The aim of this study is to gain more insight in the assessment of noise in open-plan study environments and to reveal correlations between noise disturbance experienced by students and the noise sources they perceive, the tasks they perform and the acoustic parameters of the open-plan study environment they work in. Data were collected in five open-plan study environments at universities in the Netherlands. A questionnaire was used to investigate student tasks, perceived sound sources and their perceived disturbance, and sound measurements were performed to determine the room acoustic parameters. This study shows that 38% of the surveyed students are disturbed by background noise in an open-plan study environment. Students are mostly disturbed by speech when performing complex cognitive tasks like studying for an exam, reading and writing. Significant but weak correlations were found between the room acoustic parameters and noise disturbance of students. Practitioner Summary: A field study was conducted to gain more insight in the assessment of noise in open-plan study environments at universities in the Netherlands. More than one third of the students was disturbed by noise. An interaction effect was found for task type, source type and room acoustic parameters.
Keywords: Open-plan study environment; acoustics; higher education; noise; tasks.