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Education acoustics - who is taking responsibility?

Julian Sargent offers advice on meeting the demands of current acoustic regulations

Posted by Stephanie Broad | June 13, 2016 | Interiors

Eighteen months ago, the Building Bulletin 93 (Acoustic Design of Schools) was revised, setting out minimum performance standards for acoustics within education buildings. Critically, it stated that the acoustic conditions in schools would now be controlled by Part E of the Building Regulations, making them a statutory requirement, rather than an ideal. This has had enormous implications for the main contractor, architect and acoustic consultant on any project, as the ultimate responsibility for adherence to the strict new regulations now rests entirely with them. 

As it is a complex science to accurately predict the final level of acoustic performance that will be achieved on any given project, the following steps may help ensure you meet the regulations on your next education-based project.

Pre-installation, consider employing the services of an acoustician for impartial advice regarding realistic acoustic expectations of the design. The acoustician can:

  • survey the plans to assess where flanking may occur and its possible severity
  • assess the overall quality and robustness of surrounding walls, ceiling and floors – considering construction, materials utilised and age
  • offer invaluable pre-installation guidance
  • consider absorptive treatment to improve acoustics and reverberation times

The next step to compliance is to ensure products are specified that hold relevant, current acoustic test certificates.

As designers and manufacturers of moveable partitioning solutions, it is vital that we provide quantifiable information to allow appropriate specifications to be made. However, it is important that you know what to look for in acoustic test certification:

  • check the authenticity of any certificate and that it has the correct system manufacturer’s name on it
  • reflecting the importance of installation, manufacturers must first authorise any supplier to install their partitioning system. Without this, the certificate is invalid
  • does the acoustic test certificate clearly state the name of an independent laboratory and that the product has been tested to the latest standards - BS EN ISO 140-3:1995 or BS 2750-3:1995? On-site tests are meaningless and should not be relied upon. A laboratory test is standardised and directly measurable
  • ensuring long term maintenance, check that the actual system manufacturer is clearly stated in the quotation, accompanying sales brochures and supporting documents

Helping ensure the validity of test certificates, the FIS (Finishes Interiors Sector – previously the AIS) is phasing in an acoustic test certificate verification scheme. Currently being piloted with the FIS Operable Walls Group, whose members have submitted a range of test certificates for verification, it is an invaluable service for architects and main contractors who want a quick way of ensuring they specify within the new regulatory guidelines.   

Skyfold light at Tuke School

It must be understood that the effectiveness of any system will be dramatically influenced by the quality of workmanship and installation techniques implemented.  

Careful liaison between all associated trades/contractors on a project must be facilitated to ensure flanking paths or other sound leakage is effectively reduced and on-site acoustic performance is maximised. As a general guideline, the onsite R’w of an installed moveable wall will be between 7-15 dB below the laboratory tested Rw, although differences as high as 20 dB or more are not uncommon.  

Using a company that can show they have achieved professional recognition in their field, such as an FIS Contractor Award, is invaluable in ensuring you contract the work to someone who has the expertise to offer advice and achieve maximum on site acoustic performance.

All of Style’s high quality range of moveable wall systems is certificated, tested and fully compliant with current regulations. In addition, we have been awarded seven Gold, AIS/FIS Contractor Awards reflecting our attention-to-detail and willingness to go that extra mile to deliver exceptional acoustic performance.

Julian Sargent is group managing director for partitioning experts Style


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