Environmental Noise

Environmental Noise Assessments and Monitoring

Environmental noise pollution is a major issue in most countries, especially in areas of high population where an environmental noise impact can cause a noise nuisance for people. In fact, noise pollution is one of the most complained about aspects of our daily lives because it directly affects the quality of life and health of people (and animals) living in the vicinity of a problem noise source.

How to assess environmental noise

In terms of assessing the impact of environmental noise pollution, we need to be able to make suitable noise measurements either in the short term, or in some cases, monitor environmental noise levels for longer periods. Measuring and assessing environmental noise is different to measuring workplace or industrial noise:

  • With Workplace and Industrial noise a measurement is an exact science, as you are interested in assessing specific noise levels and relating these to legislative or noise action levels.
  • Although legislation for man-made environmental noise is in place in most countries to govern legally accepted noise levels, measuring noise nuisance or environmental noise pollution can be very different because the level of annoyance or noise nuisance is subjective and will elicit diverse reactions from different people. 

Examples of typical environmental noise sources:

Environmental noise can also have different characteristics:

  • Continuous
    • Extraction Fans, compressors etc
    • Road traffic
    • Industrial Processes
  • Intermittent
    • Transport
    • Construction
    • Animals
    • Industrial Processes
  • Broadband (Noise that has a fairly even tone content and less annoying)
  • Tonal Noise (Noise that has dominant tone(s) that can be very annoying)
    • ‘Whining’ machinery
    • Low frequency noise that causes vibration within surrounding buildings etc.
    • Wind turbines

Types of environmental noise monitoring

  • Boundary Noise Assessments
  • BS4142 Industrial and Commercial Noise
  • Noise Complaints
  • Railway and Traffic Noise
  • Construction Noise
  • Industrial Process Noise
Pulsar Instruments' Blog often covers information relevant to Environmental Noise measurements:

What type of noise meter do you need?

 Basic environmental noise testing1. Basic noise level checks or ‘spot checks’

Often you need to take quick decisions and understand if there are likely to be any noise issues. By using a simple handheld digital sound level meter such as the Pulsar Model 14 you have a cost effective, compact and ‘easy to use’ noise meter that can be easily transported, allowing you to make a quick judgement regarding noise levels. This is particularly useful where a more expensive instrument would be cumbersome and more prone to the risk of damage or misuse.  Also check Models 41 and 42 from the Pulsar Nova range to perform basic noise level assessments,

The Pulsar Model 14 is supplied with a carrying pouch, windshield as standard to protect the microphone capsule and has two selectable ranges to allow you to quickly gauge both environmental and industrial noise levels. The instrument is compliant with IEC 61672 and can be supplied with an acoustic calibrator if you wish to verify your measurements – as really should be done.

2. Single but more detailed measurements

Environmental requirements and legislation vary based on your country, locality and specific circumstances.

Often a hand held integrating sound level meter such as the Pulsar Model 33 would be mounted on a tripod at a boundary position and, for example, a 15 minute measurement taken. Often it is necessary to make a series of similar ‘fixed duration’ environmental noise monitoring measurements and store these into the instruments memory (for subsequent analysis) for which the Pulsar Model 33. Our Class 1 (Model 45) or Class 2 (Model 46) Nova sound meter can also be used successfully for Environmental Noise measurements.

A cost-effective way to measure and monitor noise for a one-off noise event can be to hire the noise measurement equipment from us.

3. Longer term environmental noise monitoring

Environmental noise assessments - measuring environmental noiseSometimes we need to monitor noise levels on an ongoing level and make longer measurements sub-divided by shorter measurement durations such as 5 minutes, 15 minutes or 1 hour. This allows us to look at, for example, a 24 hour period and find the average, background or maximum noise levels for every 15 minute period throughout the day. This gives us a much clearer picture of noise patterns and how they can be controlled to minimise their impact on the wider community. Often, lower noise limits will be set during the late evening and night due to the extra impact of any noise.  For example, both Class 1 and 2 Nova sound level meters have a removable pre-amp which enables the meters to be used with microphone extension cables.

If you want to measure boundary noise for example, then you will need an outdoor noise measurement kit which is weatherproof to transform your sound level meter such as the Class 1 (Model 45) or Class 2 (Model 46) Nova sound meter into a longer term, outdoor monitoring system.

Tonal Analysis

There are many engineering solutions available to reduce noise levels and by performing a 1:3 Octave Band Analysis before and after this work you can determine and report the effectiveness of such improvements. Our Model 33 Noise Frequency Real Time Analyser or Quantifiers are perfect noise meters for this. 

 Typical view of a 1:3 Octave Band Analysis using Pulsar's Acoustic Toolbox software.

Octave Band measurement