Most European countries have regulatory requirements or guidelines for reverberation time in classrooms which have the goal of enhancing speech intelligibility and reducing noise levels in schools. At the same time, school teachers suffer frequently from voice problems due to high vocal load experienced at work. With the aim of improving working conditions for teachers, this article presents guidelines for classroom acoustics design that meet simultaneously criteria of vocal comfort and speech intelligibility, which may be of use in future discussions for updating regulatory requirements in classroom acoustics. Two room acoustic parameters are shown relevant for a speaker: the voice support, linked to vocal effort, and the decay time derived from an oral-binaural impulse response, linked to vocal comfort. Theoretical prediction models for room-averaged values of these parameters are combined with a model of speech intelligibility based on the useful-to-detrimental ratio and empirical models of signal-to-noise ratio in classrooms in order to derive classroom acoustic guidelines, taking into account physical volume restrictions linked to the number of students present in a classroom. The recommended values of reverberation time in fully occupied classrooms for flexible teaching methods are between 0.45 s and 0.6 s (between 0.6 and 0.7 s in an unoccupied but furnished condition) for classrooms with less than 40 students and volumes below 210 m 3 . When designing larger classrooms, a dedicated acoustic study taking into account considerations about geometry, material and speaker/audience placements should be made, which can help to increase the voice support and reduce the vocal effort.
Acustica United With Acta Acustica, 2014, Vol 100, Issue 6, p. 1073-1089