Environmental Noise

Managing noise sources and balancing competing needs to create acceptable acoustic environments

When sound is at odds with its context, it can be harmful. In a word, sound becomes noise.

Noise monitor beside helicopter

Managing noise means understanding three things: the sound source, the receptor—which is a space used by humans, animals or machines—and the path between them.

Sound sources can become a problem in the environment for several reasons. Excess sound can spark complaints from neighbors or employees, which can escalate into legal battles. Changes in land use can prompt a regulatory reassessment, especially if the new arrangements change the relationship of source and receiver. Sound (or sometimes vibration) can cause sensitive machines to work poorly or need extra maintenance. Wildlife populations can be disrupted as noise or vibration affects behavior.

Our service

We help you understand and manage sound and vibration sources within your regulatory and community context. We’re experts at predicting, modeling, measuring and interpreting sound in the environment, and we’re deeply familiar with the complex regulations that govern it. We have the in-depth expertise, judgment and insight to find the most elegant and efficient solution—or to find a solution where it looks like there wasn’t one.

We’ve worked with noise and vibration sources large and small, from many sectors, such as mining, energy, construction, transportation, medical and commercial, in many community contexts. We understand how needs differ depending on the receptor space (e.g., workplace, residence, daycare, school, place of worship or culturally important space) or wildlife population (e.g., caribou, birds or whales). And we have an exceptionally strong understanding of how to navigate the regulatory landscape and have advised government agencies in the development of current guidelines in certain regions.

Our work starts with defining the character and key properties of your sound source. In particular, we specialize in separating the contributions of multiple sources whose effects may be cumulative. This step determines whether compliance is an issue and, if so, where effort should be focused.

If your sound sources need control, our next step is to look at the equipment itself. The best way to control noise is to limit the generation of sound. Often, we also need to control sound at some intermediary point, so we examine the path traveled by the sound or vibration. This is where we draw on our world-leading expertise in weather and climate: Atmospheric conditions are key to the transmission of sound. We look for ways to modify the transmission path; here we also draw on our understanding of your industry and our resources in building engineering.

At this point, we may use the computer models and measurement strategies established during initial investigations to fine-tune a solution. We have developed a prediction and assessment methodology that is more comprehensive than many other approaches but ultimately delivers better accuracy. This approach is highly regarded by regulatory authorities. These models are sophisticated, but the phenomena are complex and sometimes can’t be modeled fully. That’s why our professional judgment is key to interpreting your modeling results correctly.

Real-time measurement can also be critical to successful noise mitigation and community relations, so we’ve developed our own prediction and real-time monitoring system that we can customize to your needs. We are able to predict likely noise impacts in advance of the development and advise on noise mitigation methods. The mitigation often involves the detailed design of industrial buildings and noise control modifications, to reduce the noise impact on occupants and the surrounding community. We work closely with construction contractors and manufacturing facilities to assist them in managing out of hours works in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Typical scenarios

Environmental standards
  • Sound-level limits for an industrial development
  • Environmental impact of a large infrastructure project, such as wind farms
  • Protection of wildlife or traditional use lands
Land use changes
  • Development of residences in an industrial area, or vice versa, impinging on a regulatory buffer zone
  • Development of major transportation routes
  • Development of new activities, e.g., tractor-trailer deliveries to a new supermarket in a residential area
  • Concern for sound mitigation as part of good design and community responsiveness
  • Complaints by neighbors, e.g., about a pumping station or concert venue

 Typical noise sources

  • Alert devices (horns/back-up alarms)
  • Amusement parks
  • Blasting
  • Concert venues
  • Construction and tunneling activity
  • Cruise ship horns
  • Dog kennels
  • Industrial operations
    • Manufacturing
    • Resource extraction
    • Upstream and midstream oil & gas
    • Power generation (conventional & renewable)
    • Pollution control devices
    • Ventilation fans
  • Transportation
    • Aircraft
    • Highways
    • Trains
    • Shipping (ports)
  • Motocross tracks
  • Occupational noise
  • Power tools
  • Shooting ranges