Passively Addressing The Internal Environment To Improve Learning
A simple addition to the building specification in schools can help ensure the project both achieves funding and Regulatory compliance on completion.
Under Building Bulletin 101, natural ventilation is the preferred means of airing the school building: it is proven to enhance levels of concentration and eliminate the incidence of sick building syndrome. It yields a 15% savings on capital costs, 75% savings on maintenance costs, reduces energy consumption over air conditioned buildings by up to 50%, and eliminates the need for a separate plant room. As a result, it can contribute towards an ‘excellent’ BREEAM rating, and an A energy efficiency rating. It is quiet, having no fans, and relying purely on natural air movement principles to function.
Schools cut energy use by 25 per centBut occupied classrooms- however they are ventilated- are noisy- with a decibel level reaching twice that of an unoccupied room. Building Bulletin 93 sets an upper limit of 30dB ambient noise level in areas such as performance rooms or classrooms for hearing impaired students, through to 45dB in dining rooms and student circulation spaces. Yet research shows the average Design & Technology lesson, for example, can reach over 70dB- and that noise can transfer through vents and other openings to penetrate other areas of the building. Further, noise penetration from outside also has to be considered.
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Acoustic attenuation therefore has to be addressed: acoustic testing is often a requirement for funding, with only designs graded as ‘very good’ or ‘pass’ being able to proceed through procurement and into construction.
To limit noise penetrating the building in the first place, specify acoustic attenuation to the external ventilation louvres. Passivent’s Aircool window and wall ventilators specified with acoustic treatment can provide attenuation up to 30dB in zones such as classrooms and studios, whilst acoustically-treated Airscoop roof mounted ventilation terminals, for large spaces such as sports halls and dining areas, can reduce noise by 32dB.
But we all remember from our school days the volume in corridors when class finishes but you are still working or sitting an exam. The issue of noise between internal areas also has to be considered. In conjunction with leading consultancy Arup, Passivent has devised a unique solution. SoundScoop is in essence a hollow box positioned at high level in the partition wall, where its patented sound absorbing lining optimizes attenuation of mid frequency sound- typically the most problematic- with minimal drop in air pressure. It achieves an acoustic attenuation performance of up to 51dB.
City & Islington College in the heart of London is just one establishment already appreciating the benefits. A double bank of acoustic chevrons in each of the 27 Aircool units in the building façade fronting busy Camden Road provides supplementary external noise attenuation to 30dB ensuring students have a quiet but fresh, draught-free internal environment in which to work. The thermostatically controlled Aircool units open automatically to draw replacement, fresh air into the building achieving penetration depths of five times the floor-to-ceiling height. Daytime heat build-up is also automatically dissipated via the night cooling facility.
Grade II listed Sidcot School similarly utilized acoustically attenuated natural ventilation to achieve harmony in its new Arts Centre. Rob Barnes, director of HBS Architecture who were responsible for designing the new Centre, summarised, “Natural ventilation was considered an integral part of the overall design to provide a ‘healthy’ learning environment. As the new complex is located alongside the A38, traffic noise was a major consideration at the design stage, hence the decision to include acoustic attenuation. Natural Passivent ventilation is included throughout all teaching spaces.”
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