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Acoustics in schools – crossing the sound barrier

Greater awareness and action needed, says expert

| | Apr 11, 2017 | 4:42 pm
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Dubai, UAE: Poor acoustic systems impact indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools, thus affecting the performance of both students and teachers, say industry experts.

Citing a global acoustic study report, Paul Schwarz, Chairman of the Middle East Acoustic Society, said, “There is an alarmingly large number of classrooms within schools right across the fee-spectrum, which have very poor acoustic systems, and poor room acoustics is a constant barrier to effective learning.”

Calling it “a big problem”, Schwarz said, “It has been identified as requiring serious consideration and solutions immediately, if we are to improve educational standards, especially as the number of children per class continues to grow, and as school budgets are increasingly put under pressure.”

Explaining the dynamics of the acoustic system, Schwarz said that acoustic codes are the driving force behind the system, because they govern the maximum decibel level of noise, ranging from air conditioning units in classrooms to the quality of the walls that segregate the rooms and corridors, including the maximum reverberation time – the length of time it takes for a sound to die in a closed space – in every room. “Hence, regulations place a big emphasis on ensuring that a high-quality learning environment is provided for every child in every school, including a greater need for a quality design for children with learning difficulties,” Schwarz said, an area, in his opinion, that needs greater attention.

Elaborating on the subject of regulations, Schwarz said: “The good news is that regulations have now been adopted by the municipalities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. As of January 1, 2014, it is now also mandatory for all new school developments to comply with UK Building Bulletin ’93 (BB93), which sets out minimum design and performance standards for acoustics in all buildings used for educational purposes, not just schools.”

However, despite regulations, in Schwarz’s view, the challenge still lies in implementation and raising awareness. He pointed out: “There seems to be a delay in adoption of these standards by school developers and architects in the UAE, either simply because they are unaware of their responsibilities to ensure this code is adhered to, or they are aware of it but disturbingly decide to take their chances, hoping that the local authorities will not check if the appropriate studies have been included in the design process, and so choose to save time and money by value-engineering this step out of the project.”

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