1pNS2 – Soundscape, traffic safety, and requirements for public health – Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp

Soundscape, traffic safety, and requirements for public health

Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp – b.schulte-fortkamp@tu-berlin.de

Technical University Berlin
Psychoacoustics and Noise Effects
Einsteinufer 25
10587 Berlin -Germany

Popular version of paper 1pNS2

Monday, May 13, 2019

177th ASA Meeting in Louisville, KY


When you think about your safety and health with regard to road traffic you may not immediately think about avoidable noise pollution. But: The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new Noise Guideline for the European Region in October 2018. The focus is set on health effects caused by noise from different sources whereby as transportation noise as road traffic-, railway- and aircraft-noise play the major role.

The use of environmentally friendly electrical vehicles can for sure decrease the road traffic noise pollution as a contribution to public health.  But for safety reason which it is of course also a public health issue there is also policy action for regulations of the use of alert signals.  There is a worldwide consideration about how this could may be counterproductive to a harmonic and healthy soundscape or even support those.

(Regulation (EU) No 540/2014 of the European Parliament 2018, U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 2018,  Japan Guidelines on Electric vehicle warning sounds 2010)

Soundscape is the new way to understand people’s reaction to the sounds of the world. Soundscape is a construct of human perception that must be understood as a relationship between human beings, acoustic environments, and society. Our focus in this field is here on co-creation in acoustics, architecture, medicine, and urban planning.  It is combined with analysis, advice, and feedback from the ‘users of any acoustic environment as the primary ‘experts’ of any environment – to find creative and responsive solutions for protection of living areas and to enhance the quality of life.

The Soundscape concept is introduced as a scope to rethink the evaluation of noise pollution. The challenge is to account for the perceptual dimension and to consider the limits of acoustic measurements.


Figure 1– The recent international standard ISO 12913-1,2,3 Acoustics – Soundscape


Figure 2 – Definition of Soundscape

  • acoustic environment as perceived or experienced and/or understood by people, in context

Soundscape as defined in 2014 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)


Figure 3 – Elements in the perceptual construct of soundscape



The context includes the interrelationships between person and activity and place, in space and time. The context may influence soundscape through (1) the auditory sensation, (2) the interpretation of auditory sensation, and (3) the responses to the acoustic environment


The contribution of Soundscape (research) regarding public health means to focus on the perception as a key issue. With Soundscape it is suggested to exploring noise in its complexity and its ambivalence.  Soundscape studies investigate and find increasingly better ways to measure and hone the acoustic environment.

Figure 4 – Soundscape studies

Figure 5 – Soundscape model including quality of life and health

Otherwise, the new technology in the development of electrical vehicles causes policy action with regulations calling for safety reasons. Regulations and needs have to be considered with respect to the public health recommendations on exposure to environmental noise and soundscapes.

There have to be solutions that follow the need outlined in the WHO guidelines to “provide robust public health advice underpinned by evidence, which is essential to drive policy action that will protect communities from the adverse effects of noise”.

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 co-creation and provides the theoretical frame with regard to the solution of e.g. the change in an area. In other words: Approaching the field on traffic safety and public health in this holistic manner is generally needed.

To establish the Soundscape concept and the Soundscape approach, there is the need to advise the respective local actors and stakeholders in communities to using the resources given with respect to future generations and socio-cultural, aesthetic and economic effects as well. It was widely discussed in earlier publications that a platform is needed for stakeholders for co-creation and find common decisions. Moreover, the current approach within the standardization of Soundscapes have provided a big step towards enhancing the quality of life for people.



WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region (2018)

  1. Kang, J., B. Schulte-Fortkamp (Eds.) Soundscape and the built environment, CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton. (2016)
  2. Schulte-Fortkamp, (2013). Soundscape – a matter of human resources, Internoise 2013, Proc., Innsbruck, Austria
  3. Schulte-Fortkamp, J. Kang (editors) Special Issue on Soundscape, JASA 2012

Kang, J., Aletta, F., Gjestland, T.T., Brown, L.A., Botteldooren, D., Schulte-Fortkamp, B., Lercher, P., Kamp, I.van., Genuit, K., Fiebig, A., Bento Coelho, L., Maffei, L., Lavia, L., (2016). Ten questions on the soundscapes of the built environment, Building and Environment, Vol. 108 (1), 284-294

  1. M. Schafer, “The Soundscape. Our sonic environment and the tuning of the world.” Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, (1977).
  2. Hollstein, “Qualitative approaches to social reality: the search for meaning” in: John Scott & Peter J. Carrington (Eds.): Sage handbook of social network analysis. London/New Delhi: Sage. (2012)
  3. Hiramatsu, “Soundscape: The Concept and Its Significance in Acoustics,” Proc. ICA, Kyoto, 2004.
  4. Fiebig, B. Schulte-Fortkamp, K. Genuit, „New options for the determination of environmental noise quality”, 35th International Congress and Exposition on Noise Control Engineering INTER-NOISE 2006, 04.-06.December 2006, Honolulu, HI.
  5. Lercher, B. Schulte-Fortkamp, “Soundscape and community noise annoyance in the context of environmental impact assessments,” Proc. INTER-NOISE 2003, 2815-2824, (2003).
  6. Schulte-Fortkamp, D. Dubois: (editors) Acta Acustica united with Acustica, Special Issue, Recent advances in Soundscape research, Vol 92 (6), (2006).

Regulation (EU) No 540/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 April 2014 on the sound level of motor vehicles and of replacement silencing systems, and amending Directive 2007/46/EC and repealing Directive 70/157/EEC (OJ L 158, 27.5.2014)

Regulation No 138 of the Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations (UNECE) — Uniform provisions concerning the approval of Quiet Road Transport Vehicles with regard to their reduced audibility [2017/71] (OJ L 9, 13.1.2017)



Soundscape of washroom equipment – Lucky Tsaih

Soundscape of washroom equipment

Lucky Tsaih,
Yosua W. Tedja,
An-Chi Tsai, Julie Chen
Department of Architecture, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology,
Taipei, Taiwan.


1pAAa6 – Soundscape of washroom equipment and its application

Jun 25, 2017

173rd Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the 8th Forum Acusticum

There is at least one toilet in your apartment, sometimes two for a house or even three toilets for a midrise building. There are lots of toilets are in school. Wow! Toilets are everywhere! How loud is a toilet flush sound?

Audio 1. Credit:Tedja


It is about 92 decibels. Since human hearing is less sensitive in lower frequency regions, we only hear it as about 85 decibels. 85 decibels is as loud as a truck driving by in front of you. Since most people desire to sleep, work, and study in a quiet space, when someone flushes a toilet, our sleeping can be disturbed or our concentration broken.


Figure 1. Toilet sound and quiet space. Credit:Tsaih


Thus, how good is your washroom wall, door and window at reducing the toilet flush sound while you are sleeping, working or studying? As in most cases, a typical single layer of gypsum board wall is used and doesn’t reduce much of the low frequency sound, as Figure 2 shows.


Figure 2. Toilet sound and sound reduction of a typical GWB wall. Credit:Tsaih

So, during work, study or sleep, you will still probably hear the “hmmmmmmm” sound. The simulated sound below assumes there are only walls, and no windows or doors in the washroom.

This research is to show how loud the washroom equipment sound can be and what kind of proper noise control an architect should consider using when designing washrooms in spaces like bedrooms and classrooms. We measured and analyzed sound pressure levels of washroom equipment. We also analyzed sound transmission class and its frequency spectrum of some typical washroom partitions to see if these partitions could reduce washroom equipment sound sufficiently.

Audio 2. Credit:Tedja


Figure 3. Toilet sound in study room and bedroom. Credit:Tsai

In short, a wall that blocks toilet flush sound is necessary in our homes, classes, and offices.

Figure 4. Learning and sleeping with toilet flush sound. Credit:Tedja and Chen

2pABa1 – Snap chat: listening in on the peculiar acoustic patterns of snapping shrimp, the noisiest animals on the reef – Ashlee Lillis

Snap chat: listening in on the peculiar acoustic patterns of snapping shrimp, the noisiest animals on the reef

Ashlee Lillis – ashlee@whoi.edu
T. Aran Mooney – amooney@whoi.edu

Marine Research Facility
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
266 Woods Hole Road
Woods Hole, MA 02543

Popular version of paper 2pABa1
Presented Tuesday afternoon, November 29, 2016
172nd ASA Meeting, Honolulu

Characteristic soundscape recorded on a coral reef in St. John, US Virgin Islands. The conspicuous crackle is produced by many tiny snapping shrimp.

Put your head underwater in almost any tropical or sub-tropical coastal area and you will hear a continuous, static-like noise filling the water. The source of this ubiquitous sizzling sound found in shallow-water marine environments around the world was long considered a mystery of the sea. It wasn’t until WWII investigations of this underwater sound, considered troublesome, that hidden colonies of a type of small shrimp were discovered as the cause of the pervasive crackling sounds (Johnson et al., 1947).

Individual snapping shrimp (Figure 1), sometimes referred to as pistol shrimp, measure smaller than a few centimeters, but produce one of the loudest of all sounds in nature using a specialized snapping claw. The high intensity sound is actually the result of a bubble popping when the claw is closed at incredibly high speed, creating not only the characteristic “snap” sound but also a flash of light and extremely high temperature, all in a fraction of a millisecond (Versluis et al., 2000). Because these shrimp form large, dense aggregations, living unseen within reefs and rocky habitats, the combination of individual snaps creates the consistent crackling sound familiar to mariners. Snapping is used by shrimp for defense and territorial interactions, but likely serves other unknown functions based on our recent studies.


[Insert Figure 1. Images of the species of snapping shrimp, Alpheus heterochaelis, we are using to test hypotheses in the lab. This isthe dominant species of snapping shrimp found coastally in the Southeast United States, but there are hundreds of different species worldwide, easily identified by their relatively large snapping claw. ]

Since snapping shrimp produce the dominant sound in many marine regions, changes in their activity or population substantially alters ambient sound levels at a given location or time. This means that the behavior of snapping shrimp exerts an outsized influence on the sensory environment for a variety of marine animals, and has implications for the use of underwater sound by humans (e.g., harbor defense, submarine detection). Despite this fundamental contribution to the acoustic environment of temperate and coral reefs, relatively little is known about snapping shrimp sound patterns, and the underlying behaviors or environmental influences. So essentially, we ask the question: what is all the snapping about?


[Insert Figure 2. Photo showing an underwater acoustic recorder deployed in a coral reef setting. Recorders can be left to record sound samples at scheduled times (e.g. every 10 minutes) so that we can examine the long-term temporal trends in snapping shrimp acoustic activity on the reef.]

Recent advances in underwater recording technology and interest in passive acoustic monitoring have aided our efforts to sample marine soundscapes more thoroughly (Figure 2), and we are discovering complex dynamics in snapping shrimp sound production. We collected long-term underwater recordings in several Caribbean coral reef systems and analyzed the snapping shrimp snap rates. Our soundscape data show that snap rates generally exhibit daily rhythms (Figure 3), but that these rhythms can vary over short spatial scales (e.g., opposite patterns between nearby reefs) and shift substantially over time (e.g., daytime versus nighttime snapping during different seasons). These acoustic patterns relate to environmental variables such as temperature, light, and dissolved oxygen, as well as individual shrimp behaviors themselves.


[Insert Figure 3. Time-series of snap rates detected on two nearby USVI coral reefs for a week-long recording period. Snapping shrimp were previously thought to consistently snap more during the night, but we found in this study location that shrimp were more active during the day, with strong dawn and dusk peaks at one of the sites. This pattern conflicts with what little is known about snapping behaviors and is motivating further studies of why they snap.]

The relationships between environment, behaviors, and sound production by snapping shrimp are really only beginning to be explored. By listening in on coral reefs, our work is uncovering intriguing patterns that suggest a far more complex picture of the role of snapping shrimp in these ecosystems, as well as the role of snapping for the shrimp themselves. Learning more about the diverse habits and lifestyles of snapping shrimp species is critical to better predicting and understanding variation in this dominant sound source, and has far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems and human applications of underwater sound.



Johnson, M. W., F. Alton Everest, and Young, R. W. (1947). “The role of snapping shrimp (Crangon and Synalpheus) in the production of underwater noise in the sea,” Biol. Bull. 93, 122–138.

Versluis, M., Schmitz, B., von der Heydt, A., and Lohse, D. (2000). “How snapping shrimp snap: through cavitating bubbles,” Science, 289, 2114–2117. doi:10.1126/science.289.5487.2114


2aNS – How virtual reality technologies can enable better soundscape design – Chung

How virtual reality technologies can enable better soundscape design.

W.M. To – wmto@ipm.edu.mo
Macao Polytechnic Institute, Macao SAR, China.
A. Chung – ac@smartcitymakter.com
Smart City Maker, Denmark.
B. Schulte-Fortkamp – b.schulte-fortkamp@tu-berlin.de
Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

Popular version of paper 2aNS, “How virtual reality technologies can enable better soundscape design”
Presented Tuesday morning, November 29, 2016
172nd ASA Meeting, Honolulu

The quality of life including good sound quality has been sought by community members as part of the smart city initiative. While many governments have placed special attention to waste management, air and water pollution, acoustic environment in cities has been directed toward the control of noise, in particular, transportation noise. Governments that care about the tranquility in cities rely primarily on setting the so-called acceptable noise levels i.e. just quantities for compliance and improvement [1]. Sound quality is most often ignored. Recently, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) released the standard on soundscape [2]. However, sound quality is a subjective matter and depends heavily on the perception of humans in different contexts [3]. For example, China’s public parks are well known to be rather noisy in the morning due to the activities of boisterous amateur musicians and dancers – many of them are retirees and housewives – or “Da Ma” [4]. These activities would cause numerous complaints if they would happen in other parts of the world, but in China it is part of everyday life.

According to the ISO soundscape guideline, people can use sound walks, questionnaire surveys, and even lab tests to determine sound quality during a soundscape design process [3]. With the advance of virtual reality technologies, we believe that the current technology enables us to create an application that immerses designers and stakeholders in the community to perceive and compare changes in sound quality and to provide feedback on different soundscape designs. An app has been developed specifically for this purpose. Figure 1 shows a simulated environment in which a student or visitor arrives the school’s campus, walks through the lawn, passes a multifunctional court, and get into an open area with table tennis tables. She or he can experience different ambient sounds and can click an object to increase or decrease the volume of sound from that object. After hearing sounds at different locations from different sources, the person can evaluate the level of acoustic comfort at each location and express their feelings toward overall soundscape.  She or he can rate the sonic environment based on its degree of perceived loudness and its level of pleasantness using a 5-point scale from 1 = ‘heard nothing/not at all pleasant’ to 5 = ‘very loud/pleasant’. Besides, she or he shall describe the acoustic environment and soundscape using free words because of the multi-dimensional nature of sonic environment.

Figure 1. A simulated soundwalk in a school campus.

  1. To, W. M., Mak, C. M., and Chung, W. L.. Are the noise levels acceptable in a built environment like Hong Kong? Noise and Health, 2015. 17(79): 429-439.
  2. ISO. ISO 12913-1:2014 Acoustics – Soundscape – Part 1: Definition and Conceptual Framework, Geneva: International Organization for Standardization, 2014.
  3. Kang, J. and Schulte-Fortkamp, B. (Eds.). Soundscape and the Built Environment, CRC Press, 2016.
  4. Buckley, C. and Wu, A. In China, the ‘Noisiest Park in the World’ Tries to Tone Down Rowdy Retirees, NYTimes.com, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/04/world/asia/china-chengdu-park-noise.html , 2016.


2aNSa – Soundscapes and human restoration in green urban areas – Irene van Kamp, Elise van Kempen, Hanneke Kruize, Wim Swart

Soundscapes and human restoration in green urban areas
Irene van Kamp, (irene.van.kamp@rivm.nl)
Elise van Kempen,
Hanneke Kruize,
Wim Swart
National Institute for Public Health and the Environment
Pobox 1 Postvak 10
Phone +31629555704

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