Roads are noisy. Bigger roads are even noisier. Before the city builds or expands a road near your house, you might want to know what the extra cars are going to do to your peaceful environment before you decide to, say, fight the construction.
A new tool lets planners listen to the sounds a proposed road will make, before it’s even built. These software models improve on current noise maps, which are exactly what they sound like–color-coded images that show where noise will occur. These maps aren’t particularly useful, though. There’s a big difference between seeing a picture, and hearing the actual sounds for yourself.
“It’s difficult to envisage what the noise will really be like,” Erlend Viggen, of Norwegian research group SINTEF ICT, told Gemini News. “It’s much better to generate an artificial noise that people can listen to before construction goes ahead.”
The new tool, called MAUS, uses real recordings of cars. It then takes these sounds and bounces them around a computer-modeled environment consisting of both existing buildings and planned buildings. By wearing a pair of headphones, anyone can listen and hear the noise impact of any construction.
The most obvious use is in road planning, to see how building a new road might affect local residents, for instance, but there are other uses. Architects could hear how a new building might reflect existing road noise, and city planners can check the efficacy of new noise-shielding wall, for example, and move it around in software to get the placement just right.
“It’s also possible that they might be interested in letting residents listen to different audio simulations,” says Viggen, “so that they can have their say about which scenario seems to be the least troublesome. In this way it may be possible to avoid conflicts and expensive, subsequent modification work.”
It’s not just road noise either. Construction noise, new airport runways, anything that pollutes the environment with sound could be modeled easily, before any mistakes are made in more permanent bricks or asphalt. It probably won’t make that construction site across the street any less annoying, though, but eventually the ambient noise pollution in our cities could be reduced. And that’s a good thing, because noise pollution is killing us.