As an acoustic consultant specialising in education, your article on new schools failing to meet acoustic standards (13 February, Building.co.uk) came as no surprise. That’s because BB93, the building regulation governing schools, is majorly flawed
In contrast with the mandatory on-site sound testing for residential dwellings, BB93 only “strongly recommends” that it is carried out. The consequence? Potentially poor reverberation times and inadequate sound insulation, conditions that will only be revealed once the new school is occupied.
The problem doesn’t lie in school design. The design may well demonstrate compliance with BB93 but subsequently be compromised due to value engineering, specification substitution and our old foes product quality control and construction supervision.
While best practice is to retain an acoustic consultant to conduct site inspections, provide snagging reports during critical phases and commit to on-site testing pre-completion, it is not mandatory.
The National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) has claimed that ensuring schools are built in line with BB93 is absolutely essential and requires immediate corrective action. Where the NDCS gets it wrong, however, is that we shouldn’t be lobbying the government to enforce the acoustic standards. What we need is simply a change to the guidance already available. Only then can we ensure that the billions of pounds being invested in education will not be wasted by the creation of poor learning conditions.
Martin Jones, managing director, Pace Acoustic Consulting