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)

The contemporary e-public engagement

Photos above: 3D Retrofitting of Noise Barrier on Long Tin Road and Ma Wang Road, Hong Kong. The upper one shows the mitigated noise effect, and the lower photo shows the unmitigated noise effect of a retrofitting barrier project. Video – Can you imagine the environmental impact in your mind? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31QtHAfV5nA

The contemporary e-governance facilitates information exchange with communicable, interactive platforms. Remarkably, the digital trend is on the way to provide user-friendly and digitised civil services for the project proponents and the general public, from the informational website, online registration program, to searchable open database. How do we utilize this digitalisation in environmental discipline? ANewR Consulting Limited has the solution.

The visualised, virtual reality (VR) illustration is incredibly practical for a metropolitan situation. One of the city’s striking models is Hong Kong’s three-dimensional (3D) retrofitting barrier impact digital visualisation – ANewR’s prime example of implementing digitalisation into environmental discipline to turn the historical practice perfect for the stakeholder engagement throughout the project.  

Conventionally, the environmental specialist has assessment results in a pile of reports in figures, tables, and drawings generated by acoustic software. Entering the digitalisation age, the 3D noise-level visualisation for a retrofitting barrier assessment project successfully brings out the calculated impact in the pragmatic project location. The proposed project’s assessment value is programmed to develop the 3D graphics and animations in a 3D VRML file format. The proportionate images of the buildings, the surroundings, and retrofitting barriers draw stakeholders’ actual environment for results review. It is clear to follow the computed noise impact in the mitigated and unmitigated scenarios through a few button clicks. In the 3D animation, the multi-coloured indication exhibits different noise levels, based on the Calculation of Road Traffic Noise. Incorporating environmental practitioners’ knowledge with innovative digital skills contributes to an understandable expression of the technical proposal. 

The move to digitalisation in environmental discipline is hitting two main targets. First, the visualisation reaches the aim of public consultation – stakeholder engagement through a digestible communication digital method. The general public, who is not assumed to be sufficiently proficient in retrieving the coordinate and matching charts of results and various documents to get a particular location point’s noise level, is now empowered to understand the project effect. Also, reviewing the calculation records used to be time-consuming and possibly prolonging the project time-span. Providing visualisation aid for project proponents and decision-makers improves project evaluation and study efficiency. 

Integrating data into one visualised illustration renews the way of communications. ICT contributes to data accessibility. It empowers diverse functions involved in the process. Harnessing the potentials of modern information and communication technologies (ICT) from start to continuous improvement in environmental project development unveils the right interpretation of development investment we face each day and afterward.

The idea of digital visualisation is not to discard the tradition; this enhances the generation’s practice to deliver coherent, more favorable results to all. The upcoming is a 4-dimensional generation, strengthening 3-D visual capability with sound effects to create an authentic learning journey. Partaking in the Environmental Protection Department of the HKSAR training project, ANewR has applied the fundamental knowledge of noise and acoustic window and balcony products in the built environment into digital tools to create the VR experience with sound effects. Visually being in the built environment with the acoustic products installed, the user is standing at one point wearing the VR headset and holding the controller to handle the acoustic products’ open or closure. The user audibly recognises the noise level differences in various scenarios; their acoustic expertise is now turning from imaging the data to a useful background experience. 

ANewR apprehends the visual digitalisation in noise impact with interactive animation. Next is how to apply an immersive, automatic virtual environment and the smart monitoring and assessment automation systems in environmental projects to engage stakeholders to a greater extent.

Video – Visualising environmental data using 3D/4D VR tech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ib8gO5B0Nc0

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)

Engagement concepts embedded in the workplace health and safety

Do you know? Your corporate planning matters to your corporate success. Attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) introduced by the United Nations is a new norm to recognise corporate’s sustainable achievements.

According to the International Labour Organisation, workplace health and safety falls into SDGs of Good Health, Decent Work, Economic Growth, and Peace and Justice. More than a slogan or a report, sustainability aspects are necessary to nurture to support the business. Employees remain as vital human capital in an organisation. Human capital is an intangible asset. International Labour Organisation has alerted us that “the health of workers is a major determinant of productivity” because of “a vicious circle of poor health” leading to “reduced working capacity, and low productivity”.

Can you imagine the potential consequences if you lose your workforce? That costs human lives, your corporate reputation, and that could mean you are breaching the regulations. Occupational health and safety is a global focus. Hong Kong, as a Global Metropolis, has the Occupational Safety and Health Ordinance in place. The workplace is identified as “places where employees work”, including factories, construction and offices and more. Workplace health and safety is everywhere for everyone.

So, do not miss the stakeholder engagement in the issue. The issue starts with the work system design, the work procedure, the working environment, and communications. Employers, occupiers, and employees work hand in hand to achieve zero accident and pleasant working conditions.

Planning is a long-term thing; employees’ commitments to OHS is a must-have to achieve the daily safe operation. Establish channels to communicate with your workforce by utilising reliable online and offline communication technologies, activities, and events to raise awareness. Enforce safety procedures. Distribute the lesson learnt. Educate your employees to be competent.

The new way to educating employees is now on the way to 4-dimensional and virtual reality. Virtual reality immerses your employees into the replicated environment that you want to engage them to alert, such as accidental scene; 4-dimensional furnishes your employees the sensation of creating an authentic atmosphere. The changing game has already been applied to work-related training – Environmental Protection Department’s acoustic window 4D VR training is a prime example in Hong Kong. Think about it for health and safety.

Photo above: news reporting about the use of 4D VR in staff training (https://hk.on.cc/hk/bkn/cnt/news/20190419/bkn-20190419021948831-0419_00822_001.html)

What does the future of work mean to you? Materialise in occupational health and safety and produce the working environment that matters.

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)