Limiting Noise in the Neighborhood

The term noise refers to any unwanted sound in the environment that causes unreasonable intrusion and disturbance in people’s daily lives. It can also refer to the inevitable sound that causes nuisance in peaceful and calm environment. The source of noise can be various, especially in the modern society. The increasing density of residential population is to blame partly. Increasing urbanization and commercialization of urban centers have created excessive traffic in the public roads, thus complicated the mess further. Traffic on most of the modern roads, aircrafts that fly too low, barking dogs, lawn movers and music from the pubs and ghettos are all significant origins of noise in the modern society. The fireworks at the residential places, especially for celebrations, added to noise from loudspeaker advertisements for promotions have contributed to the problem. Poor designing of buildings and poor urban planning further complicates the noise puzzle. To deal with the problem, all the highlighted areas must be re-visited and given careful consideration.

The regulations that govern the buildings in the residential and the public places are also outdated, with poor noise control abilities.  The various sources of noise in the modern society have fuelled the problem of noise pollution. The complex nature of noise pollution calls for diversity of approaches in order to avert the emerging environmental, social and health problems. This work aims to discuss the mechanisms that have been developed and those that need to be pursued in order to limit the problem of noise that has risen to become a great nuisance to human daily living.

Noise can be broadly classified as environmental or neighborhood noise. The environmental noise is caused by modes of transport such as road, rail and air transport. The heavy machines in the industrial sectors are also to blame for environmental noise. The neighborhood form of noise results from human activities such as the noisy pubs, ghettos, and the security dogs that usually bark in the night. It is evident that noise has a relationship with the quality of life and significantly affects people’s health especially cardiovascular and auditory health. Exposure to too much noise results in auditory complications, fatigue and lack of sleep. The impact of noise on human life whether environmental or neighborhood calls for drastic measures to curb the menace. Noise may result into permanent loss of hearing ability.

 Buildings that are constructed next to main highways and streets expose occupants to great levels of noise. The noise originates from the heavy commuter train and private car traffic. If the rooms in such buildings are used for residential purposes, the bedrooms should be located on the rear side to limit noise resulting from the direct exposure to the traffic in the busy streets. Moreover, garages can be created between such houses and the main streets so as to act as barriers of excessive noise levels. Noise that originates from within a building can be limited through careful design in which the external and internal walls have relatively higher sound reduction mechanisms. Studies that have been conducted by construction scientists reveal that heavy and dense building materials like masonry or brick walls can greatly help to reduce penetration of noise from the external environment into the building (Yu, Wer, and Lo 328). Alternatively, lightweight solutions can be used. For example, the interior walls with layers made of plasterboard with inclusion of sound control materials in the cavity can be specially effective and efficient in noise reduction.

Windows and doors are the weakest sound insulation points in a building (Adua, Jeff, Sharp and Lazarus 76). In order to address this challenge, double-glazing for windows can be considered. However, this can be effective if the airspace situated between two windowpanes is left wider. For the doors, the solid core is recommended especially when the doors are open to the external areas of a building. The gaps around the doors and windows should also be sealed to control noise from the external environment. Better urban planning can be of great help in dealing with noise in the urban neighborhood. For example, residential areas should be located far from the industrial areas. This will limit excessive noise that originates from the industries, particularly from the heavy automated industrial processing machines.

 Tough regulations by the government can help reduce noise in the urban areas. The local council’s by-laws on noise pollution should be reviewed and effectively enforced to deal with the problem of noise especially those resulting from irresponsible human activities that are less considerate of the well-being of other people in the same environment. For example, excessively loud music in the marketing promotions, bars, ghettos, restaurants and other recreational points should be reduced by putting a limit on the noise level. The existence of by-laws and other relevant environmental policies relating to noise pollution can be considered adequate in dealing with the problem. However, much more needs to be done in terms of enforcement of the policies and the laws. Law enforcement agencies need to be facilitated and empowered to be vigilant against the violators.

Urban planners have significant role to play in the reduction of noise. The use of dead end streets as well as car free malls can significantly enhance noise limitation in the busy urban centers. The urban planners can also discourage construction of freeways and main roads adjacent to residential areas. Further, setting up of high-rise buildings can be of considerable gain. Such buildings act as shields to the low-rise buildings. This approach will reduce noise greatly especially because the high-rise buildings will serve as noise insulators for the low-rise ones. This is particularly effective in very noisy environments such as the industrial sites that have residential places built adjacent to them.  This use of natural topography can help deal with excessive noise. Sound pollution can be reduced when buildings are carefully designed and built on a slope.

Although the role of the urban planners cannot be ignored in addressing the problem of noise in the neighborhood, it is imperative to deal with this menace from its source. For example, much noise arises from machines and cars (Yu, Wer, and Lo 327).  Therefore, there is a need to design machines and vehicles with low vibration levels. The noise sound caused by the vibrations can also be reduced by standing machines on absorbent materials.  This actually calls for a review of the industrial rules governing the operation of the machines and gadgets in the industries. Besides, the excessive noise from traffic and aircraft can be limited by re-routing such traffic to non-residential places. Yu carefully notes that for this to be achieved adjustment in the infrastructural facilities in the residential environments must be considered and effected (323). The airports, main bus terminus and railway lines should therefore be built far from residential places.

The neighborhood restaurants and clubs often produce disturbing noise for long hours. This problem can be resolved through the passing of bylaws that will ensure that the action is taken against restaurants and ghetto clubs that fail to maintain a certain volume of their music and those that operate beyond the legally licensed time (Shon 2231). The bars and restaurants that operate in the residential quarters can reduce if they are encouraged to use sound signs that give warning whenever the sound produced exceeds the legal limit. Shon noted that abatement notices or other levies and high fines can also be passed against bar operators who produce excessive noise (2231).

The Clean Neighborhoods and Environment Act 2005 empower local councils to take action when there are complaints relating to excessive noise from pubs and restaurants. This Act also requires that prior notice to be given to the residents of a particular place for any activity that is likely to cause disturbance through noisy alarms, noisy loudspeakers and any advertisements. Such notice must be availed to the residents of the environment and the local authority (Shon 2231). This ensures that people are psychologically prepared to cope with the noise that is caused by such activities. This includes noise resulting from disorderly conduct that may call for police interventions. These mechanisms can help to reduce the noise caused by intentional activities that produce excessive noise especially in the residential places.   

The local authority by-laws prohibit the use of loudspeakers for advertisements within the residential environment. Any such noise must be licensed only through prior notice. Excessive noise can also be forbidden in the public places and at night (Maisonneuve et al 60).  The laws regulating sound transmission can be extended to deal with traffic noise, especially the passengers’ vehicles.  The use of exhaust systems will significantly reduce the sound produced by motor engines that not only affect the auditory canals but also avert attention and concentration of people in the immediate environment. Shon  cited that people should limit the noise produce through domestic music in the residential places (2231). Indiscriminate use of fireworks during celebrations in residential areas has been associated with high levels of noise. To control this, people should be prevailed upon to uphold the laws especially the Fireworks Act. Security dogs that bark at night should also be kept with exceptional care (Maisonneuve, Nicola and Matthias 57).

Noise from the neighborhood parties and celebrations can be very difficult to deal with. There are proposals that one can negotiate with the neighbor to reduce noise levels. However, there are circumstances when such negotiations cannot solve the problem and, further, negotiations may cause fracas. In such cases, the complainant can acquire an ordinance from the local authorities to restrain neighbors from producing disturbing noise. This is only possible if the local authorities’ by-laws and Environmental Pollutions Act are enforced and the residents are prevailed upon to comply (Jordon and Doskow 121).  This is the responsibility of the police especially when peaceful and diplomatic negotiations for a quiet neighborhood have failed.

The role of awareness creation and advocacy against a noisy neighborhood in limiting noise cannot be overemphasized. Maisonneuve cited if people realize that excessive noise caused by domestic music, security dogs, residential parties, bars and restaurants contributes to antisocial behavior, they may heed and limit the noise (57). Such programs should also consider creating awareness of the laws and policies relating to excessive noise and the existing legal actions, fines and penalties that contravention of such laws and policies can attract (Maisonneuve et al 57-58).  When people in the neighborhood are aware of the rules and regulations, they may exercise responsible behavior and significantly contribute to a peaceful, noise-free environment. Therefore, the local environmental councils and authorities have a great responsibility in terms of educating the public in responsible practices that can help curb production of excessive and distracting noise.

The noise caused by cars and motorbikes must be effectively dealt with in order to reduce noise in the neighborhood. Much noise is caused by car doors, hooting horns, repairs and faulty brakes. The car and motorbike owners should be sensitized to reduce noise produced when locking the doors. For example, car and motorbike owners can prevent this by avoiding slamming of car doors. The car and motorbike horns should also be used only during emergency to avoid unnecessary noise. Repair of motor vehicles and motorbikes at night causes considerable nuisance (Adua et al 84). Thus, this menace can be reduced by avoiding noisy repairs during the night. Such repairs should be done during the day. Car silencer should always be kept in good condition to function effectively without further contributing to the problem. When motorbike and car owners are responsible, noise can be significantly reduced in the neighborhood.

Generally, noisy neighborhood can have severe effects on people. On a short-term basis, noise causes psychological stress and lack of concentration in the work environment. It can also interfere with the communication process especially due to difficulties in hearing each other. On the other hand, long-term effects of noise include psychological disturbance and can even cause deafness or other auditory complications. However, there is optimism that noise in the residential places, the work environment and general surrounding can be limited through various initiatives. These include installation of noise insulators in buildings, adherence to laws and policies set to control noise from the traffic, barking dogs, pubs, restaurants and other recreational places and activities. Such efforts would go a long way into dealing with long-term health implications of noise. Noise in the neighborhood can therefore be effectively mitigated if there is a will. 

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