Environmental Noise Measurement

If you read my post about indoor noise, you know we get into some environmental topics that differ from the traditional asbestos, lead, and mold only problems that plague building owners and occupants. Talking about indoor noise is one thing, but what about noise that most of the time is out of our control – environmental noise? And how do we measure environmental noise?
Usually we may focus on construction related noise or other occupational noise exposures. And even if these questions relate to so called short term noise events (hopefully nearby construction doesn’t drag out too long, but it can), environmental noise, and environmental noise measurement (and how to evaluate the results) can be pretty important.
Noise from outside – airplanes, road noise, lawnmowers, you name it – can affect our enjoyment and comfort in indoor environments.
My poor parents. In case you didn’t know, back in my youth, I played in high school and college band. Those of you who know me won’t be surprised to learn I played the drums. My parents put up with it, and looking back, I’m not sure how. And I can remember plenty of days and evenings where the drumline marched around, banging away, right down the street. I can only imagine how happy the residents were to have moved so close to the university. Good choice.
But you’ll be happy to know that I’ve received some payback over the years. My former neighborhood contained some fireworks enthusiasts around the corner. And I’m not talking about casual fireworks lovers. There were a couple of years where they made their own fireworks. Strong enough to rattle my windows from 200 feet away. That would’ve been awesome when I was young and didn’t have kids. But trying to get kids to sleep when it sounds like a war zone outside isn’t the easiest (or most pleasant) task.
Those things aside, there are some areas that are just noisy. But what’s a good amount of noise, or what’s too much? In most cases, that’s a matter of preference, but for some developers, they may have to follow local, state, and federal guidelines. Sometimes those guidelines require assessment when trying to select sites for development. And that may involve FAA/HUD assessment guidelines.
You can either go old school and use contour maps (not too many people know what those are any more) and linear interpolation (even less people know how to do that) to assess a site for environmental noise, or you may need to have someone perform environmental noise measurements.
So we got to do some of this recently. I kind of like this because it gives me an excuse to leave the office, I get to carry around some gadgets, and I get to leave the office.

he’s too cool to be affected by indoor noise, but I bet he’d recommend environmental noise measurement

Here’s a shot of the field instrument:
kind of low key

kind of low key

just wanted to show off my car

just wanted to show off my car

For this study, we deployed the device for 24+ hours, logged the data, and later evaluated the stored information. More on that next time.
How will this issue affect site selection, design and construction? Or will they? I say yes, and as architects, engineers, contractors, and building owners/operators, we need to prepare to meet these challenges head on. So in addition to environmental site assessments, we may have to consider other environmental testing, such as environmental noise monitoring, as screening criteria for determining if otherwise perfect sites really are suitable.
How do you approach these issues? I’d love to hear or read about your stories, and with your permission, share the best ones in a follow up blog post. I’m guessing it’s hard to work when you’ve got both hands pressed over your ears.
Stay noisy, my friends.