Insights by Graham Parry on Health Impacts, Technological Innovations, and National Legislation in the UK 

Monitoring noise and vibration is a crucial aspect of urban planning and development. Graham Parry, a renowned expert in noise and vibration measurement, provides valuable insights into the significance of monitoring and discusses the advancements in technology, the protection of human health, and the lack of national legislation in the UK. 

For major construction and development projects, noise level restrictions may be imposed during the planning permission process. The negotiation of noise levels typically becomes a condition that developers must undertake with local authorities. In comparison with air quality measurement and assessment, which is established by legal standards, noise monitoring lacks a similar level of regulation. Organizations such as the Association of Noise Consultants (ANC) produce guidance documents on noise measurement, but regulation in the UK could be improved. 

 It’s always been the case that there’s a great deal more ambient air quality monitoring than there is noise monitoring. And the reason for that is because air quality levels are set in law and are a publicly recognised health hazard, whereas the health impacts of noise other than annoyance are not well understood by the public, says Graham Parry. 

Graham cites an example of a construction project where noise monitoring began in 2016 and is expected to continue until 2025. Such extensive monitoring aims to establish the project’s impact on noise levels and ensure compliance with agreed noise restrictions. 

 – In this project, monitoring started even before construction commenced because they needed to know the baseline in terms of noise in particular. But as far as legislation in respect of noise monitoring in the UK is concerned, there is none, so it doesn’t drive a requirement to monitor, says Graham. 

Another intriguing project involved housing constructed above an active underground mine. Vibrations generated from mining activities, barely noticeable when standing on the ground, would be amplified and transformed into rumbling noise inside the proposed buildings. Similar effects are observed in properties built over underground railway lines. This underscores the need for monitoring to assess the potential impact of vibrations and noise on nearby structures. 

The measurement data obtained from monitoring serves an important purpose in the design phase of buildings. Specifically, large-scale developments are often situated above older underground lines in dense urban areas like London. Graham emphasizes the importance of these measurements for creating properties that prevent vibrations from entering the properties or buildings and generating re-radiated noise. 

– People have an expectation not to have a rumbling noise coming into their building, especially luxury properties, Graham explains. 

The impact of noise on human health 

Air quality is Europe’s biggest environmental burden, and noise is second to it. Initial studies have focused on understanding when people become annoyed or complain about noise, leading to behavioral changes such as closing windows or increasing TV volume. However, the focus has shifted towards examining the health impacts of noise. 

Ensuring accurate noise mapping and public awareness is crucial regarding health impacts. Graham highlights the need to improve research on health impacts. It’s been proven that health effects occur even at night when people are asleep, manifesting as rapid eye movements and changes in heart rate, potentially affecting their lifespan over time. Noise monitoring should not solely rely on complaints but also consider the long-term health impacts which can otherwise occur from unreported sources of noise, such as traffic, railways, and aircraft. Conducting a comprehensive and ongoing longitudinal national noise incidence study and using secure and robust equipment would be beneficial in addressing these issues. 

– We’ve gone down the path of looking at the health impacts of noise in particular. And that’s the key that drives the potential for policy changes. I think it would be good if there were a national noise study and not just a snapshot in time once every ten years, says Graham. 

It’s not only noise consultants like Graham operating within the acoustic spectrum. Underwater acoustics perform research on the effects on mammals, fish, and seals from underwater explosions which are considered when building offshore wind turbines. 

As technology has progressed in other parts of society in the last decades, there have naturally been equally significant advancements in noise and vibration measurement technology. Graham highlights the convenience of modern devices, such as those offered by Sigicom, that can be deployed for extended periods, collecting reliable data without mains electricity concerns. 

– The beauty of some of Sigicom’s devices is the ability to put them in place and walk away for months, says Graham. 

Monitoring noise and vibration remains crucial for urban planners and developers to create harmonious and livable environments for communities worldwide. Potential impacts can be identified by measuring these factors, and appropriate good acoustic design interventions can be implemented to ensure residents’ comfort. 

In conclusion, the importance of monitoring noise and vibration in urban planning and development cannot be overstated. As Graham has emphasized, while there are legal standards and regulations in place for air quality measurement, the same level of regulation is lacking for noise monitoring in the UK. As technology continues to advance, the availability of modern devices that offer convenience and reliable data collection enables more effective and efficient monitoring processes. It is imperative that national noise studies, ongoing research on health impacts, and the establishment of robust guidelines and legislation be pursued to create healthier, more harmonious urban environments for all. 

 

Graham Parry is the president of the Association of Noise Consultants in the UK and has held several positions within the environmental monitoring sector. He is also a co-author of the Environmental Noise Measurement Guidelines.