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WHAT DOES INCREASED DENSIFICATION MEAN FOR OUR URBAN SOUNDSCAPE?

As Australia’s population soars our cities are set to become super cities. Buzzing metropolitan hubs, brimming with urban dwellers who enjoy the benefits of shared spaces and connected communities.

 

Increased densification delivers many benefits and is a key part of our future, but as stakeholders push forward to plan the developments, precincts and cities of the future, the changing aural environment is an important consideration.

Adrian White, Technical Director and Head of Acoustics at WSP asks, “What does greater densification mean for our urban soundscape?”

Increasingly, noise and vibration impacts are highlighted as concerns by stakeholders, whether it be due to construction impacts on residential developments, more active and greater numbers of commercial operations or bustling public spaces. 

Guidelines, policies and a raft of measures exist to quantify noise impacts and allow for an objective assessment of whether construction projects meet the project obligations. 

Similarly, checks and balances are in place for planning approvals, to ensure development occurs within the required guidelines. 

Mr White says, “Many times in my career I have been on site reading sound level meters to see if a project is achieving a pass or fail, and while these checks are important, the down-stream nature and timing of these checks mean that any opportunity to achieve better outcomes for the community has already passed.

Little additional value to stakeholders can be derived by undertaking more monitoring and more down-stream compliance checking.” 

The real value and innovation lies in up-stream assessment methodologies and understanding how the predictive impacts are communicated to stakeholders, as this can improve the level of amenity prior to works occurring. By understanding what impacts will likely occur ahead of time, consultants then have the opportunity to affect positive change before development commences.

Stakeholder engagement is often thought of in isolation from the noise and vibration elements of a development. However, by taking a holistic approach, and considering the noise and vibration impacts in the early planning phase of a project, a deeper understanding of community’ needs and expectations will come to the fore and could change the course of a project and/or enhance outcomes for clients and communities.

Many opportunities exist to modify the noise and vibration impacts associated with construction. Under current development guidelines construction activities are not generally permitted at night. Is this the best option for the community? Would it be more beneficial to extend daily working hours and minimise the length of construction, or continue with longer term disruption from the existing working hours? These questions should be revisited with communities and stakeholders.

WSP engaged in a collaborative approach with clients, surrounding communities and other stakeholders, when addressing the noise and vibration impacts on the following major projects.

Caulfield to Dandenong Level Crossing Removal: The removal of 50 dangerous and congested level crossings across Melbourne. WSP worked on the Caulfield to Dandenong section which comprises a unique ‘rail-over’ solution, placing an elevated rail above the existing corridor. Designing the line this way eliminated the issue of major barriers currently separating communities. The project will deliver nine kilometres of new rail, five new stations, over 12 kilometres of pedestrian and cycle paths and 225,000 m of linear park. Upon completion, capacity on the train lines will increase by 42 percent, allowing an additional 11,000 passengers in the morning peak.

Christchurch Convention and Exhibition Centre: This iconic 28,000 m centre will have capacity to host approximately 2,000 guests and is part of the wider intention of the New Zealand Government's ambition to attract conferences to the country, and will complement existing centres that are currently in construction or design phases in Auckland and Queenstown.

Mr White added, “Optimising the outcomes for major project end-users is our goal. That’s our end game.”

Working together, we can create cities where the interdisciplinary science of acoustics doesn’t translate to an eclectic mash-up of urban noise. We can create cities where the natural and built environment sounds produce ambience for all to enjoy. 

For further information about WSP’s acoustics services please contact Adrian White on +61 3 8663 7826 or email Adrian.White@wsp.com

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