Designing Solutions for Urban Noise

Emily Badger, examines the efforts of researchers and engineers to design quieter cities, which will be necessary to overcome barriers to city living.

Apparently, excessive noise isn't just a problem for rural inhabitants. For those engaged in the issue of urban noise, such as Thomas Jones, the dean of Cal Poly's College of Architecture and Environmental Design, the sounds of the city are a serious challenge to increasing urban densities.

As Badger writes, "These aren't questions only for apartment-dwellers. Obnoxious city noise comes from all around us, moving between buildings and through windows and across congested roads. If we don't tame it, Jones worries, people will never willingly rearrange themselves into the denser living patterns environmentalists say we need."

And the challenge that engineers such as those working in global engineering firm Arup's Acoustics Group are facing is not to reduce all noise, but only certain offensive ones. "There are plenty of sounds that people like: birds singing, children playing, trees rustling at night. The real challenge is to baffle the noises people don't want to hear while amplifying the ones they do. With this conundrum comes myriad others: How do you keep noise out of an apartment while letting fresh air in? How do you adjust for the aural quirks of the human hear at different decibel levels?" writes Badger.

Full Story: The Science of Quieter Cities

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