A sound barrier is a structure that blocks noise from entering a specific area. It usually blocks road noise, construction noise, and railway noise. There are several factors that go into constructing sound barriers including topography, amount of road traffic, car speed, road geometry, micro-meteorology, and surface material.
Preventing noise pollution requires an understanding of sound. Sound can reach a specific point, diffract, bends at edges, and refract. Each one of these possibilities need to be accounted for when designing sound barriers. There are several types of noise barriers including masonry walls and earth berms. Walls are usually made of steel, concrete, and masonry. Other materials are used as well including wood, insulating wool, and plastics.
Concrete noise barriers are the most affordable type. It may cause noise problems in other areas, since concrete reflects sound. Absorptive barriers are more expensive, but they effectively absorb noise without reflecting.
The homes along Veterans Memorial Parkway near Dundas Street are protected from road noise by a berm. In October 2013, a vote was held to determine if the berm should be replaced with a noise-blocking wall. The local city council recommended strengthening the existing berm with more trees and soil. This might reduce noise pollution from the road, but it pales in comparison to how effective a wall would be. The decision was based on economics; it’s much cheaper to strengthen the berm than building a wall.
In areas where sound reflects, sound-dampening material is applied to the sound barrier. This absorbs sound and prevents any noise from reflecting back. The UK has sound limits on vehicles, tyres, and modified exhaust systems. Once an exhaust system has been inspected for environmental and safety standards, it can’t be modified. The police can stop drivers if they are producing too much noise.
There aren’t any limits on road noise. When new roads are built, nearby homes are usually tested to see how they are affected by the noise. If the sound levels are too high, the homeowners may qualify for insulation. The highway authority responds to all applications for insulation. Homeowners may also qualify for compensation if a ‘compulsory purchase’ of nearby lands leads to noise pollution.
There isn’t a legal limit on railway noise either. Aircraft noise is regulated at UK airports. There could be noise limits or flight restrictions. Usually, night time flights are the concern and some restrictions may be imposed by the airport. Aircraft flight paths are usually charted over sparsely populated areas. To block sound at homes, some airports install sound insulation at the home.
Poor urban planning might lead to noise pollution, especially when industrial and business ventures are constructed near residential areas. Noise pollution has been a problem in society for thousands of years, and the earliest documentation regarding noise pollution can be traced back to Ancient Rome.
There are disadvantages of installing noise barriers. The biggest is the appearance and design of the barrier. It might clash with the surrounding environment and draw attention away from local attractions. It might even cause people to move.
The cost of installing a sound barrier is another concern. Plus, there’s maintenance issues. If the sound barrier interferes with the local water drainage system, a new one might need to be designed to accommodate the effects.
The benefits of sound barriers outweigh the disadvantages. Stress reduction, hearing protection, and a reduction of blood pressure are all reasons to install a sound barrier. There will be less sleep disturbances, improved quality of outdoor life, and better communications.
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