July 30, 2010

Poor classroom acoustics impact learning for all children, but the effects are pronounced for those with hearing loss, speech or learning impairments, and those who learn English as a second language.  At a recent meeting, the Board unanimously voted to undertake rulemaking to address acoustics in classrooms by referencing a voluntary consensus standard that was developed with support from the Board.

The Board, which has been active in this subject for a number of years, first became involved in response to a petition from the parents of a child with a hearing loss urging action to ensure access to learning through good classroom acoustics.  In response, the Board supported the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) in establishing a new acoustical standard for classrooms.  More recently, the Board worked with ASA on revising and reformatting this standard, which has been accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  Consistent with long-standing recommendations for good practice in educational settings, the ANSI/ASA S12.60 Classroom Acoustics Standard sets specific criteria for maximum background noise and reverberation time in classrooms.  By itself, the standard is voluntary unless referenced by a state code, ordinance, or regulation.  A growing number of states, local jurisdictions, and boards of education have adopted the standard or implemented their own requirements or directives with similar criteria.

The Board worked with the International Code Council (ICC) to make the standard applicable to school construction and renovation through building codes.  In May, the Board submitted a proposal to the ICC to reference the standards in the next edition of the International Building Code, the lead model building code in the U.S., but was unsuccessful despite growing support among the codes community, design professionals, and trade associations.  Consequently, the Board is proceeding with rulemaking to add scoping provisions to its ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines that would apply the ANSI/ASA standard to classrooms that are newly constructed or significantly renovated.  The Board will gather information on cost impacts in preparation for a proposed rule that will be made available for public comment.  For further information, visit the classroom acoustics homepage or contact Marsh Mazz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.