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  • Writer's pictureDimitrios Doutsios

The impact of infrasound around us in our daily built environment

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

Sound is all around us in our daily habitats, heard and unheard, shaping our physical, psychological and mental abilities (Seth,2013). This white paper looks into how the buildings plays a major role in infrasound environment and how this affects our well-being.

Infrasound range is below 20 Hz. Humans cannot hear this, yet is perceived via the body (Jensenius, Wanderley, Godøy, & Leman, 2010). Its wavelength reaches 17m or more. This can cause mild effects like fatigue, lack of concentration, stomach disturbance, or may be more serious, according to frequency and intensity. Frequencies lower than 16 Hz causes unjustified fear, anxiety, or visual illusions. Frequencies below 7Hz are dangerous as they resonates with major body organs frequencies. These may disturb the brain and heart activity (Viršilas, 2009, and Persinger, 2013).

Machines, air tunnels, etc. and other natural sources in the environment cause infrasounds (Viršilas, 2009). Eman’s postdoctoral practical-led research proved that the built environment composes meticulous sounds through forms, materials, colours, etc. Like a musical symphony; sounds synchronise and play together a vibrational symphony (Blesser and Salter, 2006 and Hunt, 2018). Our bodies reflect this impact through our motions and behaviours (Jensenius, Wanderley, Godøy, & Leman, 2010). So, they cause health problems, psychological and social / cultural impacts. These are referred to as the psychophysics of a place (Blesser and Salter, 2006).

Further research by Eman Abdellatif showed the modern architectural urban environments have a negative effect when compared against the traditional built environment. Eman used accurate sound and vibration sensitive detectors and reading equipment to produce spectrograms. The illustration showed readings for three urban categories: traditional, contemporary and modern. The following images[i] illustrate spectrograms for three urban compositions in four different locations as shown in the coming figures:


Modern Urban environment with high-rise vertical metallic buildings and little vegetation

Figure 1: Yellow and red illustrations are in high density below the area of 20 Hz

Urban environment with low rise buildings and abundance of vegetation and water

Figure 2: Yellow and red illustrations are not found below the area of 20 Hz


Modern Urban environment with high-rise buildings, vertical, metallic

Figure 3: Yellow and red illustrations are found in high densities below the area of 20 Hz

Traditional, urban environment using natural materials like wood, bricks, and stones, surrounding a green backyard.

Figure 4: Yellow and red illustrations are not found below the area of 20 Hz


Traditional old buildings built with wood and stones with the absence of metal (yet with close contemporary buildings and cars).

Figure 5: Yellow and red illustrations are found at very small quantities below the area of 20 Hz

Pisa (Italy):

Traditional urban historical city, in the same conditions as it was built initially, no metal, stones, and wood, no cars and surrounded by city-wall.

Figure 6: Yellow and red illustrations are not found below the area of 20 Hz

Contemporary low rise, with intensive greenery and river.

Figure 7: Yellow and red illustrations are not found below the area of 20 Hz

Traditional neighborhood with court in the centre.

Figure 8: Yellow and red illustrations are not found below the area of 20 Hz

Readings for traditional, contemporary and modern compositions are displayed above. They relate to four main locations; Dubai, London, Cairo and Pisa. The data was collected through repetitive monitoring. Spectrograms display high infrasound emissions with red and yellow color illustration, below 20Hz. The intensity ranges from very low, indicated by the blueish / purple, to reddish, to bright orangish yellow color for high readings.

High rise buildings’ compositions, with metal frameworks, no greenery or water, vertical, and coloured in red, generate the most infrasound, hence influencing negatively human health, behavior and mood. Low rise modern composition with no exposed metal surfaces, vast greenery and water surroundings produce less infrasound emissions. Contemporary compositions, where the architecture shows a mix between architectural styles and materials had lower infrasounds. Traditional low rise compositions which contained no metal, had natural building materials like wood, stones, bricks, and were located within a courtyard had the lowest readings.

The referenced material and findings could be very useful in urban planning, human and ecological well-being, urban redevelopment / renewal and regeneration schemes.

All images, recordings and spectrograms have been taken by Eman Abdellatif References - Abdellatif, Eman (2013). -Abdellatif, Eman (2018). Abstraction, Music, Art, Emotions, Visualization and Creativity: a complex interconnected dynamic matrix for synergetic creative building process from education to implementation- CAUMME conference, Istanbul, Turkey 2018. - Blesser, Barry & Linda-Ruth Salter (2006). Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture. MIT press, London. England. - Hunt, Tim(2018). The Hippies Were Right: It's All about Vibrations, Man! A new theory of consciousness.In Scientific American, December 5, 2018. - Jensenius, A. R., Wanderley, M. M., Godøy, R. I., & Leman, M. (2010). Musical gestures: Concepts and methods in research. In R. I. Godøy & M. Leman (Eds.), Musical gestures: Sound, movement, and meaning (pp. 12–35). New York, NY, USA: Routledge. - Pallasma, Juhani (2008). The Eyes of The Skin-Architecture and Senses.TJ International LTD, Cornwall. Great Britain. -Persinger, Michael A.(2014). Infrasound, human health, and adaptation: an integrative overview of recondite hazards in a complex environment. In natural Hazards volume 70, pages 501–525 - Seth, Howard (2012). The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. Bloomsbury, USA. Su, Yi-Huang, 2016).Visual Tuning and Metrical Perception of Realistic Point-Light Dance Scientif. Reports- 7 March. 2016.

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