Learning acoustics: the importance of sound - Smart Technology NZ

Learning acoustics: the importance of sound

There’s nothing worse than trying to concentrate in a space that’s chaotically noisy, especially if it’s a workplace or a school or learning environment. For children, this is even more important as our youngest learners haven’t yet developed the skills to listen in a noisy environment. We chat to Stretch Master Ceilings about the French-made Barrisol range and the difference the right acoustic products can make.

Words by ArchiPro Editorial Team

Scientific studies have shown that sound travels in various directions and through structures with poor soundproofing qualities. The reflected sound from odd shaped objects or uneven surfaces is reverberated and intensified, which makes it hard for our ears to tune in to all the frequencies. Hence, it is more important than before, to use reflective surfaces with acoustic properties to dampen excessive sound and improve its quality, thus making it pleasantly audible. 

Sound Issues in the Educational Sector

A recent study of New Zealand primary schools found more than 70 per cent of teachers felt internal classroom noise was a problem, while 33 per cent said they had to speak at a level that strained their voices, and around half of the teachers who participated said they had to considerably raise their voices during group work.

These results were obtained during a study that related to traditional primary school classrooms, but as more and more schools move towards a more flexible approach to classrooms with typically large, open plan spaces and more children engaged in different tasks in the same area, acoustics is becoming much more central to learning outcomes.

As adults, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve struggled to hear a conversation in a busy restaurant with poor acoustics or sat in a lecture theatre or classroom where the speaker’s voice is muffled beneath other noises. It is for these reasons that acoustic ceilings are such a vital part of any good design, but especially in educational and commercial spaces.

Acoustic ceilings absorb noise, allowing it to be contained within one space, while also dampening noise to allow for a more productive environment, or improving sound quality if that is required – most commonly in buildings that are used as theatres, for seminars, conferences or ceremonies.

Global research has found that all children benefit from being in classrooms with good acoustics. It’s known that even children who don’t experience hearing issues can miss up to as many as one-third of the words a teacher is saying when other noises are abundant.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Education released a series of documents called Designing Quality Learning Spaces in 2007. Since then, the requirements outlined in those documents have been updated, and for all educational projects started after 1 January of this year, the latest standards are mandatory.

The documents state that “the acoustic performance of learning areas has a direct impact on the usability of the space and the learning outcomes. As educational spaces increasingly become more open to support diverse activities, they also need to be designed and built to have high acoustic performance.

“When excessive background noise and reverberation are not addressed it can make it hard to hear and understand speech. This is especially important for younger students who haven’t yet developed the skills that allow them to process conversations in the presence of background noise. Excessive noise may lead to students missing key words, phrases and concepts.”

The Solution - Acoustic Stretch Ceilings

It is for these reasons that acoustic stretch ceilings are gaining traction in the New Zealand market, especially in schools and other commercial settings. For acoustic stretch ceiling expert Chris Ramsey of Stretchmaster Ceilings who exclusively imports and installs the French-made Barrisol range of stretch ceilings, he believes the difference the right acoustic products can make is crucial to a project’s success.

The Barrisol acoustic suspended stretch ceilings reduce the intensity of sound waves as they reflect within a room. Perforations in the ceiling allow the wave emanating from a sound source to be partially absorbed with the ceiling and therefore reduce reverberation. Because they are suspended, the ceiling sheet allows a portion of the sound energy pass through it and as the sound waves continue to reverberate around the room, the energy loss continues and the sound in the space is reduced.

Depending on the level of acoustic performance required, the number of perforations in the ceiling can be varied to achieve different acoustic outcomes. The stretch ceilings can also be used in conjunction with a sound insulator placed behind the ceiling sheet to provide a superior acoustic option. Acoustic stretch ceilings also come in a range of backlit options, which are ideal for boardrooms and commercial spaces where lighting is a central factor.

Get in touch with Stretchmaster on ArchiPro here to find out how you can incorporate an acoustic stretch ceiling into your next commercial project.

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