How To Soundproof And Reduce Noise Pollution In Classrooms

classroom soundproofing & noise pollution reductionEveryone talks about how education is the key but what is the point of going to school when your learning-concentration ratio is not up to par. Here is where soundproofing classrooms assumes huge importance.

The classroom is the core of education and it is important that the atmosphere is truly conducive enough for utmost concentration and learning.

At any level of education, the classroom can be notoriously loud with pupils or students whispering swapped stories, and the dragging of their feet as they walk down the hallway just outside the classrooms.

Even worse are the desks made of metal, floors covered with tiles, and the concrete walls, all of which help propagate sound making teaching for the educators tedious and concentrating almost impossible for the students.

You can blame this problem on the thin walls and inadequate doors and windows of the classroom which lets noise pollution from the outside filter into the academic zone, but nevertheless, it doesn’t change the fact that all these pose a problem to creating an optimum environment suitable for learning.

The Mechanism Of Soundproofing

It would be arduous for us to understand the mechanism of soundproofing unless we grasp the concept of sound and its propagation. Sound is a form of energy and is basically the outcome of vibrations. It always needs a continuous medium through which it can travel through.

While sound travels away from its source, it travels through objects and air, making them respond to it by vibrating. It keeps traveling outward till whatever is left of that energy hits our eardrums (which vibrate in response to it before lighting up our brains, for lack of a better way to put it).

Air has a very low mass and can transmit sound over a wide band of frequencies, this makes air the most popular medium of the efficient propagation of sound.

The greater the mass of the objects in a room, the more the transmission of lower frequencies as opposed to high frequencies. This is why when sound is transmitted through the wall of an adjoining room, we tend to hear the lower frequencies better than the higher ones.

From the explanation above, we can see that soundproofing is actually dealing with lower frequencies, primarily.

Methods Of Soundproofing

One of the first steps to productive soundproofing is determining the source of the acoustic disturbance in the zone. It could be the thin walls or the inadequate doors or the inappropriate windows, or it could even be an intrusion from external mechanical sources.

Whatever the case may be, the success and the efficiency of soundproofing is dependent on the notable reduction of vibrations, which are the core tenets of sound energy. Therefore, the materials used are usually arranged in such a way to reduce vibrations.

Decoupling

Theoretically, the ultimate and what I might refer to as the best method of soundproofing is building a room inside a room. This method is called “decoupling”.

In this method, the structure of both rooms is made with very solid materials and in order to prevent sound from being propagated from one room to the other (as we know that solid mass is a medium for sound), the borders of these rooms must not be in contact with each other in any way.

The walls of the inner room are padded with sound absorbent materials and it is supported by small clips called “Whisperclips”. Read my article on sound reducing clips and resilient channel.

However, in all practical sense, building an anechoic room or a decoupling room is quite extreme when considering soundproof options for a classroom since all we want is a quieter environment for our students to focus in order to learn. Hence, a less intense method for the students can be adopted.

Noise pollution must be attacked from two angles; noise reduction and noise absorption. These aspects of soundproofing must be simultaneously addressed to ensure productive soundproofing.

How To Soundproof A Classroom

In my opinion, the soundproofing of a classroom can be done according to the different parts of the room

1. Soundproof the door

The door is the widest gateway in the room. Through it, any kind of noise pollution from external sources can filter through. The sound can be eliminated by using,

  • Door sweeps, which are put up under the door to close the gap between the floor and the end of the door. This method usually shows immediate results and is quite effective. As an alternative, you could use;
  • Door seals, which are installed around the boundaries of the door in order to prevent the filtering of noise completely from external sources.

Both door soundproofing methods are effective, and either can be used depending on preference.

You could also consider changing your door entirely from the hollow type, which acts as a poor sound absorbent and it allows noise to be propagated through the room from external sources.

The solid core door is better in this case because it decreases most of the noise pollution coming from an external source thereby preventing the propagation of sound through the room as a result of the solid door’s high sound absorbent capacity.

Also read, Best Ways To Soundproof A Door

2. Soundproof the windows

The windows are another gateway through which sound is let into the classroom from the outside, so I suggest the “Acoustic curtain”. This soundproofing curtain can be altered to fit the shape of the windows fitting the frame and structure.

You can also get any color of fabric that you choose. The effect is immediate and will drown out outside noise allowing the students concentration and focus.

Another alternative is the heavy soundproof curtains which curb sound propagation both ways, that is, it eliminates sounds from external sources and from within. It also prevents the students from being distracted by what is going on outside the windows and inhibiting those who would like to peep outside the class.

Also read: Ways To Soundproof Windows

3. Soundproof the floor

The Floor Blokker is a very effective solution for storied buildings. This helps to prevent noise from the footfalls of the students in the class above, or the scraping of the chair across the floor, or even throwing of heavy things on the floor, all of which are sources of distraction for the students during classes.

This soundproofing underlay is installed beneath the floor to curb any noise propagated from the floor above to the class just below. It is yet another way to enhance focus and concentration of both teachers and students in the class.

Read my article about a cheaper alternative.

Also read: Ways To Soundproof Floors

Reduce Echoes With Absorption panels

This method is particularly NOT for the elimination of noise from external sources. Read my definitive article on the ineffectiveness of foam as a soundproofing option but a good one for sound absorption.

It was made for absorbing the noise created by the scraping sounds of chairs across the floor or the incoherent babblings of the students themselves in the classroom, that is to say, that it was made to eliminate sound waves from the inside source.

With heavy set desks and almost empty spaces, echo and reverberation are inevitable. In very simple terms, an echo can be defined as a reflected sound which is bounced off of its surface, again and again, to be heard by its observer as a secondary sound (usually more than once).

Absorption panels (like these ones on Amazon) trap echo and reverberation when placed on the walls of the classroom in order to promote speech intelligibility and concentration.

These panels also help to get rid of background noise pollution which contributes to the rowdiness of the classroom. They are very durable and can be installed in a few minutes for educators who need things done in a matter of minutes.

As numerous sound waves bounce across solid materials in the room to reach the panels on the walls, the absorption panels absorb these waves using acoustical fiberglass and fabric thereby lulling the noise and preventing any further bouncing off of sound waves across the room.

For a less expensive solution, I would recommend the “Absorption foams” which are as effective as the absorption panels but cheaper.

Absorption foams are made of a lightweight material and they can be installed very quickly and easily, just like the absorption panels. It is also hung on the walls and held on to the wall by any standard-approved construction adhesive.

Like the more expensive panels, the absorption foam eliminates sound waves immediately they hit the walls thereby enhancing speech intelligibility, listening acuity and quality in the classrooms.

Final Thoughts On Soundproofing Classrooms

In conclusion, the soundproofing of classrooms can be done in different ways depending on the educator’s budget and preference. In any case, as far as the principle of the propagation of sound is understood and brought into consideration, soundproofing will be very effective and successful.

Educators are more willing to go the extra mile in enhancing the learning curve of their students by eliminating noise distractions, and promoting speech intelligibility, concentration, and focus of both the teachers and students. Personally, it is evident in the increase in the desire to know more about soundproofing in the educational sector.

This in itself goes beyond the principles of Physics. It doesn’t just bring hope to the future of the people, it also equips the young children with what it really takes to actually be our leaders of tomorrow. I hope this article was helpful for you.

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