Acoustics, Education case study

St. Leonard’s Catholic School, Durham


BAM is currently designing a new three-storey teaching block on the site of the existing St. Leonard’s Catholic School in Durham.

The main school building dates to the 1970s and is to be demolished because of the presence of RAAC “crumbling concrete”. The school was one of only two secondary schools required to fully close after the DfE’s findings.

The new main building will be built on the site of the existing building. The existing Springwell Hall and Sixth Form buildings will be retained.


  • The school is sited next to a busy four-lane road on the outskirts of Durham.
  • The nearest noise sensitive receptors are close to the school, so noise break-out from school activities as well as building services plant noise must be considered carefully.
  • Springwell Hall, a former coal mine owner’s mansion, dates to 1859. The Sixth Form building also dates to the 1970s. Some internal remodelling works will take place in Springwell Hall, so these remodelled spaces must comply with the refurbishment criteria set out in BB93.


  • We did a noise survey at the site to determine the amount of noise break-in to the proposed building, providing an outline building envelope specification and ventilation strategy to meet guideline internal noise levels in accordance with BB93. This noise survey also determined the typical lowest background noise levels at the nearest noise sensitive receptors, from which we established building services plant noise limits to not exceed current levels.
  • We are working with the M&E team to meet plant noise limits to result in a low noise impact at the nearest noise sensitive receptors.
  • We are working with the design team to provide a BB93-compliant acoustic design in terms of noise transfer between teaching and learning spaces which takes into consideration the wide variety of (often conflicting) uses of a modern school.
  • We have done investigative benchmark acoustic testing in Springwell Hall to determine if the existing building fabric can meet the refurbishment requirements set out in BB93 to factor into our design.
  • We will do acoustic modelling of large spaces in the school to determine an appropriate amount of acoustic absorption to meet guideline reverberation times.