Urban Sound Planning - An attempt to bridge the gap

Abstract: Cities are constantly between transition and adaptation, where current urban development needs a consistent strategic solution capable of understanding and including the relationships between urban form, environment and urban life. Awareness of the quality of the urban environment is leading the vision on the resilience and sustainability of the built environment, highlighting the importance of a multidisciplinary urban framework. One of the main concerns is the negative impact of outdoor noise due to road traffic. Europe and other parts of the world are experiencing a chronic traffic congestion problem and the environmental impact is overwhelming, where it is estimated that traffic-related noise (including road, rail and air traffic) in Western Europe causes the loss of at least one million years of healthy life each year, where the dominating source is road traffic. The aim of this thesis is to overcome negative aspects arising from a late intervention by including urban sound planning as an opportunity for the built environment. This means including the experience and wellbeing of users, avoiding poor patches in the urban configuration and economical burden. The present work is committed to the development of tools to control, communicate and design the sound environment on a level beyond today's solutions, capable of being included in the early stages of the planning process through a holistic approach. The document is seen as a contribution to both professional practice and academic fields. In this sense, this thesis is an attempt to bridge the gap between future urban practice and the current situation in cities regarding the sound environment, through the role of sound urban planning. This is materialised from a variety of tools and approaches aimed at different spatial scales, times in planning, problems and opportunities, and fields of knowledge and contexts. First, the study goes through the urban sound planning idea and its opportunities and strategies. Thereafter, an overview highlights the threats and opportunities of urban sound planning implementation. Therefrom, the study goes into more detail about the strategies to address urban sound planning. As a starting point, the importance of the quiet side and the implementation of an engineering method as a powerful tool in urban development is investigated, obtaining accurate results in relation to measurements. In an attempt to study time variations of traffic within cities and their relevance with respect to noise emission (normally overlooked in current noise mapping calculations), a microscopic road traffic modelling tool is developed, giving useful output for noise level predictions as function of time. Time-pattern analysis opens the possibility of testing traffic configurations and exploring a wide variety of results in the form of descriptors such as statistical indicators, calm periods and noise events, and outcomes such as difference and contribution maps. The study extends to the evaluation of the effects of spatial heterogeneity (considered a key strategy to increase liveability of spaces) on the environmental performance and resilience capacity of the transportation system. For instance, the study of noise pollution and its economic impact gives ideas on the urban transformation possibilities when anticipatory and trans-disciplinary processes are pursued. The last study looks at the understanding and relevance of the sound environment in the use of common space. The intention is to identify suitable activities when certain sound environments and spatial characteristics are present (and vice versa), in an attempt to provide opportunities in the anticipatory design of public spaces. The studies presented use real case scenarios as a test bench not only for implementation, but mainly for the development of tools. The resulting tools developed in the thesis are: SWOT analysis of urban sound planning approach; Qside implementation model; Dynamic traffic noise assessment; Analysis matrix of indicators regarding urban form (diversity), transportation and the sound environment, studying the performance and resilience capacity; and Questionnaire about the study of common public spaces, activities and the sound environment.