Construction noise management solutions can provide firms with a great opportunity to influence annoyance

Douglas Manvell

It’s becoming clear that reducing environmental noise exposure doesn’t automatically translate into reduced community annoyance. Non-acoustic factors, including unmet expectations, perceptions of transparency and poor community engagement, can amplify irritation.

To reduce annoyance, construction companies must balance construction benefits with impacts. Noise management solutions that both monitor noise and decrease annoyance magnifiers are crucial in helping to find this balance.

Non-acoustic annoyance factors

Because measuring noise and minimizing exposure has proven insufficient in reducing annoyance, sharing credible information with the community is critical. Trust, fairness, unaligned expectations, unjustified change and perceived inaction can all heighten displeasure.

It’s important to remember that exposure is objective and can be measured. Impact, however, is personal and not everyone reacts the same way to the same noise. By using a noise management system that enriches community engagement, construction companies can more openly and effectively communicate with site neighbours to reduce annoyance.

Noise monitoring vs. noise management

Noise monitoring provides an overview of measured noise. Monitoring is based on the collection of noise – and sometimes other data – to document sound levels. It can be supplemented by techniques to provide better extraction of specific sounds, but real-time availability of data isn’t exploited. Monitoring informs about past problems. It’s usually based on relatively simple legal limits rather than on the current situation. This means the community is negatively impacted before something can be done about it.

Noise management, however, enables operators to avoid problems, optimize production and capture trends that reflect what’s actually happening as well as community concerns. It manages environmental noise capacity by immediately responding to issues, reducing impact and building tolerance in the surrounding community.

Management involves both the collection of data and the utilization of it – in real time where possible. Noise and other data can be obtained, processed and disseminated to stakeholders to help manage environmental noise compliance and impact.

Management also enables operators to capture trends that reflect what’s currently happening. It aims to address issues before negative impact is felt to avoid stakeholder annoyance.

Environmental noise standards and modern technology

Most current environmental noise standards and legal requirements are based on noise monitoring principles and technology available 10 to 20 years ago. These older principles are embedded in standards and legislation and none are frequently updated.

There is a mismatch between what the majority of standards and legislation permit and what today’s technology can provide. Contemporary noise management systems enable users to better handle issues, reduce impact and build community tolerance.

Managing noise compliance increasingly includes real-time noise and weather monitoring, advanced assessment parameters, prediction comparisons, reporting, community engagement and more.

Modern noise management systems effectively and efficiently enable operators to prevent noise exceedances and enrich community engagement while complying with regulations.

Real-time online tools and alerts

Improvements in technology have helped to make real-time noise management a practical solution.

Suppliers providing a solutions view – rather than an instrument-based view – add greater value to construction projects. Integrated solutions enable construction companies to manage both their noise impact and community expectations.

Advantages of integrated online solutions include:

  • Continuous assessment 24/7
  • Immediate alerts and notifications
  • Automated compliance reporting
  • Quick root cause investigation
  • Easy remote access to data PCs or smartphones

A real-time noise management approach helps prevent breaches rather than just report on them after the fact.

Alerts provide immediate notification when noise levels exceed defined criteria, enabling an operator to quickly take action to mitigate community impact. By proactively preventing exceedances from occurring, alerts can help construction companies meet their regulatory obligations and positively affect community response.

Alerts also enable operators to predict potential problems that may happen in the future, allowing them to continue maintaining compliance and demonstrate community care.

Construction sites are often acoustically complex. The ability to listen to sound levels causing alerts is extremely useful when trying to determine if a loud event was caused by site activities or was from another sound source. By openly sharing data, community trust that a construction project is accurately reporting its noise increases.

Influencing through community engagement

Construction companies can grow their social license to operate by using noise management solutions that not only monitor noise 24/7, but also enrich community engagement.

Transparently communicating data helps align the public’s perceptions and expectations of construction noise. Improved knowledge and engagement builds community tolerance and diminishes non-acoustic factors driving annoyance.

Using a noise management solution that both reduces exposure and improves outreach provides construction companies with a great opportunity to influence annoyance.

Douglas Manvell is a product manager for Bruel & Kjaer