It is common for a school to offer its students breakfast or lunch. Many teaching establishments also have a cafeteria or restaurant. This is where students get time to be with their friends and to relax and enjoy social contact.
Large open areas encourage conversation at a distance, which results in people tending to raise their voices, trying to be heard over others. Sound breeds sound, creating a disturbing "cocktail of noise".
Hard surface materials create problematic sound amplification and sound propagation. The sound is transported a long way and so disturbs a large number of people.
Hard flooring creates noisy footsteps and scraping noises from chairs and tables.
Building codes and standards
UK regulations, Building Bulletin 93 (BB93), states that an unoccupied mid frequency (Tmf) reverberation time of <1.0 seconds must be achieved in these areas.
Swedish Standard 02 52 68 recommends a reverberation time of 0.5 or 0.6 seconds, depending on the selected quality level. This applies to normally furnished but unoccupied rooms. The above figure is the highest recommended value for the frequency range 250 - 4,000 Hz. At 125 Hz a value 20% higher is permitted.