The importance of acoustic design for cognitive development

Considered design principles within school environments; including boarding facilities and classrooms, can positively affect student learning and teacher satisfaction as well as enhance the mental wellbeing of all its occupants.

There are many ways in which carpet can benefit an education facility and one of those is creating an acoustically sound environment which is conducive to learning in the classroom and creates a relaxing and calm living environment within boarding houses.

Schools are built for safety and cleanliness. Hard, reflective surfaces often line the hallways, classrooms, gymnasiums, auditoriums, offices, music rooms, cafeterias and more. As a result of these highly reflective textures, sound waves will bounce around all of these spaces for extended periods. As the background noise builds, the rooms in the school and boarding facilities become less functional, and the learning and living environments become compromised.

When young children are regularly exposed to levels of noise auditory processing functions can be compromised and this can interfere with communication, which in turn may develop speech or reading difficulties.

Children continue to develop their speech perception abilities until they reach their teens. Evidence has shown that when children learn in noisier classrooms, they have more difficulties understanding speech than those who learn in quieter settings.

In a study conducted by Cornell University in 1993, children exposed to noise in learning environments experienced trouble with word discrimination, as well as various cognitive developmental delays. In particular, writing and learning impairment dysgraphia is commonly associated with environmental stressors in the classroom.

Studies suggest that the evidence of the effects of noise on children’s cognition has grown stronger over recent years, with over 20 studies showing detrimental effects of noise on children’s memory and reading outcomes.

Acoustically sound environments are so important that the Department of Education sets out clear objectives and advice around the subject. One of the objectives of the Acoustic design of schools guide is to provide suitable indoor ambient noise levels to enable:

  • Clear communication of speech between teachers and students
  • Clear communication between students, and
  • Learning and study activities

The Equality Act 2010, which covers all areas of disability and types of discrimination discusses the issues of acoustics within schools, principally those relating to disabilities and where English is not the first language, in both cases clarity of speech is particularly important to assist comprehension.

Creating the optimum learning and living environments is an important design consideration for any education facility. With the use of carpet levels of concentration and comfort can be improved.

Acoustics in Boarding houses

Children have been identified as a group vulnerable to the effects of sleep disturbance. Prolonged sleep disturbance in children may result in tiredness, difficulties in focussing attention, increased irritability and lowered frustration tolerance.

High noise levels have also been known to damage the physical health of small children. Children from noisy residences often have a heart rate that is significantly higher (by 2 beats/min on average) than those of children from quieter homes.

Carpet has a unique ability to reduce sound impact levels, no other acoustical material performs the dual role of a floor covering and a versatile acoustical aid. Research suggests that a carpet is 10 times more efficient in reducing noise compared to other flooring options.

Carpet helps to create an acoustically sound environment within multi-dwelling buildings. Peaceful, non-echoey environments enhance living spaces and produce an atmosphere which is conducive to study and relaxation, especially for those students with additional needs. The acoustics within student accommodation has to be closely monitored and meet the requirements of part E of the Building Regulations. Carpet can naturally achieve more than a 28-decibel reduction in transmitted impact noise and will help you achieve such standards.

Carpets also have many other benefits for the learning environment:

1. Combats leg fatigue & creates zonal and comfortable learning areas

Carpets can be a useful way of creating flexible learning spaces, making it comfortable for students and teachers to sit, stand and even lie down on the floor. With many teachers standing for a large proportion of their time carpet also increases underfoot comfort and reduces muscle fatigue. In a survey carried out in 2001, the majority of public school teachers surveyed said that they preferred carpets for their comfort, noise reduction and safety benefits.

During the primary years, many students spend much greater time sat on the floor and the warmth and comfort of a soft flooring finish can provide many benefits.

2. Provides thermal resistance

Carpets, because of their fibrous construction, trap a layer of air close to the floor. Air is an excellent thermal insulator and consequently increases the thermal insulation of a surface. Carpet is therefore perceived as being warmer and providing more comfort.

3. Reduces glare

Carpet also offers a glare-free surface which helps to reduce reflection and eye strain.

Benefits of a danfloor carpet

danfloor recommends the installation of their nylon range of carpets which includes the Evolution and Economix collections. These ranges help to achieve all the above benefits and provide the following:

  • Class 33 heavy-use certification, the highest wear rating a carpet can receive
  • Antimicrobial yarn treatment provides a 4 log reduction (99.99%) in harmful bacterial, including those that cause MRSA and E-coli
  • Impervious membrane preventing spilt liquids from reaching the subfloor
  • Easy to clean, and soil and stain-resistant yarn.
  • Up to 15 years’ wear warranty
  • A and A+ Environmental BRE certification

For more information and to order samples visit


Beth Schapiro & Associates (2001) “National Survey of Public School Teachers”



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