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Designing Classrooms With Passive Acoustical Technology

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Classrooms can hugely benefit from the use of passive acoustical technology.

Many contemporary classroom designs are not yet benefitting from the growing wealth of technology available to improve educational environments. When creating a learning space, there are several new approaches that can be utilized to increase the effectiveness of the space and improve its impact on the students. One such tool is the use of adjustable intensity and color lighting, which has been shown to increase reading speeds, cut down on testing errors, and even have some impact on hyperactivity. Similarly, new, more balanced approaches in passive acoustical design of education spaces can provide improvements in the projection, audibility and intelligibility of the lessons and conversations that take place throughout the learning day. Current approaches towards acoustical design in classrooms primarily involve adding sound absorption, such as an acoustical tile ceiling.  While this can generally solve the problem of excess reverberation in a small space, it also removes valuable early reflections that reduce critical speech energy unnecessarily. To improve upon this approach, a proper blend of absorptive, diffusive and reflective surfaces throughout the learning space can yield improved speech levels and content without having to rely on electronic enhancement systems. This means more information is conveyed to every student at all times, not just the ones sitting closest to the teacher, and not only when the microphone is turned on. An absorption only approach cannot address all of the nuances of acoustical needs which now can be addressed. A balanced design that successfully combines all passive acoustical surface technologies available – absorptive, diffusive, reflective – comprises a hybrid approach that is the future of acoustics in educational environments.

Utilizing Passive Acoustical Technology

Passive acoustical technology is a desirable approach for many reasons.  Once the room is designed and built, it will never change, it is the built environment.  It doesn’t need to be serviced, repaired or require a specialized understanding of its operation.  The space, as designed, responds to the intended use, as a well designed concert hall responds to the symphony musicians and envelopes the audience in the experience.  Modern diffusive surfaces are capable of supporting the intelligibility of speech by scattering higher frequency energy critical in forming consonants. Modern bandwidth limited absorbing surfaces can target middle and lower frequencies to control reverberation time without targeting important frequencies necessary for speech intelligibility that do not contribute to reverberation problems in spaces. Classroom acoustics are challenged by a number of factors including HVAC systems, external noise intrusion, occupant noise, and even noise from overhead lighting.  With so much working against the environment, it is of paramount importance to have more factors working to alleviate these issues.

Emphasizing Speech Intelligibility

In learning spaces, speech intelligibility is key to successful educational experiences. Vowels typically exist within the 250Hz to 500Hz range, whereas consonants focus more on the 2,000Hz to 6,000Hz range. This is a problem for those with noise induced hearing loss, which causes a reduction in the perception of sound at 4,000Hz, which leads to major problems for their speech intelligibility. Traditional absorptive acoustical panels tend to reduce useful energy in the high end of the frequency spectrum, causing speech to become muddled and incoherent, especially in those who are hearing impaired. Instead, an appropriate response is to take advantage of passive acoustical technology which can more appropriately tune the space toward its best performance for both student and teacher.

Sounding Great With RPG Acoustical Systems, LLC.

For whatever your acoustical design needs, RPG Acoustical Systems, LLC. is here to provide you with products that are customized to your needs, high-quality designs that are backed by science and extensive research, and excellent customer service to help ensure you get what you need. If you have questions, take a moment to check out our contact page or reach out to us via phone at (973) 916-1166.

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