How 3D noise maps will assist urban design

How 3D noise maps will assist urban design

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An innovative new model gives a clear example on how city noise mapping provides valuable data for town planners and designers, in an Australia-first project based in Melbourne. 

BY HEIDI DAVOREN

A comprehensive 3D city noise map of Melbourne will be the first of its kind in Australia and a major resource for developers and property investors.

WSP Acoustics will be responsible for collating the data and building the map in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency of Victoria (EPA).

But what’s the point? This city noise map assessment is essentially designed to understand the health implications associated with urban noise. But this mapping innovation can also provide information that will benefit design and planning impacts.

Ben Hinze is an associate with WSP Acoustics and says the mapping will help capture the health ramifications of road, rail and industrial noise to the general population.

In time, this information may be used to help plan future residential developments throughout the city of Melbourne, particularly when it comes to draft changes for the Building Code of Australia for 2014.

So how exactly do you map noise?

“We’ve built a 3D model of Greater Melbourne that includes features such as buildings, bridges, existing noise barriers, buildings, areas of hard ground and so forth,” Hinze told me.

 

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3D façade noise levels. Copyright Landsat, DigitalGlobe, Sinclair Knight Merz & Fugro, 2013, Courtesy of Google

“We then populate the model with data that is provided by the EPA and other government bodies. Roads for example may include how many vehicles travel each day, what is the speed, the pavement type and how many heavy vehicles.

“With these kinds of larger projects, you’re dealing with literally terabytes of raw data. We are trying to understand what the ground is doing, what the height of the buildings are and extrapolating that kind of information out of billions of x/y/z points, for an area approximately 5600 square kilometres in size.

“We then completed a series of noise measurements near a random selection of road and rail lines which are then replicated in the noise model. We compared the calculated noise levels against what was measured for the day, evening and night time periods.

After the model is verified against physically measured data, the rest of the project will proceed with the confidence in what we are calculating provides a good reflection of the noise levels out in the real world.”

While some European countries have undertaken noise mapping, the Melbourne study will be the first of its kind in Australia.

“We’re calculating the noise level for every floor on every façade for the Greater Melbourne region. Calculation time takes approximately six weeks. From there we have the data to generate a series of noise contour maps.”

He expects the data will yield some common sense results, such as those residents close to major roads and railways will clearly have higher noise impacts than those further away.

“We’re not yet at the stage where we have results so it’s hard to say what it is likely to show outside of common sense scenarios.”

For developers and town planners, knowing the noise impacts at any given location is imperative in terms of design and the ability to factor in surrounding noise levels in order to limit any negative impact to residents.

As noise complaints are one of the major issues in residential areas ready access to a noise map would also be beneficial for property investors in determining where to buy.

Let’s hope the Melbourne study leads to similar data for our other capital cities. The completed map is expected to be finalised in 2014.

Heidi Davoren is a journalist with Australian Property Investor magazine, www.apimagazine.com.au