors of the acoustic properties for a speaker: Voice support and room gain. This paper describes the measurement method for these two parameters and presents a prediction model for voice support and room gain derived from the diffuse field theory. The voice support for medium-sized classrooms with volumes between 100 and 250 m3 and good acoustical quality lies in the range between -14 and -9?dB, whereas the room gain is in the range between 0.2 and 0.5?dB. The prediction model for voice support describes the measurements in the classrooms with a coefficient of determination of 0.84 and a standard deviation of 1.2?dB.

Experimental Investigation of the Effects of the Acoustical Conditions in a Simulated Classroom on Speech Recognition and Learning in Children
Valente, Daniel L.; Plevinsky, M.; Franco, M.; Heinrichs-Graham, Dawna, Elizabeth C. and Lewis, E.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America; v131, n1 , p232-246 ; Jan 2012
The potential effects of acoustical environment on speech understanding are especially important as children enter school where students’ ability to hear and understand complex verbal information is critical to learning. However, this ability is compromised because of widely varied and unfavorable classroom acoustics. The extent to which unfavorable classroom acoustics affect children’s performance on longer learning tasks is largely unknown as most research has focused on testing children using words, syllables, or sentences as stimuli. In the current study, a simulated classroom environment was used to measure comprehension performance of two classroom learning activities: a discussion and lecture. Comprehension performance was measured for groups of elementary-aged students in one of four environments with varied reverberation times and background noise levels. The reverberation time was either 0.6 or 1.5 s, and the signal-to-noise level was either +10 or +7 dB. Performance is compared to adult subjects as well as to sentence-recognition in the same condition. Significant differences were seen in comprehension scores as a function of age and condition; both increasing background noise and reverberation degraded performance in comprehension tasks compared to minimal differences in measures of sentence-recognition. [Authors' abstract]

Auditoriums/Performing Arts. Sound Advice for School Performing Arts Design.
Prokos, John; Savereid, Chris
School Planning and Management; Dec 2011
Case study of the performing arts facilities at Newton North High School in Newton, Massachusetts. Discusses acoustical challenges and solutions.

I Can't Hear You!
Fickes, Michael
School Planning and Management; , p32-35 ; Oct 2011
While research shows that voice amplification boosts student performance and cuts teacher absenteeism, most classrooms still don't provide amplification technology. Discusses today's more affordable technologically improved classroom amplification systems.

Furnishing for Acoustics
Rivero, Victor
College Planning and Management; , p40-43 ; Oct 2011
Discusses the system components and designs that should be considered for a classroom amplification system, where they should be installed, price considerations, how to integrate these into existing systems, and the expected life cycle.

Classroom Acoustics Affect Student Achievement.
Ronsse, Lauren M. and Wang, Lily M.;
Consulting-Specifying Engineer; Sep 19, 2011
Findings from a study comparing unoccupied classroom noise levels and reverberation times to the age of the school buildings and the elementary student achievement scores attained by students using those classrooms. Recommends that classroom mechanical systems should be designed with lower noise levels to optimize student reading comprehension.

Enhanced Acoustical Design.
Sullivan, C.C. and Horwitz-Bennett, Barbara
Building Design + Construction ; Aug 2011
Discusses issues of acoustical permformance, how sound is transmitted, and best practices in acoustic design for enhanced occupant/user health and welfare and indoor environmental quality. Describes strategies for reducing decibel levels and unwanted noise, absorbing and isolating sound, and contributing to whole building sustainability.

LEED for Schools.
Hibbs, Dan
Doors and Hardware; v75 n7 , p32,33 ; Jul 2011
Addresses the impact the LEED for schools has on the acoustic performance fo classroom entry doors. The sound transmission class (STC) ratings for walls and doors are discussed, along with determining the difference between background noise and the STC ratings.

Noise Effects on Human Performance: A Meta-Analytic Synthesis
Szalma, James L.; Hancock, Peter A.
Psychological Bulletin; v137 n4 , p682-707 ; Jul 2011
Noise is a pervasive and influential source of stress. Whether through the acute effects of impulse noise or the chronic influence of prolonged exposure, the challenge of noise confronts many who must accomplish vital performance duties in its presence. Although noise has diffuse effects, which are shared in common with many other chronic forms of stress, it also exerts its own specific influences on various forms of cognitive and motor response. We present a quantitative evaluation of these influences so that their harmful effects can be mitigated, their beneficial effects exploited, and any residual effects incorporated and synthesized into selection, training, and design strategies to facilitate human performance capacities. Collective findings identified continuous versus intermittent noise, noise type, and type of task as the major distinguishing characteristics that moderated response. Mixed evidence was obtained for the traditional arousal and masking explanations for noise effects. The overall pattern of findings was most consistent with the maximal adaptability theory, a mental-resource-based explanation of stress and performance variation. [Authors' abstract]

Impacting Learning.
Harris, Bill; Lambert, Chip
School Planning and Management; v50 n5 , p44-46 ; May 2011
Discusses the negative effect of classroom noise on teaching and learning, standards for classroom acoustics, and HVAC design that minimizes noise while using less energy.

Design Considerations for Effective Distance Learning.
Gedemer, Linda
University Business; Mar 2011
Discusses proper classroom acoustics, good speech intelligibility, clear sightlines, proper lighting, and seating arrangements that need to be considered when developing an effective distance learning classroom, which will benefit students and instructors alike.

Creating Quiet, Comfortable Learning Spaces.
Gille, Steve; Fronek, Steve
The Construction Specifier; v64 n3 , p20-22,24,26,28,29 ; Mar 2011
Advises on creating quiet classrooms, discussing determining accurate levels of noise disturbance between decibels and pitch. ANSI and LEED standards are discussed, as are typical sources of noise in buildings. Reducing interior noise and limiting the intrusion of exterior noise is discussed, and extensive information on windows is included.

Listen and Learn.
Fullerton, Jeffrey; Nelson, Peggy
American School and University; v83 n6 , p22,23,24 ; Feb 2011
Discusses the 2010 updated ANSI Standard 12.60 for classroom acoustics. The standard addresses acoustics in permanent and relocatable classrooms, background noise, acoustical isolation, and reverberation. The design implications of the Standard, and how the standard has been incorporated into other building guidelines are also addressed.

Acoustical Odyssey.
School Construction News; v17 n1 , p14-16 ; Jan-Feb 2011
Profiles Sonoma State University's Green Music Center. The building hosts a light-filled shoebox concert hall with outstanding acoustics, a recital hall, classrooms, and rehearsal and practice spaces. Controversy surrounding its funding is also described.

Calculating the Optimum Reverberation Time and Absorption Coefficient for Good Speech Intelligibility in Classroom Design Using U50.
Nijs, Lau; Rychtáriková, Monika
Acta Acustica united with Acustica; , 93-102 ; Jan-Feb 2011
Proposes a predictive model for speech intelligibility, as expressed with the parameter U50, based on objective acoustical values, i.e. the reverberation time RT, signal-to-noise ratio SN, and the relative proportions of sound arriving early and late at the listener. The article introduces the model and derives guidelines for architectural design. The model is illustrated using a typical Dutch classroom as an example. Architectural guidelines are derived for maximum RT values, and compared with existing recommendations. The possible additional need for minimum RT values is also investigated in relation to the phenomenon of 'overdamping' in classrooms. [author's abstract]



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