ANewR starts our story with Acoustics. Participating in acoustics projects since 2008, let’s explore the meaning of acoustics in the sustainability movement.
(1) What is the role of acoustics in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? How can acoustics contribute to sustainability?
When we talk about “Environment”, the first thing that comes to mind is the greenery vs the waste, the blue sky vs the air pollution, and the crystal-like water vs the mud-like water. The acoustics is invisible; still, it is not hidden—We do not see acoustics, but it does not mean it is not affecting us. We know that noise is bad for health. Noise can cause elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Noise can alter our immunity system too. It is common for us to experience sleep disturbance with significant problems. To the extreme, we would lose our hearings to a substantial noise level. In this way, it is no doubt to say acoustics is about our health and safety. Human beings must stay healthy to contribute to the economy and society.
While innovative acoustic development has inspired us a lot, the role of acoustics in SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) should not be purely about our health. Let’s take an example of one of the marvellous acoustic instruments, the Acoustic Camera. It helps us detect noise in a complex environment. In our exceptional case, an acoustic camera was used to detect the faulty rail wheels to avoid causing significant casualties to the public. The potential utilisation in preventing problems do us great help. Health and safety are social issues.
On the other hand, city planning also involves soundscape—the acoustic ecosystem can be designed through analysis of the big sound data and seamless integration with the city planners, architects, environmental consultants, landscape architects, and psychologists. The city design via big sound data analysis facilitates our achievement toward sustainable cities.
We do not see much mention of acoustics in any SDGs. However, the real-world practice shows us acoustics is part of the sustainable movement, helping people maintain health and safety (SDG 3) and develop sustainable, liveable cities (SDG 11) via the benefit of big sound data and innovative technology.
(2) What are the challenges facing the acousticians?
There is a quote, “If a craftsman wants to do good work, he must first sharpen his tools.” We do not witness noise by eyes. And noise is omnidirectional; it is hard for human ears to find noise direction. That is why we need tools to assist us in doing our job. Acousticians’ best handy tools are unquestionably additional pair of ears—sound level meter, noise compass, acoustic camera. These tools are innovative in their invention and highly useful too. Reliable tools improve our work efficiency. The experience of the acousticians also defines the work quality and accuracy. If you have experience in measuring noise, you will know what to be aware of—the surroundings, the background noise, the obstacles, and the position.
Acousticians tend to be very technical people. It can be challenging to explain to others what they find out from the equation. Conventionally, the noise model can be descriptive type, full of text and numbers.
(3) How shall we equip our young acousticians?
Young acousticians learn acoustics concepts and theory in school, practise noise measurement in their first job, and accumulate analytical skills over time. Nowadays, we are experiencing the metaverse—a virtual world network. Could we make good use of this incredible technology with acoustics? We find that acoustics are very traditional in the presentation in some countries. The report is wordy and full of technical data that non-specialists find impossible to understand on their read. If the acousticians contribute by participating in the development of acoustical 3-dimension (3D)/4-dimension (4D), acoustics has a new way to go to the future. In Asia, especially when talking about Hong Kong, they have been developing a 3D Environmental Assessment for over ten years. Noise is envisioned in a 3D/4D model for public engagement and education purposes. The visualisation brings the information inside out. It enhances the ability to decide on project commencement by revealing the noise mitigation effect before and after.
(4) Where can talents acquire such skills?
Universities and institutions are prone to support and succeed in passing down knowledge. They will help you master the fundamentals of acoustics. In contrast, the market development is diverse and fast. Talent’s experience also depends on the culture of the organisation they work for—whether the organisation is innovative or sticks to the conventional. Acousticians could learn more by expanding their horizons from the projects they handle.
As acousticians, their minds are full of acoustic equations and numbers. They even may not realise the actual impact of their calculations. Impressively, we had a project helping acousticians realise the result of acoustic products. We utilised 4D virtual reality to visualise and illustrate the effectiveness of the acoustic window product. It was an exciting project, seeing young professionals engaging so much in learning the acoustic window effectiveness.
(5) What can we do to create more positive impacts?
The rise of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) brings us together. We can share and express without boundary limitations, and we learn openly. We believe that incorporating environmental knowledge with another discipline (today, we talked about information technology) accelerates innovation in sustainability.
By: ANewR Consulting Limited, a digital environmental consultant headquartered in Hong Kong since 2008. Our expertise has grown into the context of air and water qualities, noise, green building, waste management, and remediation. With extensive know-how in environmental planning and assessment, feasibility study and policy review, ecological design, monitoring, and audit (EM&A), ANewR has matured to be a leading management consultancy. Standing in the digital transformation reign, ANewR has participated in various environmental digital projects – interactive 3D visualisation, immersive automation virtual environment, Virtual reality, automation system, and monitoring platforms.
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