Excellent classroom acoustics promote effective learning for all students. For those with a range of needs they are absolutely essential, which is why acoustic engineering is an increasingly important factor in the design of learning environments for SEND students.
The main issues that must be managed through school building and classroom design are reverberation, noise transmitted through widows, walls, floors and ceilings, and background noise from equipment such as HVAC systems. Many of these can be addressed through the building fabric and construction method.
Poor acoustics make learning hard work for both teachers and students. Struggling to hear what teachers are saying increases the concentration effort needed from students. Difficulty with verbal communication also affects the quality of group working and student interactions.
The learners most obviously affected are those with hearing or visual impairment, including:
The added cognitive effort needed also causes problems for students with ADHD or ASD.
Building a new SEND school or learning centre is an opportunity to fine-tune the acoustics during the design stage and to build the desired properties into the structure and fabric of the building. This means that there’s less reliance on assistive hearing devices and technology.
The panelised offsite method allows our designers to work with acoustic engineers. We can then build the required performance into the panels used to create walls, floors and ceilings. This covers both transmitted noise levels and the surfaces needed to absorb sound and minimise reverberation.
The digital design process also means that careful routing of HVAC systems can be built into the building design to minimise background noise levels. Hard reflective surfaces such as glass can also be carefully positioned to control reverberation.
The offsite manufacturing process then ensures that the structure and real-world performance levels are exactly as designed.
Innovare Systems has published a useful guide on delivering the design requirements of SEND schools. We are also running a series of free online CPD sessions on how the and i-FAST systems can be used to improve the design and performance of learning environments for SEND learners.