Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction


First Advisor

Lily M. Wang

Date of this Version


Document Type



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Architectural Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Lily M. Wang. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2017

Copyright 2017, Laura C. Brill


Students learn in occupied spaces, yet acoustical standards specify recommendations for unoccupied levels. While some studies have quantified the relationship between occupied and background noise levels in classrooms, their definitions of background noise level were often inconsistent with those recommended by the standards. The research presented in this thesis examines the relationship between occupied and unoccupied levels in 110 classrooms in two Midwestern school districts. Acoustic levels were logged for a total of six days in each classroom. Occupied and unoccupied levels were parsed from the logged data using k-means clustering, an unsupervised statistical learning technique. The results from this research suggest that there is a significant correlation between general occupied and unoccupied levels (r = 0.32, p < 0.05) and a significant correlation between instructional and ventilation levels (r = 0.58, p < 0.05) in the measured classrooms. The results also suggest that the average instructional level in the measured classrooms increases 0.4 dBA for every 1 dBA of ventilation noise.

Advisor: Lily M. Wang