Noise Impact Assessments During the Lockdown

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So how has the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic affected the work of the Noise & Vibration team at Finch Consulting?

The majority of the work the 5 strong team has undertaken throughout the years relates to forensic engineering in relation to noise induced hearing loss and hand arm vibration syndrome claims. In many cases, the premises where the Claimant worked are no longer in operation or they have changed considerably and are no longer representative of the noise or vibration exposure the Claimant was exposed to. In such cases, we have to rely on disclosed noise surveys, published information and our extensive experience. Therefore, the team spends quite a lot of time undertaking desktop assessments without the need to undertake any on site assessments. The lockdown and the social distancing rules have had minimal affect on these deliverables so far.

However, the team also undertakes consultancy work relating to noise and vibration impacts and the lockdown has affected this work in different ways.

One of our clients wished to change the use of office accommodation to residential but the adjoining building housed a restaurant that doubled up as a nightclub until 2am. Therefore, it was imperative that a site visit was undertaken in order to establish the music related noise and vibration transfer into the proposed residential premises. Everything was arranged for a Saturday evening site visit from 10pm until 2:30am, but the day before the site visit, the Prime Minister instructed all restaurants to close in order to supress the spread of the virus.  Since an accurate prediction of the associated noise impact is impossible in this case, we will have to wait for the restrictions to be lifted in order to progress this work since the local planning authority would not accept a desktop assessment, and rightly so.

A week into the lockdown, we had a pre-arranged site visit on an open field, accessible to the public. Our Client wished to erect more than 80 new dwellings on this site and the local authority requested a noise impact assessment in relation to helicopter flyovers serving a nearby military airfield. Having assessed the risks, the site visit went ahead. The helicopters were still flying and the significant reduction from road traffic noise, which was dominating the ambient noise, meant that we were able to establish the noise impact from flying helicopters in a far more reliable and accurate way compared to a typical day.

During the lockdown, we received an enquiry about a noise impact assessment in London. The proposals related to roof top heat rejection plant proposed to be sited near residential premises. An assessment was required in order to progress the planning application. Normally, a survey would be undertaken in order to establish the typical background sound levels at the most affected residential premises as this parameter is used to define the associated plant noise impact (as per the local plan of the local authority). However, due to the lockdown, the background sound levels in London are now considerably lower compared to the typical situation and a subsequent assessment may have shown that the installation was not feasible or that expensive mitigation measures would be necessary. It was therefore decided to utilize the results of historic noise surveys and our experience in forensic engineering in order to produce a suitable assessment to support the planning application. Indeed, an online review of previous planning applications on the site revealed two previous noise surveys (one was from 2009 and another from 2018), which were analysed and relevant information extracted in order to allow us to undertake a desktop plant noise impact assessment.

By now, you have all heard the effects of the lockdown and hopefully appreciate the birdsong that is so much clearer. Naturally, the lockdown has affected the normal work of noise consultants but there is still work that can be accomplished to an ever better or to an acceptable standard as evidenced from the examples presented. It is important that we all work together in this and try to move things along as best we can and at whatever speed.

So, for all of you not involved in acoustics, do enjoy the quiet. It will not last and you will miss it.

Be well and keep safe!!!