Designing a school is a complicated and demanding architectural challenge. For educational facilities’ design, functionality usually tops aesthetics. But both are possible and both have an important impact on students’ progress through the academic year.
Whether your educational project is new construction, a renovation or an expansion that combines both, the building materials you choose need to be easy to maintain, flexible, adaptable and robust. Cost-effective, durable ceiling products often must tackle specific performance challenges, such as noise, indoor air quality, fire safety, and lighting.
Creating a good acoustic experience improves the educational experience.
Schools are dynamic and complex environments full of acoustical challenges. In classrooms, poor acoustics put a strain on teachers’ voices and on students’ learning. The trend to use harder surfaces – such as glass, metal, and concrete, which reflect sound – adds to the problem. Schools that were built before the 1970s also have many hard surfaces and have very high ceilings. They are some of the worst performing education facilities from an acoustics perspective.
This design approach creates very reverberant rooms. It affects how well a teacher is understood and how well students can comprehend. Young children, in particular, experience difficulties in understanding speech in highly reverberant rooms. Providing an environment designed for clear sound through the right reverberation helps student comprehension.
Efficient communication only can be accomplished with low reverberance, lack of echoes and high speech intelligibility – in other words, sound control with high-performing, sound-absorptive ceilings. Our stone wool ceiling solutions reach the highest level of sound absorption for optimum speech intelligibility.
Every student should have the same opportunity to hear and understand what is being said. Poor acoustics affect everyone, but can be a particular problem for the following groups:
- Children under the age of 13 – this group has an underdeveloped sense of hearing and comprehension. A limited vocabulary means that if they miss a word, they can’t easily fill in the gap1.
- English as a Second Language (ESL) students – approximately 21 percent of American students speak a language other than English at home. [Source: Wang, L. “Room Acoustic Effects on Speech Comprehension of English-as-Second-Language Talkers and Listeners versus Native-English-Speaking Talkers and Listeners.” Architectural Engineering – Faculty Publications2 (2015).
- Students with learning disabilities or hearing impairments.
- Students with ear infections – as much as 25 percent of young children experience middle ear infections resulting in hearing loss.
- Stressed teachers – trying to be heard over noise causes teachers to raise their voices, leading to increased stress and fatigue. U.S. classrooms typically have speech intelligibility ratings of 75 percent or less, meaning every fourth word is not understood3.
Even with the right reverberation time, speech intelligibility still can be negatively affected by background noise. From HVAC systems and ambient sound coming in through the windows to shuffling chairs, background noise can lead to poor student performance.
A highly sound absorptive ceiling helps to reduce reverberation and noise, making understanding and learning more enjoyable and helping students make the grade. A ceiling material’s ability to reduce noise is measured by Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC), and only certain materials can inherently achieve high NRC ratings. Due to its fiber structure, stone wool is one of those high-performing, sound-absorptive materials. Using stone wool at the core of our ceiling panels, baffles and islands give them excellent noise reduction capabilities.
High-performance acoustic ceiling panels, baffles, and clouds offer sound absorption for classrooms. For renovations and updates, simply removing the worn-out old-school ceiling tiles inside the existing suspended ceiling grid can make a dramatic improvement. It brings classrooms into compliance with today’s acoustics standards without much effort or cost.