New mandatory acoustic testing in UK schools
As a result of campaigning by the National Deaf Children's Society,The Department for Children, Schools and Families, has recently announced a set of guidelines to improve acoustics in schools in England and Wales. Whilst acoustic standards in schools have been regulated by Building Bulletin 93 (BB93) since 2003, there is currently no mandatory requirement for pre-completion testing to demonstrate ultimate compliance with BB93 performance standards. Instead, compliance is demonstrated by a Building Control submission report at design stage.
Pre-completion acoustic testing
As part of the announcement, The DCSF have said that funding for future Building Schools for the Future projects may not be approved without a contractual commitment to demonstrate compliance with BB93 by means of acoustic testing. In addition, future funding may be withheld in Boroughs already involved in the BSF scheme, until compliance is demonstrated at the most recently funded school. This announcement places a greater commitment on BSF scheme developers and design teams in ensuring the standards are achieved.
Alternative Performance Standards (APS)
In addition, the DSCF and Department for Communities and Local Government will be writing jointly to every Building Control Body in England and Wales, reminding them of the importance of acoustics in all schools. BCBs will be asked not to approve APS proposals without 'a full and proper case made in accordance with BB93'. BB93 states that an APS 'may be appropriate for particular educational, environmental or health and safety reasons'. A written submission should be provided to the BCB explaining the technical basis for the APS, together with written justification from the Educational Provider for its need and suitability.
So what do we think?
Measures such as pre-completion acoustic testing (and a commitment to carry out remedial treatment where necessary) are already commonly used, in order to achieve optional BREEAM credits. However, it is likely that acousticians will need to undertake a more intensive role during the construction phase of a project, in order to ensure the acoustic integrity of in-situ installations.
Arriving at an appropriate and justifiable APS requires knowledge of the listener population, and specific learning activities and teaching organisation. BB93 performance standards are largely based around critical speech communication to large groups. However emerging designs, arising from DCSF initiatives such as the Faraday Project and Spaces for Personalised Learning, may extend beyond this scope. With the use of APS being subject to more intense scrutiny by Building Control Bodies, acousticians need to consult more directly with the Educational Provider at an early stage in the design, to co-ordinate a full justification for the use of APS.
Mandatory acoustic testing in schools
The Deaf Children's Society have successfully lobbied the UK Government fore improved acoustics standards in schools.
Talk to us
If you would like more information on this scheme, and how WSP Acoustics can help, please contact Emma Greenland on +44 (0) 207 314 4639 or email@example.com.