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.

Why can’t we have a quiet place to live? Beyond a vast population on limited land, the original site for residential redevelopment already subjects to a high noise environment.

It is challenging to plan and coordinate the long-term housing strategy. In Hong Kong, housing development’s available sites are closed to the heavily trafficked roads and railways. In recent years, you should find individual housings are built around busy streets due to the land scarcity, which in turn, causing us to look for alternative potential redevelopment sites. Redevelopment – the action or process of developing something again or differently – may make use of another land type to fulfill the housing strategy. If, for example, the site formerly was a factory site, it is likely the area enduring heavy vehicle traffic. We love convenience, but housing developed in the present urban area will be unavoidably within the dense traffic area.

Photo above: Why we fail to have a quiet place to live, provided by Maurice Yeung, the charter member of East and South-East Asia Regional Chapter of Acoustical Society of America

Environmental professionals have known many noise mitigation measures – a setback, single aspect design, fins, etc. Still, about nine hundred thousand people in Hong Kong are enduring the inevitable traffic noise. Methods are discovered to protect the residents from traffic noise above 70dB(A) L10(1 hour). Innovative noise mitigation measures are much needed to be explored and developed to reduce the percentage of the population exposed to traffic noise. The percentage of population exposed to traffic noise is a useful comparable benchmark to appraise how well the cities are doing for noise mitigation.

What are the innovative mitigation measures? The creative standards require collaboration and partnership to develop sustainably.

Innovative noise mitigation design (INMD)
The research and implementation of the acoustic window are one of the prime examples of INMD. The acoustic window is a window type yielding a magical solution for a dilemma situation. In the past – and even now, it is still a common issue; an open window drawing the airflow also brings the house with noise. The acoustic window principle is “By arranging two glass panels parallel to each other with openings at alternative sides; traffic noise can be screened off while allowing natural ventilation simultaneously,” defined by the Environmental Protection Department. Acoustic windows have been installed in some recent public housing. The practicability of mounting the acoustic window in the existing housing and mitigating rail noise is under study.

Video 0 Interviewing noise control pioneer in Hong Kong featuring K K Iu : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6axMP-qP3g&t=16s

Low noise road surfacing (LNRS)
LNRS utilises absorbent materials to reduce tyre/road interaction noise or reducing tyre tread impact and shock noise. It is a common standard for highways. For local roads, the application will depend on the specific road condition.

Smart technologies
The name “smart technologies” is generic. Here for environmental protection is the application of virtual reality, big data and artificial intelligence, 3-dimension (3D) geographical information system (GIS) and 3-D photo-realistic model.

  • Virtual reality is a game-changer. In an environmental sense, it mimics the surroundings, and we can add our external idea into the simulated environment to virtually test the practicability. Thoroughly to learn the project environment, the authorities and stakeholders are effortlessly to recognise the potential externality before moving on to urban development.
  • Artificial intelligence enables an automated monitoring system supported by a technology platform that empowers authorised parties to operate through various IT devices, including smartphones and tablets. The system automatically signals the breaches and visually verifies the sources. All data is filed and immediately accessible for use. The system contributes substantial savings in human resources and costs for site monitoring works and enhances information distribution amongst project parties.
  • Law enforcement is to combat environmental crime effectively, random inspection and control are hardly adequate. Target enforcement action and strategy are set to surveillance the risk. The risk-based approach uses a webcam system, an uncrewed aerial vehicle to surveil, and a project website to release surveillance information.
  • Once the data is captured, these data are the lesson learned. It is essential to reposit them, reuse them as reference for future projects. Smart Environmental Assessment System is intelligently capable of learning from past environmental impact assessment (EIA) and performing EIA for projects and planning, analysing public comment, and proposing mitigation measures. Environmental constraints will be identified by retrieving the map previously derived from geospatial data. Automated EM&A checking system and integration of 5G and artificial intelligence technology heighten the enforcement measures. The use of 360 cameras and drones to continuously monitor the work in progress is reasonably applicable.
Video – What will our environmental service be like in the future? : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-1SnZ74thc&t=4s

Do not forget land planning, which is very important from the very beginning. The cradle-to-grave approach starts from design to implementation. The developers’ role falls onto considering the appropriate noise measures before commencing building work. The monitoring and management cause workload and burden. Therefore, the enforcement party should set up a checking mechanism to ensure the developers undertake the mitigation measures.

Video – What the experts tell us about noise control: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzzBBCRbfJE&t=4s

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.
(Website: https://anewr.com, LinkedIn: ANewR Consulting Group, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnpvmxnR9hbNxytSfBdfV8Q/videos)

An IoT public engagement

In last interview with Mr. KK Iu, we talked about the acoustic window mock-up model. The role we should not miss is the coordination and management. For the mock-up project this time, Mr. James Choi from ANewR Consulting Limited is the chief person to lead.

Video – Interviewing noise control pioneer in Hong Kong featuring K K Iu (Part 1): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJRHBjzGdTo)

J – Mr. James Choi from ANewR Consulting Limited

R: I looked at the demo. It is pretty impressive. What are the challenges when making it?

J: The tender had given us rooms to propose creative ideas. We were asked to set up merely a booth to introduce the acoustic window to the public. The challenge here was to pitch ANewR’s capability in environmental service and digitalisation while our proposal connects our client’s objective. The innovative and design thinking process began with a question – how might we remodel the demonstration to entice stakeholders to tour the booth? The client’s stakeholder was the general public for the project this time. Our next question was how to build a booth drawing the general public to glance moreover retain them at the booth. We wanted the audience to have fun while being informed. 

From a marketing point of view, Big Waster is the character that suits this project purpose well from an educational angle – the right image symbolizing our client. It is the funnies that children and adults will love about him. The animation with Big Waster conceives a living while informative presentation.

On the other hand, the way of bringing out the informative message is innovative digitally. Matching the world trend of digitalisation, we had chosen the interactive activity triggered by a sensor to let the participants control the mock-up acoustic window’s open and close only by a hand wave. More than that, we had added the sensation of sound and wind. The operation is simple – when the outer window and the acoustic window are wide open, the participants will hear the noise coming through the window, reaching seventy dB. If closing the exterior window, the acoustic window is in function effectively, and the participants can feel a reduction of noise level as well as air ventilation.

R: What is the role of ANewR in this project? 

J: As the main contractor of this mock-up project. ANewR had picked up the project management task, coordinating and liaising between the client and sub-contractors. By capitalising on digital development projects and extensive environmental knowledge over a decade, ANewR is delighted that our client has appreciated our creative proposal and the final exhibition. It relies on an excellent long-term collaboration in understanding the client’s perspective to ensure our deliverables are up to our client’s expectations. By harmonising the sound performance and visual production, the interactive collection ideally blends in the whole interior environment. We are scaling down the window to accommodate the exhibit area that aligns with the height of a human being to wave at the sensor camera to trigger the interactive game start, calibrating the noise level display to illustrate the dB corresponding to the open or close scenarios literally. The wind effect is to produce a more stimulating experience for those who engage at the booth. The Big Waster in the video is the lead to assist the visitors throughout the show. The acoustic window’s demonstration set enables the gamer to control the changing mode smartly by pose, QR code, and remote control. The remarkable example of Shek Mun Estate incubates the background scene to arouse the visitors’ attention to the compelling real-world case of Hong Kong.

From here, you may notice another challenge we face as the main contractor. We have much cross-stakeholder collaboration in this project. They are our client, the venue owner, the acoustic window supplier, technicians, marketing agency, scripts contributors, IoT specialist, logistic Company, users, last but not least, the acoustic consultant. The most unforgettable event during the set-up was to move the finished block to the venue. The booth is 2.4 meters by 1 meter, which did not fit in the elevator. What we could do is cut them down into three pieces and reinstate them into one. Thanks to each professional party’s collaboration, the acoustic window model booth has gracefully stood at the CIC–Zero Carbon Park from 5th October 2020.

The mock-up acoustic window model is open for a visit when the general public registers a tour with The CIC–Zero Carbon Park in Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong. 

Video – The making of the acoustic window booth for EPD in Hong Kong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2VpXKLYF0o

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.
(Website: https://anewr.com, LinkedIn: ANewR Consulting Group, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnpvmxnR9hbNxytSfBdfV8Q/videos)

We call you at the window sill – how the Father of Noise Control masters the acoustic industry

Video: Interviewing noise control pioneer in Hong Kong featuring K K Iu (Part 1): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJRHBjzGdTo)

Commuting is an indispensable part of our daily lives. We love to enjoy the convenience of road development. Simultaneously, we have to endure the full-of-traffic-noise situation. Hong Kong’s enjoy-and-endure environment has formed the unique Hong Kong home design, including many acoustic features that the public may overlook. In the innovation realm, thanks to the creative and practicable solutions, our city is competent in striking a balance from noise-reduction design through architecture, layout, positioning, and innovative building features to ensure our healthy and pleasant living environment. Hong Kong citizens no longer enjoy and endure the road conditions.

We are pleased to see the Hong Kong leadership in initiating the innovative acoustic window in the public housing and the professional acoustic window consultant in bringing the acoustic window to life. As the Father of Noise Control in the Great China Region, Mr. KK Iu, director of Supreme Acoustic, has the expertise in acoustic projects in the private and public sectors. It is our honour to have Mr. Iu here to share with us.

R – Ms. Rachel Tang from ANewR Consulting Limited

K – Mr. K K Iu, Director of Supreme Acoustics Research Ltd

R: Mr. Iu, you are respected as the Father of Noise Control in the Greater China region and have completed many prestigious projects for the Government, Utilities Companies, and many developers. You are always at the forefront of innovation and own many patents. What makes you such a person? How is your journey?

K: I have been in the acoustic industry for almost forty years. When I was a fresh graduate, I was unsure what I wanted to do, but I found acoustics fascinating, motivating me to learn more.

Noise control and acoustics were a very new and developing industry, which I expected I could grow myself in this career path. Time flies, and it is forty years.

If you ask me why I keep working in the acoustic industry, it is all because solving noise problems gives me satisfaction. I would say an acoustic specialist is a doctor alike. A doctor would find out what makes the patient sick. Translating to the acoustic theme, the acoustic specialist helps the clients identify the root cause of noise problems and solve them. 

Every noise problem is a challenge, and we shall continue to learn more advanced and innovative technologies. One of our Company’s core values is unfailing efforts for excellence, which can be proved by getting more than 20 patents.

It is worth noting that most of the projects that my Company handled are noise control projects. We are acoustic specialists providing total solutions to improve people’s quality of life. 

R: What are the main challenges in the whole acoustic windows movement?

K: The first challenge is to develop a testing standard for acoustic windows to suit the Hong Kong requirements. When the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) of HKSAR planned to promote acoustic windows ten years ago, there was no agreed testing standard for determining the noise reduction performance for acoustic windows in Hong Kong. We have recently worked with EPD to search for testing standards and methods adopted in other countries and cities. Again we are not able to identify the one which we can ultimately find suitable for Hong Kong. Hence we have to develop a unique one with EPD.

Based on ISO 16283 Part 3, EPD would require the testing to use several loudspeakers to form a line source instead of a single loudspeaker proposed in the testing standard. Testing would also require placing the line source at a different angle of sound incidence to the window instead of at 45 deg, as stated in the testing standard. There are also some other differences from the ISO 16282-3, and we have to conduct more testing to validate the most appropriate testing method for Hong Kong. Again, innovation is the key to get our work done for the people in Hong Kong and will also benefit the people in other cities.

Another challenge is the products itself. The requirement in noise reduction performance of acoustic windows is getting higher and higher. More innovative product development is required.

R: You have a very exciting space shuttle. Can you tell us a little bit more?

K: We have the largest accredited acoustic laboratory, including eight reverberation rooms, a silencer testing rig, and two space shuttles. The space shuttle sounds very mysterious. It is the acoustic window test facility which can improve the efficiency in conducting testing.

Ten years ago, window testing could only be begun after the property development was built up with a mock-up floor available. Testing could only be conducted at night time when there was no construction noise. The test results’ accuracy was not very high since it was difficult to control the noise source and test environment.

With the space shuttle, testing can be conducted in an off-site location and day-time. The space shuttle is built as a mock-up flat that can rotate and raise to different heights; testing can efficiently run for different incidence angles. Space Shuttle is also one of our patent designs. 

R: Recently, in HK, there is a mock-up model of the acoustic windows.

What is the primary aim of this? Who is the target audience?

K: There is always a good thing to spread. The mock-up acoustic window model is all about marketing the acoustic window concept to let more people understand this is an innovative and effective noise control installation to reduce traffic noise propagating into the domestic premises. The target audience is the general public whom we want to educate.

What we observed is that the general public does not know the acoustic windows. When they have a new home with an acoustic window, a great product to reduce the noise entering their home, the new homeowners may not appreciate its function and dismantle the acoustic windows. What a waste it is.

R: As the Hong Kong Institute of acoustics’ former president, what do you think about the acoustics industry’s future? How do you see the position of HK?

K: HKIOA has been established since 1994. Our membership grows from fifty members to now over five hundred members. I am delighted to see the growth of HKIOA, and the members can have chances to exchange knowledge and experience with members in other acoustic institutes worldwide.

I am confident in the acoustic market, full of opportunities in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and the rest of Asia. There is a very high demand for improvement in the quality of life.

R: Can you say a few words to people/students/graduates who would like to join the acoustics field?

K: There are tremendous things to discover in the acoustic industry, just like in the Universe. There are more and more to develop and to understand. The recent development in a new acoustic subject is Soundscape, which combines acoustic science with psychology. Sustainable development is all about the environment and human development. The graduates should have faith in career development in the acoustic area since this is the business to be sustainable.

Video: Interviewing noise control pioneer in Hong Kong featuring K K Iu (Part 2): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6axMP-qP3g

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.
(Website: https://anewr.com, LinkedIn: ANewR Consulting Group, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnpvmxnR9hbNxytSfBdfV8Q/videos)