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)