Within learning environments, effective communication is important to the success of the students, faculty, and staff. Additionally, studies have shown there is a direct correlation between classroom noise levels and student test scores. For these reasons, acoustics and noise control should be of paramount importance for schools. Noise from HVAC systems, reverberant buildup from hard surfaces, exterior sounds, and activities in adjacent rooms often lead to distracted students, poor speech comprehension, and teacher vocal strain.

This coupled with the design trend in schools moving toward open-plan classrooms and flexible learning spaces, students in these educational buildings are left vulnerable to noise, poor speech intelligibility, and distracting environments if good acoustic design is not included. These spaces can be extra challenging for students with attention deficit, ESL, or permanent hearing loss. Students can also have temporary hearing loss due to common cold, allergies, ear infections, etc.

The WELL Building Standard also states noise is a source of stress that affects the cardiovascular, endocrine, and nervous systems. There are WELL credits for acoustic design to help improve building occupant comfort, well-being, and productivity. LEED v4 has also raised the bar encouraging higher performing buildings, including schools, and thusly imposes stricter acoustics requirements for IEQp3. Previously, the Acoustics Performance Credit was only available for Schools and Healthcare, now LEED v4 IEQc9 is available for many project types.

This presentation will address the basic definitions and concepts behind acoustical criteria in the LEED and WELL rating systems. More detail regarding room acoustics, sound isolation, and HVAC noise will be presented through a case study about a local high school. Throughout the presentation, we will address the current trends in school design that affect educational environments and the recommended acoustical solutions.


  1. Define key terms and acoustical design concepts associated with LEED v4 IEQp3 and IEQc9.
  2. Discuss current trends in school design and the impact on effective communication.
  3. Identify available solutions to improve sound isolation.
  4. Recognize the positive impact the inclusion of acoustical elements can have on the success of students and staff.



K12 1030



AIA LU | HSW Approved






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