The committee responsible for updating the International Code Council's A117.1 Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities standards has formally adopted an amendment establishing a classroom acoustics standard. ASHA led this effort beginning several years ago and has worked closely with committee members to secure its adoption.
The A117.1 Committee is still reviewing other proposed changes to other sections of the building code, but has informed ASHA that the classroom acoustics standard will be part of the next edition of the standard when it is published, which is expected to occur in 2016.
The A117.1 building standard encapsulates accessibility design features for buildings and facilities, including schools. Typical A117.1 codes include wheelchair ramps, signage, building and room accessibility, and counter top heights, but—until now—have been silent on noise and reverberation.
ASHA has worked with the developers of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) classroom acoustics standard to convert that standard into an acceptable building code format. ASHA also worked closely with staff from Armstrong Industries, a leading building material manufacturer, to address concerns raised about the proposal from building code officials. Finally, ASHA worked with the United States Access Board—which is jointly tasked with the U.S. Department of Justice to regulate the American with Disabilities Act—in crafting and passing the code proposal.
Essentially, the new classroom acoustics building code identifies the reverberation rates for various sizes of occupied and unoccupied classrooms. Once state and local building code agencies adopt the A117.1 code, which is likely, all new school construction projects in those jurisdictions will have to comply with this standard.
Children, especially young children, who may have temporary or permanent hearing loss are greatly affected by learning spaces that have poor acoustics. Children with other disabilities, such as ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism, can be affected by a room's acoustics. To learn more about classroom acoustics, visit ASHA Practice Portal on the subject.
For more information, contact Neil Snyder, ASHA's director of federal advocacy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5614.