What is a Noise Study and Why are Noise Studies Required?
Noise can be defined as ‘an unwanted or unpleasant sound that can cause disturbance, irritation, loss of concentration or productivity, and in extreme cases, health impacts.’
In the wider community environment, noise can become a significant issue for those residing in high noise areas. High residential noise levels can result in nuisance, irritation and elevated stress levels which in turn have been linked to increases in the risk of depression, psychological disorders and migraines. Other potential health impacts include hypertension and permanent hearing loss.
The negative effects of high noise levels don’t only have an impact on humans but can also extend to terrestrial and marine ecology. An increase in ambient noise levels can cause animal communication to be obscured which can, for example, have a major effect on reproduction. Animals that rely on sound to navigate such as bats can become disorientated. In the marine environment the operation of vessels can impact ecology, for example, whales can become disorientated resulting in them beaching themselves due to the interference in their natural sonar capabilities.
How do we Assess Noise?
‘Noise Studies’, or ‘Noise Impact Assessments’, can be used to ensure that negative impacts are reduced if not avoided altogether. A computer-based noise model is an extremely powerful tool that can be developed to assist in the assessment of noise. These noise models are setup within noise modelling software such as SoundPLAN.
What is Noise Modelling?
Noise models can be built to represent many different types of noise sources, from new roads to large scale industrial facilities. Sound maps or “noise contours” can then be generated to give a visual representation of predicted noise levels taking into account all noise contributors, local features, screening features, weather conditions, etc.
Noise models are particularly powerful in their ability to determine the relative difference between scenarios, for example, different road layouts can be studied, or perhaps the effectiveness of noise barriers within an industrial facility.
Noise model outputs can be compared to carefully selected and appropriate noise limits to determine whether resultant noise levels are within ‘acceptable’ limits anywhere within the modelling domain. Work area noise limits tend to be more lenient than environmental limits (applied outside of a facility boundaries) as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and restricted noise areas can be employed and enforced.
Noise modelling allows the environmental engineer and/or consultant to identify areas of concern and highlight these to the design team along with possible solutions. Substantial savings can be made if a problem can be identified and resolved during the planning and early design stages as opposed to having to correct the problem once a facility or development is in use. Adhering to well-established noise limits and guidelines will typically ensure noise will not be detrimental to human health and animal welfare, and may ensure that new developments do not meet heavy opposition from the local communities.
With an enviable portfolio of noise projects, WKC’s environmental engineers and consultants can confidently undertake noise modelling assessments for a wide range of applications. WKC have successfully completed noise studies within a wide range of industries including petrochemical, oil & gas, mining, renewables (wind farms), power, and transportation. At WKC we aim to offer more than just a basic assessment, but also use our vast experience to give practical advice to resolve any issues that we may identify.
As well as being a leading noise consultancy firm, WKC also act as the UK distributor of the world-renowned noise modelling product, SoundPLAN, giving us an unrivaled insight into the functioning and full power of the software’s capabilities.