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The Sound of Construction & How Technology Can Help

November 3, 2015 | 3 min read

When a new construction project begins, commercial and residential neighbors are always concerned about the noise and hassles that it will bring. But what if you could accurately anticipate that noise and take steps to minimize the intrusive nature of building?

Researchers at SINTEF, headquartered in Norway, have begun researching noise simulation tools that can generate noises similar to those that would result from a new road or construction project. Projected sound maps are already available for this purpose, but don’t provide tenants and residents with the type of tangible estimates that can help them make important business and life decisions.

Not only useful for decision-making, noise simulators can prevent foreseeable health risks in affected areas.  In Norway, statistics show that traffic-related noise is responsible for around 150 cardiovascular deaths each year.

How Noise Simulators Work

In this particular research study, researchers made recordings on microphones placed onto the front and back of cars traveling at speeds of 30-80 kilometers per hour.

“If you were standing here as the car passes by, the sound the car makes would change from the time you first hear it to the time it disappears,” said Erlend Viggen of SINTEF. “We’ve indicated the different directions that the sound takes from the road to the listener using red lines, which we call sound paths. These are drawn into the model together with other lines indicating situations where sound is reflected and refracted due to the presence of adjacent buildings.”

Ways to Reduce Construction Noise

With better knowledge of how communities will be impacted by construction and traffic noise, engineers can develop solutions to reducing those risks from the very beginning. These are some of the most proven ways to reduce construction noise.

  • Noise screens
  • Earth bank construction
  • Traffic restrictions of speed and access
  • Job site maintenance
  • Equipment upgrades
  • Strategic work time scheduling

You can learn more about the common causes and practical solutions of construction noise in the U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration Construction Noise Handbook and the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America’s “Controlling Noise on Construction Sites” publication.

Broad Applications

Not only can this technology aid the construction and real estate industries, but it also has lots of other potential applications. Concert venues, churches, and public transportation stations rely upon acoustics to deliver messages and sounds to their audiences. These types of buildings and structures could benefit from noise simulation technology by anticipating potential sound issues and correcting them before construction even begins. Roads are generating a lot of noise, not only in Norway but in urban areas all over the world. Construction work zones do as well, and often for a period of several years.

“We don’t really know how this technology will be used in practice”, says Viggen. “One idea is that the authorities may be able to conduct thorough tests to compare alternative noise-reducing measures before a final decision is taken. It’s also possible that they might be interested in letting residents listen to different audio simulations so that they can have their say about which scenario seems to be the least troublesome. In this way it may be possible to avoid conflicts and expensive, subsequent modification work”, says Viggen, who also insists that the tool will never be made openly available to the general public.

Photo credit: Dominic Meily and Jason Eppink via Flickr

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