As the population continues to grow, Australia's school system has begun to creak at the seams. The number of children in a given school district has grown exponentially in recent times, and this has put pressure on individual facilities to design a classroom space to take it all into account. It's not surprising, therefore, that much emphasis is placed on an open-plan design so that more desks can be included, and more individuals can be introduced.
Yet if you are responsible for this type of design, why do you need to think about other factors, in addition to simple density? Typically, the more open and crowded a room, the louder it becomes. This is where an acoustical consultant comes in.
Understanding the Problem
Certainly, it is important to ensure that every child attends the best facility and receives the highest level of education possible, no matter how many need to be serviced. Yet the quality of this education is equally as important, and this can often come down to acoustic issues within the classroom.
This issue may be exacerbated when dealing with those who suffer from concentration issues or attention deficit disorder, where any unwanted noise can be a distraction.
Open-plan classrooms are all well and good, but unless the room is designed carefully, acoustic signals may become unmanageable and long-term performance may suffer.
Making It Worse
Often, a classroom is equipped with a ceiling made from plasterboard, may have a floor that is covered with hard tiles and is surrounded by concrete walls. This is the worst-case scenario as it will lead to reverberation and significant issues with echo. The children towards the back of the room may have great difficulty in hearing or comprehending the teacher.
Treating the Issue
Special measures need to be taken to introduce acoustic treatments throughout such a room. Sound absorbing panels may need to be installed within the ceiling, while carpet may need to be set out on top of the tile. Cabinets and bookcases must be strategically placed to break up any large areas of open wall and to eliminate echo. It may also be possible to introduce fibreglass panels that are interspersed with fabric sections, as these are known to help cut down low-frequency noise pollution.
It's best to bring in an acoustic consultant to help identify potential issues and draw up a plan to deal with them. Do this before you open for the new term, so all of your pupils have the best chance of success.