It is known that noise pollution affects a large number of people, and is one of the most underrated environmental problems that negatively impacts human health, affecting us in both physiological and psychological ways, interfering with sleep, study, and communication.

According to the European Environment Agency (EEA) at least 110 million people in Europe are adversely affected by noise from busy roads alone, and management of urban acoustic environments has become an essential part of urban planning and environmental protection, calling for new approaches to noise management and control. Efforts are underway to help people escape noise pollution and access quiet areas to work, relax, and live a healthier life. In the guidelines on how to identify and preserve areas of good environmental noise quality, the EEA reports four complementary methods, and recommends their combined use: noise mapping, sound level measurements, soundscape approach, and expert assessments.

A study article by Francesco Aletta, PhD, and Jian Kang, PhD, from the University of Sheffield, which originally appeared in an October 2015 edition of Noise Mapping, was recently published in the January 2016 issue of DeGruyter, demonstrating the efficacy of a new approach through a case study in the United Kingdom.

In order to ‘triangulate’ all available information about the acoustic environment and the way it is perceived, the researchers employed noise, sound and soundscape maps together. They used noise maps to characterize the current as well as possible future scenarios related to unwanted noise sources. Sound maps were used in an ‘explorative’ stage to provide information on ‘desired’ sound sources. Soundscape maps provided an overall description of the holistic perception of the acoustic environment.

Using an urban renovation scheme in Brighton and Hove, England as a test site, the researchers concluded that the planned design intervention should aim at reducing the impact of road-traffic sources, while at the same time introducing more positive sounds, such as the sounds of people and nature, in order to make the sound environment more appropriate for the area.

Overall, the three sound maps together can lead to a more informed decision-making approach by city planners and policy-makers, providing effective sound planning tools and more detailed analysis about acoustic environments. The study offers a new perspective on noise management that shifts from the widespread quantitative model by offering a qualitative approach.

Sources: DeGruyter; Noise Mapping

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