Resource | 16.06.2023 | By Imran Mulla

4.4. Acoustic standards: legislation and guidance

Acoustic standards and guidance have been established to promote good listening conditions and accessible speech for everyone. The standards and guidance provide criteria for school acoustic design and access. 


BATOD classroom acoustics – recommended standards

Tmf is the average mid-frequency reverberation time of 500 Hz, 1 kHz, and 2 kHz

Maximum indoor ambient noise level


Maximum mid-frequency reverberation time

Tmf seconds

Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)

35 dBA


≤ 0.4 averaged from 125 Hz to 4 kHz


≤ 0.6 in every octave band in this range

20 dB across the frequency range 125 Hz to 750 Hz


15 dB across the frequency range 750 Hz to 4,000 Hz


Building Bulletin 93 (BB93)

The guidance for new build schools and classroom refurbishments in the UK are set out in BB93. Different performance standards are set out for learning spaces in primary and secondary schools and school-site maintained nursery settings, and enhanced acoustic criteria for deaf pupils and pupils with specific hearing and communication needs are also included.

BB93 states that school senior leaders “…should anticipate the needs of deaf and other disabled children as current and future users of the school”.


Table 1: BB93 acoustic performance standards


specifically for children with special hearing and communication needs


Maximum unoccupied ambient noise level

(Table 1)

Maximum mid-frequency reverberation time

Tmf seconds

(Table 6)






30 dB


≤ 0.4 averaged from 125 Hz to 4 kHz


≤ 0.6 in every octave band in this range






35 dB


≤ 0.4


Equality Act 2010/Disability Discrimination Act* 

Schools and local authorities have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that children and young people are not disadvantaged by a long-term disability.

*Disability Discrimination Act still applies in Northern Ireland

Acoustics of schools: a design guide 

Chapter 6: Acoustic design and equipment for pupils with ‘special hearing requirement; states that:

“Favourable acoustic conditions will benefit large numbers of pupils within mainstream schools who have special hearing requirements. These pupils include pupils:

  • with permanent hearing impairment
  • with speech, language and communication difficulties
  • whose first language is not English
  • with visual impairments
  • with fluctuating hearing impairments caused by conductive hearing loss
  • with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD)
  • with an auditory processing disorder or difficulty

Together, the number of pupils falling into one or more of these categories could conceivably be a significant proportion of every mainstream classroom. It is therefore important to consider every teaching and learning space as being one where there are pupils who have special hearing requirements.” (p.63)


Considerations for QToDs

  • Has the acoustic audit of learning spaces been completed?
  • Has the school considered if and how classroom acoustics could be improved over time to improve access to learning? If acoustics could be improved, has the school included this in their school accessibility plan?
  • Acoustic standards also apply to temporary buildings (see BB93).
  • Disability access fund (England) A fund for early years settings to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to improve access to early education for 3–4-year-olds who receive Disability Living Allowance.


Further information


MESHGuide ‘Acoustics

Acoustics of schools: A design guide (Institute of Acoustics and Association of Noise Consultants, 2015)


Next pages in section 4

4.5 Effects of poor acoustics

4.6 Improving room acoustics


Previous pages in section 4

4.1 Characteristics of sound sources and rooms

4.2 Room acoustics listening and speech intelligibility

4.3 Acoustic properties of a room


Other sections