Stairwell noise

Recommendation 73
Reduce the density of staircase traffic, employ robust constructions, reduce reverberation

Chapter (themes)
Architectural spaces (sound / noise and acoustics)

Because of
sensory sensitivity (to sound)

In order to
lessen or avoid noise.

As discussed rather extensively in the theme noise and acoustics, noise comprises one of the, if not the most important sensory challenge, which is particularly present in schools. This concerns children with normal hearing and of course more so children with more acute hearing and a peculiar interest in certain sounds, which occurred  respectively in about 49 and 37% of assessed autistic children. (See the Chinese study in the theme sound.)
A relatively large number of recommendations is concerned with noise-reduction, among which three in this chapter, Architectural spaces. Apart from this one about staircase noise also about interior noise and those about reverberation in the classroom.

Stairs can be a disruptive source of noise. Loose constructions, hollow steps, wood and metal can all cause clatter. Such noise is amplified if the stairwell has much reverberation and can be called a ‘noise space’.

We distinguish three measures against staircase noise.
The first one is to limit the intensity of staircase traffic. If a ground level school is not an option, the stairs should be wide. More effective is to have multiple stairs between floors; one going up and another down is recommended for more than one reason. (See the theme stairs and corridors and recommendation 61, also for the last suggestion.)

The second remedy in limiting noise is to include sufficient mass and stable attachment to an object which itself is sufficiently robust. A heavy concrete staircase, firmly attached to an outside wall, is the most silent. In case one of these possibilities isn’t present – mass, stable attachment or a robust anchoring – compensation can be created by paying more attention to the other elements.

Thirdly the reverberation in the stairwells needs to be very limited. This implies that ceilings and walls of the stairwell have to be sound-absorbent.