An elementary school in Slatington, Pa., is benefiting from much improved classroom acoustics and indoor air quality (IAQ), following a recent renovation that featured products and technical expertise from CertainTeed Building Science. Surveyed a few months after the remodel, the faculty of Slatington Elementary School reported an 88 percent decrease in noise complaints, 67 percent more student engagement and 50 percent fewer incidents of students having trouble completing tasks.

One of the main objectives of the renovation was converting the 1970s-era school’s open-concept interior space into state-of-the art, new self-contained classrooms. The design of these classrooms demanded superior acoustical control, IAQ and thermal and visual comfort, as these factors are critical to improving student performance and teacher retention. CertainTeed's mission was to investigate the impact of installing different, high-performance acoustical ceiling panels and gypsum board from its innovative product lines in six of the classrooms. Products installed included: Symphony m mineral fiber ceiling panels (0.70 NRC), Symphony f fiberglass ceiling panels (0.95 NRC), SilentFX noise-reducing gypsum board, AirRenew M2Tech Indoor Air Quality gypsum board, Sustainable Insulation fiberglass partition batts and CertaSpray closed-cell polyurethane foam insulation.

“With CertainTeed as a leading manufacturer of wall and ceiling products, our Building Science team is well versed in grouping certain products into one system to achieve desired performance criteria,” said Stan Gatland, manager of building science technology for CertainTeed Corporation. “At Slatington Elementary School, we employed different gypsum board and ceiling panel combinations in each classroom to gauge their individual performances as a system. Then, to enhance the indoor air quality of the spaces, we incorporated our VOC-scavenging gypsum board. The sum of all of these parts created a significantly better learning environment.”

After the products were installed, control-variable acoustical tests compared the acoustical performance of the CertainTeed wall and ceiling products against the more basic, new perforated mineral fiber ceiling panels (0.55 NRC) and gypsum board installed throughout the rest of the school. These tests, done in accordance with ANSI S12.60-2010/Part 1, American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements and Guidelines for Schools, determined sound absorption, interior partition sound transmission levels and major sound flanking paths in each classroom. In the end, CertainTeed's “variable” classrooms came out on top. And, Slatington Elementary School has been very pleased with the positive change noticed after students occupied these classrooms.

“We've gotten very favorable results from the new classrooms—sound is contained, the spaces are very comfortable, indoor air quality has improved and allergy complaints have dropped,” said Greg Derr, director of support services for Northern Lehigh School District in Slatington. "CertainTeed’s acoustic ceiling panels and drywall were crucial to us achieving these results, and their design assistance has helped create a top-notch learning environment for our students in the new classrooms.”

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