ENVIRONMENTAL NOISE

   INFORMATION   

Environmental Noise (and Vibration) can over a multitude of areas, from Complaints and Compliance to Impact Assessments and Modelling.
The definition of 'noise' as 'unwanted sound' implies that the tolerance of an activity can depend on the perspective - one person's 'sound' is another person's noise in other words.
There are also some potentially significant health effects associated with long-term exposure to elevated noise levels.
 
Often environmental noise is a comparison of baseline conditions with the noise level of the activity in question e.g. impact assessment for new developments. Various national and international guidance assist the acoustician in a balanced assessment, however, while every effort is made for objective evaluation, there is often scope for interpretation.

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Nuisance


Your local authority might be able to help if the noise is from a commercial source and here is some useful information. Alternatively, it may be possible to take a noise action under Section 108 of the Environmental Protection Act – see here for more details.




Industrial Impact Assessment


BS 4142: This British Standard is frequently requested and used widely throughout the United Kingdom for environmental noise assessments.

The main purpose is to assess the likelihood of complaints arising from industrial noise impinging on existing or proposed residential developments. Local authorities will often request an environmental noise survey be performed in compliance with the parameters outlined in this standard.




Transportation


Check back here for more information on this topic or contact us with your enquiry.




References


IWEA 2019 annual report. Wind Energy Development Guidelines (WEDG06) Draft Wind Energy Development Guidelines (2019) Institute of Acoustics Good Practice Guides DCCAE: Department of Communication, Climate Change, and Environment's website has information on the future role for wind energy in Ireland and the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). Structural Health Monitoring https://www.science.org.au/curious/earth-environment/health-effects-environmental-noise-pollution




Health Effects


Exposure to prolonged or excessive noise has been shown to cause a range of health problems ranging from stress, poor concentration, productivity losses in the workplace, and communication difficulties and fatigue from lack of sleep, to more serious issues such as cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, tinnitus and hearing loss. In 2011 the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report titled ‘Burden of disease from environmental noise’. This study collated data from various large-scale epidemiological studies of environmental noise in Western Europe, collected over a 10-year period. The studies analysed environmental noise from planes, trains and vehicles, as well as other city sources, and then looked at links to health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, tinnitus, cognitive impairment in children, and annoyance. The WHO team used the information to calculate the disability-adjusted life-years or DALYs—basically the healthy years of life―lost to ‘unwanted’ human-induced dissonance. Their results might surprise you. They found that at least one million healthy years of life are lost each year in Europe alone due to noise pollution (and this figure does not include noise from industrial workplaces). The authors concluded that ‘there is overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse effects on the health of the population’ and ranked traffic noise second among environmental threats to public health (the first being air pollution). The authors also noted that while other forms of pollution are decreasing, noise pollution is increasing. Interestingly, it may be the sounds we aren’t even aware we’re hearing that are affecting us the most, in particular, those we ‘hear’ when we’re asleep. The human ear is extremely sensitive, and it never rests. So even when you sleep your ears are working, picking up and transmitting sounds that are filtered and interpreted by different parts of the brain. It’s a permanently open auditory channel. So, although you may not be aware of it, background noises of traffic, aircraft or music coming from a neighbour are still being processed, and your body is reacting to them in different ways via the nerves that travel to all parts of the body and the hormones released by the brain. The most obvious is interrupted sleep, with its flow-on effects of tiredness, impaired memory and creativity, impaired judgement and weakened psychomotor skills. Research has shown that people living near airports or busy roads have a higher incidence of headaches, take more sleeping pills and sedatives, are more prone to minor accidents, and are more likely to seek psychiatric treatment. But there is another, more serious outcome. Even if you don’t wake up, it appears that continual noise sets off the body’s acute stress response, which raises blood pressure and heart rate, potentially mobilising a state of hyperarousal. It is this response that can lead to cardiovascular disease and other health issues. A study undertaken by Dr Orfeu Buxton, a sleep expert at Harvard University, monitored the brain activity of healthy volunteers, who were played 10-second sound clips of different types of noise as they slept. The brainwaves of volunteers were found to spike in jagged, wake-like patterns of neural activity when each clip was played. This particular study was focusing on noises heard in a hospital environment—including talking, phones ringing, doors closing, machinery, toilets flushing, and city traffic, among others—but many of the sounds tested are ones we would also hear in an urban environment. Sound is an important and valuable part of everyday life. But when sound becomes noise, it can negatively affect our mental and physical health. The realities of modern life mean the noises created in our world are not going to suddenly fall silent. Instead, we need to recognise that noise pollution is a serious health concern worthy of our attention, and find realistic and sustainable ways to manage and reduce it—starting with banning those rubbish truck pickups in the middle of the night!




Construction


A construction noise assessment will likely be requested by your local authority during the planning stages of a new project, and will usually be performed in compliance with BS 5228. The main aim of a construction noise survey is to obtain an informed understanding of the likely levels of both noise and vibration arising from any proposed construction project. Noise and vibration may be excessive both in terms of the amount of noise that they generate, and the duration of proposed activities. Additionally, further monitoring of the project is often requested to ensure that the levels of noise do not fall outside of anticipated levels, or that hours of work (and therefore noise) do not occur outside of those specified by the construction noise assessment. What is BS 5228? This British Standard provides details concerning mitigation of noise and vibration arising from construction projects, ensuring they do not negatively impact on surrounding areas. Construction noise assessments may be requested by a planning permission or environmental health officer, to be certain that any proposed activities are acceptable under Section 61 of the Control of Pollution Act. The likelihood of receiving complaints from proposed activities is addressed under Section 60 of this legislation.




Commercial & Leisure


Many commercial activities have potential acoustic issues, some of which may be dealt with at the planning stage and some at design stage. Noise issues however may not manifest themselves until after a complaint is received. Environmental noise modelling may be needed to predict the impact that a new activity may have on nearby residents. Good acoustic design can help prevent noise breakout from an activity and also manage the noise within spaces. Hotels for instance are concerned about their clients’ experience but also on the impact events may have on the nearby community. Architectural acoustics therefore plays an important role but so to does environmental noise impact assessments. Similarly, sport stadiums, skateboard parks, playgrounds etc may all have an adverse impact on their communities which should be assessed at the planning stage. Gyms often operate within or beside residential buildings. They open early and Airborne and Impact noise/vibration needs careful control to prevent disturbance. Outdoor music events, while may not be regular occurrences, require specific noise control and monitoring schemes. Generally, various guidance like BS4142 exists to advsie on planning and controlling noise from all of the above however, great care should be taken that the incorrect guidance is not prescribed.




Wind Turbines


See our content on Wind Turbines for more information.