Audio Visual Design Guidelines

Acoustics in Teaching Spaces

261 views November 22, 2018 November 19, 2019 aetm 0


The fundamental role for any teaching and learning space or meeting room is to facilitate communication of ideas and information to an audience. The design of our spaces and the systems within them must support this by providing an environment within which appropriately prepared materials can be heard and assimilated easily.

Room acoustic design which supports intelligible communication with all participants is fundamental to successful teaching.

Whilst AV technology is refreshed frequently, the acoustic qualities of an individual space usually remain consistent until the entire space is rebuilt. It is important to build new spaces that support speech intelligibility throughout their design life, and to evaluate spaces to determine when their acoustics require adaptation to meet new ways of working and learning. 

Well-designed acoustics are critical to the assimilation and retention of information delivered as spoken word or from recorded media in learning spaces. Designers should aim to provide an acoustic environment which enhances the listener’s experience, reducing the impacts of internal and external factors on the listening to or enjoyment of audio content. Technical managers should take an active role in the development of an organisations design standards and help other stakeholders appreciate the importance of good acoustics in space design. 

In most teaching and meeting spaces, the discussion of acoustics has two complementary elements: 

Physical acoustics deals with the properties of the room (and is described in this chapter) 

  • Physical acoustics are important regardless of whether there is any AV technology in a space. The architect and acoustic consultant must work together to deliver appropriate outcomes for each space.
  • The acoustic consultant on a project is generally commissioned for their advice on the physical acoustics of the space, the control of noise from adjacent spaces, mechanical and other systems and sometimes to provide guidance on the management of construction noise and vibration impacts.  Their scope will generally include calculations, modelling and advice on construction methods in order to achieve compliance with Australian/New Zealand standards, applicable educational design guidelines, and the organisation’s targets. It is vital that these considerations and appropriate standards are achieved whether or not an acoustic consultant is engaged.
  • Technical managers should engage with their facilities management teams to ensure the specific audiovisual performance criteria, appropriate standards and any organisation-specific requirements are included in their design and construction standards. It is these documents which are used to brief the design team, and information provided later may not be regarded as authoritative.
  • Technical managers should also engage with their teaching, learning and other key stakeholders to emphasise the importance of creating a suitable acoustic environment within which to communicate and share knowledge.

Electroacoustics concerns the electro-mechanical reproduction of sound (and is described in the next chapter – audio replay)

  • The electroacoustic design requires close collaboration between the AV designer, AV consultant, the architect and usually an experienced acoustic consultant. 
  • The solution will often be led by the designer of the room sound reinforcement systems, as it involves first-principles calculations and selection of active system components to achieve the target result. Scope may include electroacoustic modelling at key stages of the design, using the architectural design, accurate dimensions and surface properties. 
  • Electroacoustic modelling is rarely briefed when appointing project consultants. If desired, the scope of service should be clearly described to allow selection of an appropriately experienced team.

This chapter provides an understanding of acoustics to assist readers in understanding why some rooms work better than others, and to provide valuable input to the development of briefs for capital projects and refurbishments.

Please refer to the glossary at the end of this chapter for definitions of terms related to acoustics. 


Applicable standards

Standard Title
AS/NZS2107:2016 Acoustics – Recommended design sound levels and reverberation times for building interiors
AS2021 Acoustics – Aircraft noise intrusion – building siting and construction. 
IEC60268.16 Sound System Equipment part 16: Objective rating of speech intelligibility by speech transmission index


Relevant Stakeholders

The stakeholders commonly involved in physical acoustics on any construction project are:

End users

  • The audience and the presenters are the primary reason for any acoustic design

Facilities management and capital projects teams 

  • require finished spaces which are fit-for-purpose,
  • meet the appropriate national or international standards, 
  • fit within each organisation’s targets for capital and maintenance costs

Architect and services designers

  • all members of the design team require a clear brief
  • acoustic consultants are generally the experts providing the acoustic report
  • AV/electro-acoustic designers provide feedback to design team to support the audio system to meet performance criteria

Organisational AV technical and project managers

  • Need guidance on required minimum standards and best practices
  • Should be prominent in helping to brief specific acoustic performance requirements of each space type
  • Need to budget appropriately for the design and installation of electroacoustic systems

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