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  • Writer's pictureDimitrios Doutsios

Noise mitigation in urban planning

Updated: Dec 7, 2021




Sirens, alarms, vehicle traffic noise, noises from adjacent homes, and construction work are all part of a typical city noise environment. This increased exposure to noise and noise pollution can cause a variety of health effects in city dwellers including annoyance, sleep disturbance, negative effects on the cardiovascular and metabolic system, as well as cognitive impairment in children. In fact, the risks of health and wellbeing caused by noise in cities are a growing concern among policy-makers and the public and, according to WHO, the cost of noise and air pollution accounts to an estimated €1 trillion every year.


It is obvious that noise takes its toll on humans, especially for the people who live in urban areas. But, what is noise and noise pollution? Noise is unwanted sound. Noise pollution is the regular exposure to elevated sound levels that may lead to adverse effects in humans or other living organisms.



More care is needed when planning cities and neighbourhoods. Urban planning needs to address the need of increased urbanization and the challenges of climate change. A sustainable urban design is one that considers social livelihood. Regulating and planning urban scenarios with a long run view to prevent harmful effects of noise on population would improve the social livelihood in cities. So, how can an acoustical consultant assist?


  • Setting up monitoring noise stations at agreed locations to record the baseline sound pressure levels and comparing them against WHO or other standards

  • Offering acoustic modelling and mapping

  • Producing noise policies in liaison with local and national councils

  • Being involved at the outset of urban planning schemes to promote effective noise mitigation measures such as protecting sensitive areas such as residential, hospitals, etc. from sources of noise

  • Liaising with other stakeholders to plan vehicle flows, reducing vehicle traffic speed, improving street pavement conditions, and introducing pedestrianized zones

  • Consulting at the start of building designs and liaise with architects to design and place carefully the space interior

  • Undertaking building envelope acoustic insulation assessments, especially for the most exposed facades


We would like to share with you an interesting study that compares sound levels in a city before and during the lockdowns enforced by the pandemic. The following audio footages are from New York City, USA.


Thursday afternoon on April 18th 2019 - corner of Lafayette and East Fourth Street in New York. A busy thoroughfare, with coffee shops, gyms, bus routes and hurried students walking between classes at N.Y.U.:




Thursday afternoon April 16th 2020 - corner of Lafayette and East Fourth Street in New York during pandemic. Low hum of wind and birds:



As recorded, sound A-weighted levels dropped by about five decibels.




In the second example the day time soundscape sounded more like a nigh time soundscape (NYT, 22/05/2020) and represents a much healthier environment. Would it not be a worthwhile target to try to design our cities to attain these acoustic standards?







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