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The Benefits of Acoustic Treatment in Schools


The Benefits of Acoustic Treatment in Schools

Despite the prevalence of environmental noise pollution in schools and the profound, wide-ranging, and long-term harms chronic exposure can inflict on children and adults alike, there is hope. The evidence suggests that acoustic treatment can be highly effective in preventing excessive environmental noise and its associated physical, academic, and psychosocial harms. Studies have shown that classroom refurbishments, which include environmental sound mitigation, have contributed to significant improvements in students’ listening and attentional capacities, in teachers’ voice ergonomics, and in the overall sense of physical and mental well-being in both students and teachers (1, 2).


It is for this reason that classroom acoustics are becoming a key priority in the design and construction of new schools and the renovation and refurbishment of existing ones. In response to the growing demand for sound mitigation, agencies, such as the EPA, and environmental accrediting bodies, including LEED certification programs through the US Green Building Council, have established standards for ensuring healthy and safe sound environments for children and educators in school environments.


For instance, the EPA has recommended ideal sound levels of 45 decibels or less on average for eight hours per every 24 hours in schools, hospitals, and private residences. Initiatives such as the Well Building Certification program and the Armstrong Living Building Challenge have also emerged to promote optimal learning environments through design and materials innovation, including supporting novel approaches to sound mitigation and acoustics optimization. Likewise, an array of state and local initiatives are emerging nationwide to support students’ and teachers’ health and performance on campus, including California’s Green Building Code, which has mandated acoustic treatment in all California public schools since 2011.


The Benefits of Acoustic Treatment in Schools

Although standards have been created, and there are ongoing initiatives to improve learning environments, noise pollution is inherently part of most schoolhouse environments. We know noise pollution in the classroom inhibits academic performance while impairing the physical, emotional, and mental health of children and teachers alike (3, 4, 28, 29). With all of the remote learning over the last three years, our children and teens are more sensitive than ever to large group interactions with loud sounds. So what will it take to get effective acoustic treatment in school environments to remediate the diverse harms associated with ambient noise pollution?


Re-envision the Classroom


We understand how constrained designers are by budget and how value engineering often cuts things like acoustic treatments. However, optimal learning environments don’t happen accidentally. They must be created intentionally, and maintaining healthy noise levels requires sound mitigation and acoustics optimization. Below we are going to explore the many reasons acoustics need to be elevated as a priority for healthy nervous system development of the kids attending schools and those teaching them.


When you are asked to envision the stereotypically noisy working environment, the first sites that probably spring to mind are industrial factories stuffed with heavy machinery or crowded airports with screaming jet engines perpetually overhead. Studies show, however, that when it comes to environmental noise pollution, nursery, primary, and secondary school classrooms rank near the top (2, 3, 5, 6). When a classroom is full of children playing or talking, levels can even reach up to 95 dBA, far beyond the recommended 45 dBA average and higher than the 90 dBA recommended maximum. This means that day in and day out, children and educators alike are being asked to perform in less than ideal conditions, to pursue developmental, cognitive, and academic milestones that may well establish the child’s entire life trajectory, in environments that are likely to not only inhibit their success but also to incite tangible harms.


The Physical Effects of Classroom Noise Exposure


If you’ve ever spent an extended amount of time in a noisy environment, you’re probably already quite familiar with the physical toll this can take. Environmental noise exposure has been associated with a host of negative physical impacts, including stress-induced spikes in blood pressure, respiration, heart rate, and muscle tension (7, 8, 9, 10). Long-term exposure to environmental noise has also been shown to increase the risk of tinnitus and hearing loss in both children and adults (11, 12, 13).


Psychosocial Harms


Unfortunately, the risks to children and teachers from long-term exposure to environmental noise extend far beyond the physical. There is mounting evidence that chronic noise exposure can have a devastating impact on mental health, increasing the risk of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders in affected persons (14, 15, 16). For children, the research suggests, these harms can linger well into adulthood due to the functional and structural changes wrought by chronic noise exposure on the child’s developing brain (15, 16).


But environmental noise doesn’t just affect children’s sense of happiness, peace, and well-being. It has also been shown to undermine their capacity for forming healthy relationships with adults and peers and may even contribute to the development of behavioral and cognitive disorders, including ADHD, emotional hyperreactivity, and poor impulse control (17, 18, 19, 20).


Given the significant harm that prolonged noise exposure can have on children’s mood, behavior, and attention, it is perhaps no surprise that it should also be associated with steep declines in academic performance (4, 21, 22, 23). The research also indicates that these detrimental impacts are particularly acute for children with special needs and for second language learners (24).


Perhaps no population is more vulnerable to the adverse effects of classroom noise, however, than students who are on the autism spectrum or who have sensory processing disorders (25, 26, 27). For these children, hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli means that environmental noise can quickly transform the classroom from a place of learning, support, and caring into a place of confusion, chaos, and even terror.


An Acoustic Champion


The long-term impacts of noise are subtle and difficult to understand since they are not direct or easy to trace. The good news is that science is elevating the importance of acoustic treatments and prioritizing sound absorptive materials. School projects also need an acoustic design champion, someone who understands the critical nature of a good acoustic design and presents the case studies to ensure it doesn't get cut from the project.


How FSorb Can Help


At FSorb, we offer a wide range of state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly acoustic solutions for use in residential, commercial, government facilities, and public and private schools. Our products include customizable wall and ceiling panels for exterior and interior sound mitigation to meet and exceed rigorous EPA, LEED, WELL, and State of California standards.


Since our products are fully customizable, we are uniquely prepared to meet both your functional and your aesthetic needs. With FSorb, you have the freedom to choose from a wide array of colors, styles, and patterns to achieve the look you need. Whether you’re in the market for sleek elegance ideal for secondary and post-secondary school environments to fun-filled designs in primary colors for pre-kindergarten and elementary schools or day-care centers, we’ve got the products that are right for you!


Contact your local FSorb representative today to explore our fine line of sound mitigation solutions and to discuss how our team can support you in designing the best school acoustic treatment strategy.


 

FSorb

At FSorb, we are motivated by improving human health and do so by creating eco-friendly acoustic products. Our mission is to help designers build beautiful spaces that reduce excess ambient noise while calming the human nervous system. With over 25 years in the acoustic business we stand behind FSorb as a durable, environmentally friendly, and low-cost product. If you want an acoustic solution that is safe to human health at an affordable price, then we are your resource.


info@fsorb.com

(844) 313-7672

f-sorb.com


 

Sources:

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