Soundscapes and human restoration in green urban areas
Irene van Kamp, (email@example.com)
Elise van Kempen,
National Institute for Public Health and the Environment
Pobox 1 Postvak 10
3720 BA BILTHOVEN
Popular version of paper in session 2aNSa, “Soundscapes and human restoration in green urban areas”
Presented Tuesday morning, May 19, 2015, 9:35 AM, Commonwealth 1
169th ASA Meeting, Pittsburgh
Worldwide there is a revival of interest in the positive effect of landscapes, green and blue space, open countryside on human well-being, quality of life, and health especially for urban dwellers. However, most studies do not account for the influence of the acoustic environment in these spaces both in a negative and positive way. One of the few studies in the field, which was done by Kang and Zhang (2010) identified relaxation, communication, dynamics and spatiality as the key factors in the evaluation of urban soundscapes. Remarkable is their finding that the general public and urban designers clearly value public space very different. The latter had a much stronger preference for natural sounds and green spaces than the lay-observers. Do we as professionals tend to exaggerate the value of green and what characteristics of urban green space are key to health, wellbeing and restoration? And what role does the acoustic quality and accompanying social quality play in this? In his famous studies on livable streets Donald Appleyard concluded that in heavy traffic streets the number of contacts with friends, acquaintances and the amount of social interaction in general was much lower. Also people in busy streets had a tendency to describe their environment as being much smaller than their counterparts in quiet streets did. In other words, the acoustic quality affects not only our wellbeing and behavior but also our sense of territory, social cohesion and social interactions. And this concerns all of us: citing Appleyard “nearly everyone in the world lives in a street”.
There is evidence that green or natural areas/wilderness/ or urban environments with natural elements as well as areas with a high sound quality can intrinsically provide restoration through spending time there. Also merely the knowledge that such quiet and green places are available seems to work as a buffer effect between stress and health (Van Kamp, Klaeboe, Brown, and Lercher, 2015 : in Jian Kang and Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp (Eds) in press).
Recently a European study was performed into the health effect of access and use of green area in four European cities of varying size in Spain, the UK, Netherlands and Lithuania)
At the four study centers people were selected from neighborhoods with varying levels of socioeconomic status and green and blue space. By means of a structured interview information was gathered about availability, use and importance of green space in the immediate environment as well as the sound quality of favorite green areas used for physical activity, social encounters and relaxation. Data are also available about perceived mental/physical health and medication use. This allowed for analyzing the association between indicators of green, restoration and health, while accounting for perceived soundscapes in more detail. In general there are four mechanisms assumed that lead from green and tranquil space to health: via physical activity, via social interactions and relaxation and finally via reduced levels of traffic related air and noise pollution. This paper will explore the role of sound in the process which leads from access and use of green space to restoration and health. So far this aspect has been understudied. There is some indication that certain areas contribute to restoration more than others. Most studies address the restorative effects of natural recreational areas outside the urban environment. The question is whether natural areas within, and in the vicinity of, urban areas contribute to psycho-physiological and mental restoration after stress as well. Does restoration require the absence of urban noise?
Example of an acoustic environment – a New York City Park – with potential restorative outcomes (Photo: A.L. Brown)
Tags: health, soundscapes, people, environment, green, urban
Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp – firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical University Berlin
Institute of Fluid Mechanics and Engineering Acoustics
-Psychoacoustics and Noise effects –
10587 Berlin -Germany
Popular version of paper 2aNSa1, “Soundscape as a resource to balance the quality of an acoustic environment”
Tuesday morning, May 19, 2015, 8:35 AM, Commonwealth 1
169th ASA Meeting, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania
Soundscape studies investigate and find increasingly better ways to measure and hone the acoustic environment. Soundscape offers the opportunity for multidisciplinary working, bringing together science, medicine, social studies and the arts – combined, crucially, with analysis, advice and feedback from the ‘users of the space’ as the primary ‘experts’ of any environment – to find creative and responsive solutions for protection of living places and to enhance the quality of life.
The Soundscape concept was introduced as a scope to rethink the evaluation of “noise” and its effects. The challenge was to consider the limits of acoustic measurements and to account for its cultural dimension.
The recent international standard ISO 12913-1 Acoustics — Soundscape —Part 1: Definition and conceptual framework Acoustique – Paysage sonore -Partie 1: Définition et cadre conceptual clarifies soundscape as an “acoustic environment as perceived or experienced and/or understood by a person or people, in context”
Figure 1 — Elements in the perceptual construct of soundscape
Soundscape suggests exploring noise in its complexity and its ambivalence and its approach towards sound to consider the conditions and purposes of its production, perception, and evaluation, to understand evaluation of noise/ sound as a holistic approach.
To discuss the contribution of Soundscape research into the area of Community noise research means to focus on the meaning of sounds and its implicit assessments to contribute to the understanding that the evaluation through perceptual effects is a key issue.
Using the resources- an example-
Soundscape Approach Public Space Perception and Enhancement Drawing on Experience in Berlin
Figure 2- Soundscape Nauener Platz
The concept of development of the open pace relies on the understanding that people living in the chosen are the “real” experts concerning the evaluation of this place according to their expectations and experiences in the respective area. The intention of scientific research here is to learn about the meaning of the noise with respect to people’s living situation and to implement the adequate procedure to open the “black box” of people’s mind.
Therefore, the aim was to get residents involved through workshops to get access to the different social groups.
Figure 3- Partipation and Collaboration
Figure 4- The concept of evaluation
Interdisciplinarity is considered as a must in the soundscape approach. In this case it was concerned with the collaboration of architects, acoustics engineers, environmental health specialists, psychologists, social scientists, and urban developers. The tasks are related to the local individual needs and are open to noise sensitive and other vulnerable groups. It is also concerned with cultural aspects and the relevance of natural soundscapes – sometimes referred to as quiet areas – which is obviously related to the highest level of needs.
Figure 5 – Soundscape – an interactive approach using the resources
Improving local soundscape quality?
Obviously, these new approaches and methods make it possible to learn about the process of perception and evaluation sufficiently as they take into account the context, ambiance, the usual interaction between noise and listener and the multidimensionality of noise perception.
By contrast, conventional methods often reduce the complexity of reality on controllable variables, which supposedly represent the scrutinized object. Furthermore, traditional tests neglect frequently the context-dependency of human perception; they only provide artificial realities and diminish the complexity of perception on merely predetermined values, which do not completely correspond with perceptual authenticity. However, perception and evaluations entirely depend on the respective influences of the acoustic and non-acoustic modifiers.
Following the comments and group discussion and also the results from the narrative interviews it could be defined why people prefer some places over the public place and why not. It also became clear how people experience the noise in the distance from the road and also with respect to social life and social control. One of the most important findings here is how people react to low frequency noise at the public place and how experiences and expectations work together. It becomes obvious that the most wanted sound in this area is based on wishes to escape the road traffic noise through natural sounds.
Figure 6- Selected sounds for audio islands
Reshaping the place based on people’s expertise
Relying on the combined evaluation procedures the place was reshaped installing a gabion wall along one of the main roads and further more audio islands like have been built that integrated the sounds people would like to enjoy when using the place. While the gabion wall protects against noise around the playground, the new installed audio islands provide nature sounds as selected by the people involved in the Soundscape approach.
Figure 7 –Installation of the sounds
Figure 8 – The new place
The process of tuning of urban areas with respect to the expertise of people’s mind and quality of life is related to the strategy of triangulation and provides the theoretical frame with regard to the solution of e.g. the change in an area. In other words: Approaching the field in this holistic manner is generally needed.
An effective and sustainable reduction of the number of highly annoyed people caused by noise is only possible with further scientific endeavors in the area of methods development and research of noise effects. Noise maps providing further information can help to obtain a deeper understanding of noise reactions and can help to reliably identify perception-related hot spots. Psychoacoustic maps are particularly interesting in areas where the noise levels are marginal below the noise level limits and offer an additional interpretation help with respect to the identification of required noise abatement measures.
But, the expertise of people involved will provide meaningful information. Soundwalks as an eligibly instrument for exploring urban areas by minds of the “local experts” as measuring device open a field of data for triangulation. These techniques in combination allow giving meaning to the numbers and values of recordings and their analysis to understand the significance of sound and noise as well as the perception of Soundscapes by its resources.
tags: soundscape, acoustics, people, health
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