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Acoustic comfort and performance are crucial when designing spaces that enhance the learning or working environment. In schools and offices, clear communication and focus is paramount, colleagues or classmates need to be heard but they also require periods of quiet to be able to concentrate on the work in-hand. Therefore, a balance needs to be struck. In this feature, Mat Hartley, Partitions Business Development Manager at interiors specialist, QIC Partitions, highlights the acoustic impact and all-round benefits of demountable partitions, which if utilised correctly are key to creating spaces that are collegiate and creative.

Easy to install and disassemble, transforming learning and work spaces takes no time at all with demountable partitions. Partition systems negate the need for costly refurbishment, a valued benefit for state-run schools and colleges where budgets are often tight and each penny must be accounted for. 

There is also a growing awareness in the commercial world of the value of demountable partitions. A happy workplace is a productive workplace. However, taking a one-size-fits-all approach to office design, for example, doesn’t always achieve the desired effect. That’s why demountable partitions are a gift for employers, as they can be used to create areas that cater for individual needs. 

Open plan offices can be very noisy, stressful places, leading to individuals feeling overwhelmed at times. Demountable partitions help cocoon staff from encroaching hustle and bustle, providing an oasis of solitude when working in peace and quiet is the preferred option. The element of individual choice when it comes to how and where employees like to work should not be underplayed. A government Health and Safety Executive report found that between 2022 and 2023, stress, depression or anxiety accounted for the majority of UK workplace absences due to work-related ill health. It equated to an average of 19.6 days lost per person – more than double the amount conceded to physical injury.

Making use of valuable space

Creating spaces that suit the individual and group dynamic is equally pertinent to schools. Particularly so, with School Census figures in England for 2021/22 revealing that nearly 1,800 Reception and Key Stage 1 classes exceeded the statutory limit of 30 pupils per class. The same report, published via NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union website, revealed that at Key Stage 2 level, more than 16% of Key Stage 2 pupils were taught in classes of 31 pupils or more. 

The higher the classroom number, the greater opportunity for noise and distraction to detract from the learning experience. A University of Portsmouth study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that pupils most at risk of school difficulty were also more likely to be annoyed and distracted by classroom noise. This is when a demountable partition’s portability comes into its own, enabling the rapid, effective creation of rooms within a room, and more focused tuition for individuals or smaller groups of students. But as well as being a highly effective space creator, a partition’s sleek-but-robust design means it is a space saver capable of allowing safe, non-intrusive storage.

Enhancing the Learning Experience

Several reports have been carried out into classroom speech intelligibility. Assessments drew a general consensus that poor acoustics and sonic interference negatively impacted children’s classroom hearing to varying degrees. Not surprisingly, it was found that pupils’ speech intelligibility increased the further back they sat from the teacher. 

A well-designed demountable partition system can offer up to 50% noise reduction. Such a capability facilitates the screening-out of disruptive sounds, allowing students to better-focus on the learning activities at hand. Therefore, demountable partitions could be a genuine game-changer for high intake schools where traditional classroom design is hindering teacher-pupil communication. 

Safety, of course, is of the highest importance in schools and workplaces. It’s why reconfiguring a classroom or office using demountable partitions is ideal: it’s an uncomplicated, less labour intensive alternative to full refurbishment. A number of demountable systems also carry fire-rated accreditation. This makes them an ideal fit for educational and commercial sites, and public sector spaces such as hospitals and healthcare settings. 

Sound sustainability with demountable partitions 

As well as the time and cost-saving aspect, transforming interior spaces with demountable partitions succeeds in respect of sustainability. Compared to full refurbishment, the only emissions generated in the use of light, easy-to-handle partition screens to create inspirational interior spaces, are those emitted during the transportation-to-site phase. Demountable partition projects significantly reduce waste, recycling, and the sourcing and manufacture of new building materials.

QIC has a stunning range of readily available single and double-glazed demountable partitions that are ideal for fit-out projects large and small. Their simple screw/unscrew assembly/disassembly makes light work of interior redesign, ensuring they can be used time and again to achieve the desired environment. Installed using metal stud to plasterboard walls, QIC demountable partitions’ offer excellent acoustic properties. They are an attractive sound barrier to nuisance noise, and a gateway to the creation of work and learning places that are as enjoyable and comfortable, as they are practical and productive.