In 2012 the groundbreaking Essex Study into school acoustics was published, pointing to the importance of good acoustics in the classroom environment. More recently, Fingringhoe C of E Primary School has become part of another project, led by renowned educationalist Professor Stephen Heppell, who is the Felipe Segovia Chair in Learning Innovation at the Universidad Camilo Jose Cela, Madrid. This year-long study examines the benefits to children’s education of improved acoustics, air quality, lighting and other environmental factors.
The main classroom at Fingringhoe School included a flat ceiling which was added in the 1970s. This was removed to reveal a pitched roofline, improving the look and feel of the space. Unfortunately the large increase in volume also led to problems with reverberation time. In order to combat unacceptable reverberation, acoustic products specialists Ecophon were brought in and Adrian James Acoustics was appointed to measure the room acoustics of the classroom before and after treatment.
Ecophon identified a lack of available wall space on which to place treatment. New light fittings would greatly improve the room’s overall lighting, but a side effect was to reduce the amount of acoustic absorption which could be suspended from the ceiling. In order to overcome these issues, low frequency absorption pads were placed on two of the walls with “Class A” absorbing panels on top.
We took measurements of the room before and after installation of acoustic panels. It was important to establish the veracity of our readings, so that the true benefits of the treatments could be measured. Using WinMLS software, we assessed reverberation time (T20 and T30), Clarity, Definition, Strength/Gain and Early Decay Time. Before treatment, the mid-frequency reverberation time level (TMF) was measured at 1.2 seconds. However, once the acoustic products had been installed our readings revealed a huge improvement down to a level of 0.6 seconds. These results put the new acoustic performance well above the BB93 standard and close to the rigorous standards specified for SEN pupils.
The studies of Prof. Heppell at this typical Victorian school are almost complete and we are delighted to have been part of this project. In the words of Adrian James, “I sincerely hope their work [Essex County Council], supported by Ecophon’s research, encourages other education authorities to start providing the acoustic conditions that pupils and teachers deserve.”
For more about this project, please see this article which includes further comments by Adrian James.
Client : Ecophon
Photo credits: AJA / Shane Cryer