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Soundscape research represents a paradigm shift from noise control policies towards a new multidisciplinary approach as it involves not only physical measurements but also the cooperation of humanity and social sciences to account for the diversity of soundscapes across countries and cultures, with more focus on how people actually experience the acoustic environments; and it considers environmental sounds as a ‘resource’ rather than a ‘waste’. The ten questions presented in this paper range from the very basic definitions underlying the emerging soundscape ‘science’, to more applied topics about how to use soundscape as a design approach for the planning and management of the built environments. Although significant research activity has been conducted so far, there is still a need to systematically provide the underpinning science and practical guidance in soundscaping. Thus, the last question aims to identify the most crucial gaps in soundscape research and set the agenda for future advancements in the field.
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Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Ten questions on the soundscapes of the built
environment
Jian Kang a*, Francesco Alettaa, Truls T. Gjestlandb, Lex A. Brownc, Dick Botteldoorend,
Brigitte Schulte-Fortkampe, Peter Lercherf, Irene van Kampg, Klaus Genuith, André Fiebigh,
José Luis Bento Coelhoi, Luigi Maffeij, Lisa Laviak
a School of Architecture, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom
b Department of Acoustics, SINTEF, Trondheim, Norway
c School of Environment, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia
d Acoustics Research Group, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
e Department of Engineering Acoustics, Technische Universität, Berlin, Germany
f Division of Social Medicine, Medizinische Universität, Innsbruck, Austria
g Centre for Sustainability, Environment and Health, National Institute for Public Health and
the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands
h HEAD acoustics GmbH, Herzogenrath, Germany
i Center for Signal Analysis and Processing, Technical University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal
j Department of Architecture and Industrial Design, Second University of Naples, Aversa,
Italy
k Noise Abatement Society, Brighton & Hove, United Kingdom
* Corresponding author
Abstract: Soundscape research represents a paradigm shift from noise control policies
towards a new multidisciplinary approach as it involves not only physical measurements but
also the cooperation of humanity and social sciences to account for the diversity of
soundscapes across countries and cultures, with more focus on how people actually
experience the acoustic environments; and it considers environmental sounds as a
‘resource’ rather than a ‘waste’. The ten questions presented in this paper range from the
very basic definitions underlying the emerging soundscape ‘science’, to more applied topics
about how to use soundscape as a design approach for the planning and management of
the built environments. Although significant research activity has been conducted so far,
there is still a need to systematically provide the underpinning science and practical
guidance in soundscaping. Thus, the last question aims to identify the most crucial gaps in
soundscape research and set the agenda for future advancements in the field.
Keywords: soundscape; acoustic environment; environmental noise; urban sound planning;
quality of life
2016 Building and Environment
Date Received: 18 April 2016 Date Accepted: 10 August 2016
Available online: XX August 2016
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Introduction
The concept of ‘soundscape’ is originally rooted in the music and acoustic ecology
research areas. It quickly expanded to other disciplines, such as acoustics,
architecture, environmental health, psychology, sociology and urban studies,
claiming for further attention and a holistic approach to the way we conceive the
sound around us and its perception (Schafer, 1977; Truax, 1978). To some extent all
the above mentioned disciplines have something in common. They deal with how
humans experience the environments and try to establish relationships between the
physical world and the human response to it (e.g., Cassidy, 1997; Sörqvist, 2016).
Sound is globally acknowledged to be a main component of such experience and
ever since soundscape started to emerge as a science, researchers started
questioning how cities and the built environment overall should ‘sound like’ (e.g.,
Southworth, 1969).
However, over the years, sound was mainly considered in its epidemiological
aspects of ‘noise’ and most of international environmental policies focused on noise
control (e.g., World Health Organization, 1999; World Health Organization, 2011;
European Parliament and Council, 2002). Reducing sound levels, though, did not
necessarily lead to improved quality of life in urban and rural areas (e.g., Yang &
Kang, 2005; Andringa, et al., 2013; van Kempen, Devilee, Swart, & van Kamp, 2014;
Asdrubali, 2014; Alves, Estévez-Mauriz, Aletta, Echevarria-Sanchez, & Puyana
Romero, 2015) and this is why the soundscape multidisciplinary approach to the
management of the acoustic environments became more and more relevant, for its
focus on how people actually perceive and experience the acoustic environments.
Soundscape research represents this paradigm shift as it involves not only physical
measures but also the cooperation of human and social sciences to account for the
diversity of soundscapes across countries and cultures, and it considers
environmental sounds as a ‘resource’ rather than a ‘waste’ (COST TUD Action TD-
0804, 2013). The environmental noise and soundscape approaches to the
management and design of the acoustic environments vary substantially, but they
are not mutually exclusive. Following the discussions in the COST action, Brown
(2012) summarised what are the most salient differences in terms of how the ‘sound’
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
is conceived, how it relates to human perception and how it should be consequently
measured and managed (see Table 1).
Table 1 - Differences between the Environmental Noise and Soundscape management of the
acoustic environments. Adapted from Brown (2012)
Environmental Noise management framework
Soundscape management framework
Sound managed as a waste
Sound perceived as a resource
Focus on sounds of discomfort
Focus on sounds of preference
Human response related to sound levels*
Human response often not only related to sound
levels*
Measures by integration across all sound sources
Requires differentiation between sound sources
Manages by reducing sound levels*
Manages masking** unwanted with wanted
sounds as well as reducing unwanted sounds
* sound level refers to an equivalent sound pressure level, LAeq over 10 minutes or more
** masking includes perceptual masking as well as energetic masking
Although soundscape started to be a research field in the late 1960s, it received
significant attention mainly in the last fifteen years in the field of community noise
and environmental acoustics by researchers, and recently by policy makers and
practitioners. This is confirmed by the steadily growing number of people involved in
this topic. From a research point of view, a special issue of Acta Acustica united with
Acustica (the Journal of the European Acoustics Association) was produced on
soundscape in 2006 (Schulte-Fortkamp & Dubois, 2006). Others special issues
followed in different journals (see, for instance: Pijanowski & Farina, 2011; Schulte-
Fortkamp & Kang, 2013; Davies, 2013), increasing the number of publications in
scientific literature of the field, as shown in Figure 1.
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Figure 1 - Number of papers retrieved in the Scopus® database using ‘soundscape’ as criterion
(TITLE-ABS-KEY) in ‘Health Sciences’ and ‘Social Sciences & Humanities’ sections
Possibly, this was also in response to the requirements of the Environmental Noise
Directive (European Parliament and Council, 2002) about the need to identify and
preserve ‘quiet areas’. Indeed, the European Environment Agency in its “Good
practice guide” acknowledges ‘soundscaping’ as one of the strategies to identify and
manage quiet areas (European Environment Agency, 2014), thus a lot of research
efforts focused on this one particular soundscape: quietness and tranquillity (e.g.,
Pheasant, Watts, & Horoshenkov, 2009; García, Aspuru, Herranz, & Bustamante,
2013; Brambilla, Gallo, Asdrubali, & D'Alessandro, 2013; Brambilla & Gallo, 2016).
The importance of soundscape research has been recognised by governmental
organisations and national funding bodies in Europe, and a number of national
research projects relating to this field carried out in Europe, such as the Noisefutures
network and the associated Positive Soundscape projects funded by the UK EPSRC
(Engineering and Physical Science Research Council), the Soundscape support to
health project funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental
Research, the Eye-Hear Project - Qualitative sound maps for visualization of the
urban soundscapes, funded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation,
and a series of soundscape projects funded by the French Ministry of Town
Planning, Housing and Construction, as well as the PREDIT program (National
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Research Program on Innovation in Transport). In other parts of the world including
Australia, Canada, USA, Japan, China, Hong Kong and Korea, considerable
attention has also been paid to soundscape research.
Nonetheless, there is still a need to systematically provide the underpinning science
and practical guidance in soundscaping. Overall, soundscape research and practice
has a huge impact potential in terms of promoting public health and quality of life and
conveying cultural uniqueness and diversity to our world. Moreover, the main issue
in soundscape is not the focus on quiet areas but on areas where noise is used as a
resource.
The ten questions presented in this paper, based on a series of workshops of the
COST Action (COST TUD Action TD-0804, 2013), range from the very basic
definitions underlying the emerging soundscape science, to more applied topics
about how to use soundscape as a design approach for the planning and
management of the built environments. Questions 1 to 4 address the issue of
defining the soundscape framework and its relationships with socio-cultural contexts
and quality of life. Questions 5 and6 deal with ‘methods’ for data collection and
soundscape characterisation, while Question 7 explores how such data could be
implemented into planning and design tools. Question 8 offers an historical angle on
how soundscapes can be considered part of our ‘immaterial cultural heritage’.
Eventually, Question 9 provides some insights on current best practices and test
sites in soundscape studies and applications, while Question 10 aims to identify the
most crucial gaps in soundscape research and set the agenda for future
advancements in the field.
1. What is the definition of soundscape?
The concept of soundscape has been applied across widely diverse disciplines since
the term, used by Southworth in an urban context in 1969 (Southworth, 1969), was
popularized by Canadian composer, Schafer in 1977 (Schafer, 1977). Recently
soundscape has been defined by the International Organization for Standardization
(ISO) as “[the] acoustic environment as perceived or experienced and/or understood
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
by a person or people, in context” (International Organization for Standardization,
2014); ‘soundscape’ is different from ‘acoustic environment’ as the former refers to a
perceptual construct, and the latter to a physical phenomenon, while both are
affected by the context, as schematised in Figure 2. Within the framework of this
paper, we will refer to soundscape as defined in the ISO standard. Context is meant
as the physical place where the acoustic environment exists, and according to the
ISO definition, it “includes the interrelationships between person and activity and
place, in space and time […] and may influence soundscape through (1) the auditory
sensation, (2) the interpretation of auditory sensation, and (3) the responses to the
acoustic environment.”
Figure 2 - Elements in the perceptual construct of soundscape. Adapted from (International
Organization for Standardization, 2014)
While the ISO definition provides an important, and rigorous, distinction, it is
recognized that some, particularly planners, designers, lay persons, and even those
primarily interested in management of the acoustic environment through
environmental noise control, will find it convenient to use “soundscape” as a
synonym for the physical acoustic environment. As long as such equivocal usage of
the term soundscape does not introduce confusion in communication, we can be
relaxed about the ambiguity.
The soundscape, as a perceptual construct, can also apply to the acoustic
environment in memory, to the “assumed acoustic environment” of a historic place or
event (e.g., the Forum Romanum in ancient Rome or the Civil War battle at
Gettysburg), or even to abstracted acoustic environments such as musical
compositions. Even more broadly, the soundscape terminology has variously
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
encompassed, for example: the recording of the sounds of nature; the creation of
compositions based on, or of, natural sounds; studies of the sounds heard in villages
and rural environments; documentation of disappearing sounds; analysis of the way
acoustic environments have been described in history and in literature; analysis and
description of all types of acoustic environments; and the creation of artistic sound
installations.
The term soundscape may be considered in relation to the term landscape. The
European Landscape Convention Agreements (Council of Europe, 2000) defined
landscape as an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the
action and interaction of natural and/or human factors. Substituting place for area
because of the high spatial variability of the acoustic environment over any of the
types of outdoor areas in which we are likely to be interested, the analogous
definition of soundscape is: soundscape is the acoustic environment of a place, as
perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of
natural and/or human factors. The interpretations that can be placed on the term
soundscape can be as diverse as the different interpretations people already have of
its namesake landscapefor example, the latter can include: landscape as
geographical form; landscape as a system of physical components; landscape as
both determinant and reflection of culture (painting, literature and music); landscape
as a place for recreational activity; and landscape in the design activity of landscape-
planning or architecture. A similar diversity applies to interpretations/applications of
the soundscape term.
2. How can acoustic environments become soundscapes?
Understanding human auditory scene analysis and the important role of auditory
attention allows us to outline better soundscape assessment methods and to come
to enhanced methodologies for designing desirable soundscapes within a specific
context and for a specific use. Environmental sound by definition is not the primary
focus of attention of a person submerged in it. Rather, specific sounds that stand out,
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
that are salient, attract attention and become auditory objects as the listener starts
paying attention to them (Botteldooren, et al., 2015). Not only the composition of the
acoustic environment determines what sounds are noticed but also the
attentiveness, current activities, and expectations of the listener and its prior
knowledge of the sounds that could be heard. As attention is largely multisensory
and multisensory stimuli can partly be bound into a single percept even prior to
attention, the visual context and visibility of the source play a significant role.
These noticed sounds are associated to a broader set of mental objects or
representations, they are recognised, and become meaningful. The meaning that is
given depends on prior experience of the individual or on public discourse
concerning these sounds. The common experience and discourse within a society
are strongly culturally loaded. As such, the meaning given to noticed sounds is both
individually and culturally determined. The sounds extracted from the acoustic
environment could be labelled sound marks. A few sound marks are often sufficient
to identify one’s own living environment and to give the soundscape an identity
(Oldoni, De Coensel, Bockstael, Boes, De Baets, & Botteldooren, 2015). Yet the
noticed sounds are nothing more than the chords in the soundscape composition.
The sequence of sounds both consciously noticed and subliminal may influence
appraisal of the acoustic environment. Predictability leads to positive appraisal
because the prediction success which causes an aesthetic emotion (Leder, Belke,
Oeberst, & Augustin, 2004), is misattributed to the sound itself (Huron, 2006). A
moderate degree of expectation violation is also experienced as pleasurable. This
may be explained by the award found in learning: extremely unpredictable
sequences of sound as well as extremely predictable sequences afford reduced
opportunity for learning (Pearce & Wiggins, 2012). But, completely unexpected
sound events that are inoffensive in a way that they do not limit behavioural options
may cause laughter or awe and thus contribute to the pleasant eventfulness of the
soundscape. Sequences in sounds occur because of actual changes in the acoustic
environment or because the user of a space wanders from one part to another.
Hence the soundscape also depends in the path followed by the user of the space.
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Implementing a desired soundscape matching the designer’s vision by modifying the
acoustic environment thus faces important challenges. Knowing the users and their
cultural heritage is a key factor in deciding what sounds give the desired meaning.
Exploiting saliency of each sound in its context, attention can then be focussed on
these sounds. Finally expectation and surprise, repetition and novelty have to be
explored to create a pleasurable experience. This is probably the main challenge of
them all.
3. How are soundscapes related to socio-cultural backgrounds and
context?
The first and main message is that the soundscape approach is holistic, meaning
that we are looking at the assessment of the acoustic environment based on the
contribution from different disciplines. Moreover, soundscape is a construct of human
perception, which is influenced by the socio-cultural background, as well as by the
acoustic environment in context (International Organization for Standardization,
2014). Among others, the meanings of sound, the composition of diverse sound
sources, the listener’s attitude and expectations towards the acoustic environment is
most important with regard to the soundscape concept. Previous experiences of
individuals with the acoustic environment are significant to completely comprehend
the different perceptions and assessments of the environment. For instance,
previous research shows that people who grew up in a small town will have a
different understanding of sounds than people who grew up in a metropolitan area
(Schulte-Fortkamp, 1994; Nitsch, 1997; Farina, 2014). Moreover the lifestyle and
understanding of rules is also an important contribution with regard to socio-cultural
background. Considering the socio-cultural background is important to understand
the assessment of any acoustic environment.
According to Kull (2006), a soundscape is the entire acoustic environment resulting
from natural and man-made sound sources. Every environment is different and the
contribution of sound sources varies. Therefore, when considering the built
environment and modelling or analysing dependencies within soundscapes, it may
be useful to consider sound sources which range from completely urban on one end
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
to extremely natural on the other. Lercher and Schulte-Fortkamp (2003) pointed out
that contributors of soundscapes include geography, climate, wind, water, people,
buildings, and animals. In other words, soundscape assessments should consider
other sensory systems, including visual aesthetics (visual cues), geographic, social,
psychological and cultural aspects. With this in mind it becomes clear that
soundscapes do more than just describing the sound level or audibility of ambient
and intrusive sounds. Indeed, response to sound depends on the listener’s mental,
social and geographical relation with the sound source and the context.
Given the strong influence from socio-cultural backgrounds and context as discussed
above, when perception is “measured”, “we are referring to a heterogeneous field of
research” (Hollstein, 2010) and among them are different forms of observation,
interviewing techniques with low level of standardization (such as open-ended,
unstructured interviews, partially or semi-structured interviews, guided or narrative
interviews), and the collection of documents or archival records (e.g., from libraries
or public repositories) is also commonly used. In spite of their differences, those
approaches all share a common ground, as advocates of the ‘interpretive paradigm’
agree on certain ideas about the nature of social reality (Hollstein, 2010). Social
reality is always a ‘meaningful’ reality, and by representing meaning, refers to a
context of action in which actors organize actions (Hollstein, 2010).
4. How are soundscapes influencing health and quality of life?
Access to high quality acoustic environments may positively affect well-being, quality
of life (The Whoqol Group, 1998), and environmental health through some
restorative or health and wellbeing promoting mechanism (van Kamp, Klæboe,
Brown, & Lercher, 2015). Two types of restoration can be discerned: Type 1
restoration refers to a high quality acoustic environment providing restoration
directly; Type 2 restoration refers to the effect of availability (knowledge) of a high
(better) quality acoustic environment to a person who otherwise is subject to adverse
effects of noise. Type 2 includes availability of a quiet place or access to nearby
green areas.
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Epidemiologic evidence on the intrinsic positive value of areas with high acoustic
quality such as green areas/wilderness/water is limited. For restoration by way of
mediation, several studies (e.g., de Kluizenaar, Janssen, Vos, Salomons, Zhou, &
van den Berg, 2013) showed that access to quiet in or near the home reduce
annoyance at home and also has a beneficial effect on sleep quality and blood
pressure. Temporary respite from exposure to unwanted environmental noise at
home can mitigate the negative effects on health and wellbeing. Different features of
the immediate physical environment play together: e.g., access to green space in the
immediate vicinity of dwellings moderates the effect of the availability of a quiet side
of the dwelling and annoyance. Also, a need for quiet space in the wider area is felt
more by people who live under noisy conditions (e.g., high traffic noise equivalent
levels) and by people who are noise sensitive (Booi & van den Berg, 2012). We still
need to advance our understanding of the process by which these different
mechanisms may operate.
Laboratory studies and controlled field experiments (e.g., (Hartig & Staats, 2003;
Hartig, Evans, Jammer, Davis, & Gärling, 2003; Hartig, Mitchell, de Vries, & Frumkin,
2014) have shown repeatedly positive effects on mood, perceived quality of life and
wellbeing, when subjects were exposed to predominantly natural sounds in parks,
forests, urban areas, work environments or dynamic, virtual environments including
both nature and sounds.
The majority of these findings may, however, have been confounded by other
qualities of the experienced environment. In the rare studies, where experimental
control was provided, parasympathetic activation was observed in the group
subjected to sounds of nature but not in the virtual nature group without sound.
These findings indicate physiological stress recovery and restoration effects by
natural sounds through balancing the autonomous nervous system (Annerstedt, et
al., 2013). The sustainability and repeatability of the observed effects is less clear.
There is increasing evidence of a reduction of adverse effects of noise exposure
(annoyance, sleep, blood pressure) when the residential soundscape is judged of
higher overall quality (quiet facades, quiet courtyards, visual attractiveness, green
space, ecological features) (e.g., Dzhambov & Dimitrova, 2014; Van Renterghem &
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Botteldooren, 2016). In addition, however, positive valued soundscapes were
associated with higher vitality, less need for quiet and greater satisfaction with
access to quiet areas (Lercher, van Kamp, von Lindern, & Botteldooren, 2015).
Likewise, these studies cannot distinguish the effect sizes attributable to the sound
quality from other features of the neighbourhood.
Few studies investigated systematically restorative effects. The observed findings
indicate some evidence of positive effects on general health indicators when sound
environments provide sufficient restorative qualities (von Lindern, Hartig, & Lercher,
2016). Even if some further knowledge on the relationship between soundscape and
quality of life is still needed, future research should go towards the full integration of
the wider environmental, social, psychological and ecological context to guide
soundscape design in planning processes at various decision levels. The
soundscape approach offers further options to improve health and quality of life
under unfavourable acoustic environments at medium and smaller geographical
scales (Andringa, et al., 2013).
5. How can we ‘measure’ soundscapes?
The main challenge with respect to measuring soundscape is that soundscape is a
multifaceted phenomenon and hence cannot be measured with few single numbers.
In general, soundscape must be measured, assessed and evaluated through human
perception of the respective acoustic environments (International Organization for
Standardization, 2014). Therefore, all measurement procedures, whether collecting
physical or perceptual data, have to be strongly related to the way humans perceive
the acoustic environment. This is the central tenet of the soundscape approach and
guides the way soundscapes are measured. Following this notion, for the purpose of
characterisation, it is desirable to perform recordings of acoustic environments with
binaural technology enabling to re-experience the acoustic environment in an aurally
accurate way and to determine acoustical quantities mimicking human auditory
sensation. To describe and analyse those noise measurements appropriately,
psychoacoustics parameters covering several dimensions of basic auditory
sensations must be applied. In general, psychoacoustics deals with the quantitative
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
link between physical stimuli with their caused hearing sensations (Fastl & Zwicker,
2007). Psychoacoustic parameters, like loudness, roughness, sharpness, fluctuation
strength, enable to describe the character of an acoustic environment in detail and
allow relating the physical phenomenon (acoustic environment) to the perceptual
construct of the acoustic environment (soundscape). Detailed information about
psychoacoustic parameters including definitions, meaning and applications, can be
found in Fastl and Zwicker (2007). Moreover, since the classical psychoacoustic
parameters cover only basic auditory sensations, further hearing-related parameters
have to be introduced to detect and characterise temporal and spectral patterns
adequately. A hearing-related parameter that has shown its significance in several
surveys (Fiebig, Guidati, & Goehrke, 2009) is the relative approach parameter, which
is related to perceivable patterns in acoustic signals. This parameter allows for
quantifying the amount of temporal and spectral patterns and largely ignores
absolute values (Genuit & Bray, 2006).
While physical metrics with close connections with the human hearing are essential
to characterise the acoustic environment in a perceptually relevant way, in
soundscape studies it is necessary to ‘measure’ perception, thus gathering individual
data about the responses to the acoustic environment. Aletta et al. (2016) reviewed
the most typical methods and corresponding operational tools used to collect
soundscape data, as shown in Figure 3. The most typical methods are: soundwalks,
laboratory experiments, behavioural observations and narrative interviews. The
authors observed that even if some methods tend to recur more often than others,
and they are often used in a combined way, the methodological approach largely
depends on the way researchers decide to analyse the perception of the acoustic
environment; i.e., whether it is experienced on site or virtually reproduced.
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Figure 3 - Typical methods and corresponding tools to collect soundscape data. Adapted from (Aletta,
Kang, & Axelsson, 2016)
The soundwalk method as an empirical method for identifying a soundscape and its
components is the most frequently method applied to collect data to explore areas by
minds of local experts opening a field of data for triangulation. The soundwalk
methodology is a common measurement method for the evaluation of soundscapes
(Jeon, Hong, & Lee, 2013). The essential purpose of a soundwalk is to encourage
participants to listen discriminately and to make judgments about the sounds heard
(Adams, et al., 2008), but the protocols can vary in various aspects, such as the way
of performing acoustical measurements, way of questioning, sampling of
participants, sample size, soundwalk duration, instruction, collection of visual
information. However, the core of the soundwalk methods is that local experts
experience and evaluate the soundscape under scrutiny in its real context (Figure 4).
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
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Figure 4 - Example of a soundwalk. Participants visited an urban square, listened at least three
minutes to the acoustical environment and filled out an evaluation sheet (Fiebig, 2015). The
soundwalks were performed within the framework of the COST network on soundscapes
The need to measure soundscape raises the question of how to define its ‘quality’
from a perceptual point of view. It is necessary to identify and to agree on relevant
soundscape descriptors and attributes to be included in questionnaires, semantic
scales, and observation and interview protocols (i.e., the tools reported in Figure 3),
in order to gather individual responses against those criteria.
Some studies proposed to assess soundscape quality using general descriptors for
‘soundscape quality,’ addressing the overall perception of the acoustic environment,
i.e., measuring whether a soundscape is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (Aletta, Kang, & Axelsson,
2016). However, ‘good’ is contextual; thus, such general descriptors are not always
likely to be suitable for all circumstances. For instance, the sound of a children
playground might be good for a context (e.g. a park), but not necessarily good for
another (e.g. a residential area). Consequently, since in everyday life sounds are
processed on the basis of semantic features rather on abstracted perceptual
(sensory) properties only, further perceptual dimensions must be considered. For
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
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example, tranquillity has been considered, which is constructed through sensory
information received by the auditory and visual modalities. A tranquil environment is
one that is considered to be quiet, a peaceful place to be, i.e. a place to get away
from everyday life (Pheasant, Watts, & Horoshenkov, 2009). Axelsson et al. (2010)
developed a model to perform a perceptual characterisation of a soundscape. They
observed two orthogonal components, pleasantness and eventfulness in the context
of soundscapes. Andringa and van den Bosch (2013) used the dimensions ‘pleasure’
(valence) and ‘activation’ (arousal) to characterise soundscapes. These dimensions
putting emphasis on emotion are linked to the appraisal of soundscapes and should
be considered when collecting perceptual data.
Although several methods in the context of measuring soundscapes are widely used
and established, it must be noted that research on measuring soundscape is still
ongoing and this will be discussed further in Question 10.
6. How can we ‘represent’ soundscapes?
Soundscape data should be ‘visible’ and communicable. This is needed both for
characterising soundscapes that ‘already exist’ and for pre-visualising soundscapes
that ‘might exist’ in the future. Over the years, researchers often used spectrograms
(i.e., time vs frequency) to represent the acoustic environments (often recorded from
soundwalks) in soundscape studies (e.g., Genuit & Fiebig, 2006; Semidor, 2006;
Aletta, Axelsson, & Kang, 2014). While spectrograms do not represent
‘soundscapes’ on their own, they might be viable tools to inform soundscape
analysis as they provide further insights into the sound sources composition over
time at a given place, as shown for example in Figure 5, which is essential for the
sound sources differentiation (see also Table 1, in the Introduction). However, from a
planning and design point of view, it would be useful to conceptualise the spatial
distribution of certain sound sources and the soundscape variability in relatively large
areas for potential soundscape information for users. Thus, visual representations
(e.g., two-dimensional maps) of how the acoustic environment is perceived become
useful tools both for understanding the soundscape composition and for design. At a
strategic level, the European Environmental Noise Directive (END) requires Lden and
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
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Lnight maps to be computed. Although, these only consider noise sources, and the
corresponding exposures for people, but they only contain very partial and indirect
information on people’s perception of the acoustic environments and completely lack
temporal resolution. In soundscape studies the full range of perceptible sounds in a
given context at a given time is usually considered. Therefore, soundscape
researchers are aiming to broaden the mapping process to other sources, both
positive and negative (e.g., Hao, Kang, & Krijnders, 2015; Aletta & Kang, 2015).
Figure 5 - A spectrogram from where 'birdsong' is clearly noticeable as a sound source standing out
from the background noise
In order to represent existing soundscapes, two-dimensional maps could be
developed as additional layers of landscape information. For instance, attempts have
been made to map directly some soundscape dimensions (e.g. ‘calmness’, like in
Figure 6), starting from individual data collected on site through soundwalks (e.g.,
Liu, Kang, Luo, Behm, & Coppack, 2013; Liu, Kang, & Behm, 2014; Aletta,
Margaritis, Filipan, Puyana Romero, Axelsson, & Kang, 2015; Aletta & Kang, 2015;
Aiello, Schifanella, Quercia, & Aletta, 2016). The hypothesis for developing such
maps is that based on the soundscape information on certain locations in an area,
the soundscape of the whole area could be predicted with spatial interpolation
analysis method in GIS platforms.
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Figure 6 - Example of ‘Calmness’ map in Brighton & Hove, UK. Adapted from (Aletta, Margaritis,
Filipan, Puyana Romero, Axelsson, & Kang, 2015)
On the other hand, under a planning and design perspective, researchers have been
exploring the possibility of using computer-based models, like Artificial Neural
Networks (ANNs), to predict the soundscape quality evaluation of potential users in
urban open spaces at the design stage (Yu & Kang, 2009). Such an approach
requires large amount of data for the models to be likely to generalise and further
research in this direction would be desirable.
The sounds’ meaning within the context was also shown to be an important element
in soundscape, for sounds that people notice. Therefore, an important step in
mapping soundscape is mapping the sounds that users of the space are likely to
notice. A sound’s capability to attract attention depends on its characteristics, such
as changes in time and frequency, often referred to as its saliency (De Coensel,
Botteldooren, De Muer, Berglund, Nilsson, & Lercher, 2009). A sound’s capability to
receive attention and to get noticed also depends on the activity of the person. For
mapping models inspired by human auditory processing, the latter can only be
included in a general, person-independent way. Grouping of sounds into increasingly
complex auditory objects (cars becoming traffic, bird chirps becoming a dawn
chorus) is an example of such a common factor that can be included in a model
(Oldoni, et al., 2013).
7. How can we ‘plan’ and ‘design’ soundscapes for the built environment?
Soundscape management and planning must always be part of the design of any
place, either new or redeveloped, and taken as early as possible at the design stage,
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
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in the same way as visual or lightening aspects usually are. Even when noise is not
a serious issue (if noise sources are not relevant), the sonic experience of the people
using the place should be as enjoyable as possible, as it certainly will contribute to
the overall appreciation of the site and of its quality. As discussed above,
soundscape usually results from a complex structure of sounds, in their specific
context. Sound components, of natural or of anthropogenic origin, will be heard and
understood (except where masked), even completely or rationally identified,
according to their topologies and meaning. The degree of appreciation will result
from the experience of the user, from the interaction with information from all senses,
and from confrontation with his/her expectations in view of the uses of the place. All
these aspects will guide the soundscape planning and design.
The soundscape designer must then understand not only which sound sources
correlate well with the users’ expectations but also know the areas where the sounds
of interest should be audible. These sounds of preference have to be well identified,
together with those that are unwanted. The basic key for the designer here is to put
the human listener/perceiver at the centre of the listening process and consider
sound perception as a measurement. Care must be taken to put the listener and his
sonic interests at the forefront of the design process with his preferences and
expectations according to location, human activities, and local culture.
A number of paths and criteria should be followed, each using different techniques,
which fall under three main broad steps (Brown & Muhar, 2004; Bento Coelho,
2015): to define the acoustic character of the place; to plan; and to design and
optimize.
Defining the acoustic character requires a physical (i.e., through physical parameters
and sound sources taxonomy) as well as a perceptual characterisation of the place
(i.e., through targeted individual responses), using the methods discussed in
Question 5. This characterisation includes the visual forms, the materials, the lights,
the odours, and the people using it. This character is then to be well established,
taking into account the current and foreseen purpose of the place, the uses, the
activities, the variations in time (along the day or the week), but also the local culture
and history, so as to define the objective acoustical goals (Brown, 2012).
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
Planning the soundscape implies planning the physical features of the environment
to achieve a specific acoustic objective (Brown & Muhar, 2004) and to support the
desired perceptual outcome. The planning step will thus carefully identify: the areas
of listening and the users’ itineraries; the sound components, both existing and new,
their sources and topologies; the sonic interests; and context. The dominant sounds,
either wanted or unwanted, as well as time and geographical variations must be
found and integrated in the plan. The sound component topologies can be defined by
evaluating their limits of audibility in the whole area of interest, by perceptual
measurement and mapping (Aletta & Kang, 2015). Overall, the soundscape planning
stage requires the capability to anticipate to some extent what the above mentioned
perceptual outcome will be. For this purpose, soundscape predictive models will be
needed, which is one of the future challenges also discussed in Question 10.
By discussing possible options for soundscape management and design with
stakeholders (such as residents, citizen groups, or transport authorities), planning
technicians (architects, engineers, urban planners, consultants involved), and
decision makers (local authorities, for example) light might be shed on the best
applicable solutions and on the users expectations. Noise control measures and
strategies are used to reduce or eliminate unwanted sounds where possible.
Masking techniques may be adopted by making use of the psychoacoustic
phenomena, by enhancing or introducing sounds of preference that will mask
unwanted sound components or will divert the attention of the listener to other more
pleasant sounds. When new sounds are introduced they must correlate with the
place and with the human activities and expectations so as to assure overall
coherence and context.
8. How are soundscapes shaping our history?
Human beings integrate, in real or imaginary situations, the sensorial stimuli that
surround them. So buildings, panorama, and in general all cultural and natural
heritage cannot be described, appreciated, and consequently, valorised using a
mono-sensorial component analysis essentially based on vision. Many times, in fact,
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
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our ability to recognize the intrinsic value of elements that surround us is
unconsciously guided by the presence of sound.
The tolling of the bells in a square, the reverberant atmosphere inside a church, the
quietness sense in a cloister, the voices of the shopkeepers in a crowded historical
market, the rattle of an old tram, but also the stadium chant and the yells on a
recreation ground, are all examples of sound marks or iconic sounds and, as such,
they are an intrinsic part of a specific context. They can stimulate our sphere of
emotions and they can influence our global sensation in experiencing that specific
context (Burgess & Wathey, 2000).
When for the population the feature of hearing in a scenario, now, as in the past, is
important, and in some cases predominant then the soundscape of that scenario
should be considered an intangible cultural element, linked to the social and cultural
heritage of the community and part of our history. As a consequence, it should be
preserved and valorised, just like the other artefacts (Brambilla & Maffei, 2010;
Huang & Kang, 2015; Zhang, Zhang, Liu, & Kang, 2016).
In the larger scale such as the urban scale, the soundscape of a city across space,
time and society, is the result of several stratified factors: human activities, transport
technologies, culture, geographic position, town planning, human habits and way of
life. Although processes of globalization and new technologies can change the urban
soundscape making its recognition harder, this intangible element does not always
lose its intrinsic characteristics as recognized and felt by the population and it
becomes one of the signs of the identity of a city (Maffei, Iannace, & Lembo, 2004;
Brambilla, De Gregorio, Maffei, Yuksel Can, & Ozcevik, 2007; Gómez Escobar, et
al., 2012; Brambilla, Maffei, Di Gabriele, & Gallo, 2013).
In details in the same city we can recognize areas in which, although the people’s
lifestyle and some details were modified, the actual soundscape can be assumed to
be similar to the one in the past (Fernandez Álvarez, Pascale, Masullo, Maffei, &
Puyana Romero, 2014), areas in which the presence of a specific sound source has
altered the original soundscape, which is, however, still present in the background,
and areas that had a radical urban and social transformation and in which all past
sound sources disappeared and were replaced by new ones (Zhou, Kang, & Jin,
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
2014). Besides all, the soundscape of these areas takes over and accompanies our
daily life as residents and impresses us as tourists during our visits. On the other
side the variety of stimuli favours the concept of mixophilia and encourages the
possibility of living peacefully and happily with difference (Maffei, Brambilla, & Di
Gabriele, 2015).
9. What examples of soundscape practices do we have so far?
While there are still relatively few soundscape improvement projects, some
examples are available to represent a range of practical soundscape applications.
The project Nauener Platz: Remodelling for Young and Old (Schulte-Fortkamp,
2010) represents a successful implementation of the soundscape approach to the
management and design of the urban sound environment. Data were triangulated
through measurements on sound propagation, traffic censuses, binaural recordings,
and qualitative evaluations such as soundwalks and open interviews introducing the
local experts’ perspective. The soundscape intervention included installing a gabion
wall along one of the main roads to protect against noise around the playground and
a number of ‘audio islands’ integrating sounds that people would listen to when using
the place (see Figure 7). The resulting solutions reduced residents’ exposure to low
frequency noise in Nauener Platz and provided novel approaches to enable the most
wanted sounds in the area to be heard so that the desire of the residents to escape
road traffic noise through hearing natural sounds was realised creating a relevant
and usable green space and city park for the area. The improvement of the
residents’ soundscape experience was measured using soundwalk and narrative
interviews methods. The redevelopment of the Nauener Platz was awarded the in
2012 with the European Soundscape Award by the European Environment Agency
and the UK Noise Abatement Society.
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
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Figure 7 - Example of the soundscape intervention in Nauener Platz, Berlin (Germany), using a
gabion wall (right) to protect park goers from noise around the playground area; audio islands (left
and centre) were also installed to provide areas of restoration
A citywide approach using soundscape principles has been conducted in Brighton &
Hove in the United Kingdom (Easteal, Bannister, Kang, Aletta, Lavia, & Witchel,
2014). The City Council and The Noise Abatement Society worked together on a
series of demonstration projects (Lavia, Dixon, Witchel, & Goldsmith, 2015),
including: West Street Story (Lavia, Easteal, Close, Witchel, & Axelsson, 2012),
West Street Tunnel (Witchel, Lavia, Westling, Healy, Needham, & Chockalingam,
2013; Lavia, Witchel, Kang, & Aletta, 2016) and Valley Gardens (Aletta & Kang,
2015). The West Street Story project was the first night noise soundscape
intervention pilot: a three-dimensional curated ambient audio installation in a
clubbing district. The project resulted in better crowd behaviour and reduced need for
police presence in the area, which was proved through observational and body
language analysis, and video footage. The West Street Tunnel project was a follow-
on experiment in a pedestrian subway which had been closed due to anti-social
behaviour and noise. Curated added sounds were proven to help minimise public
disorder and increase feelings of safety amongst those passing through the tunnel.
In the Valley Gardens project, soundscape analyses were conducted to implement
the management of the acoustic environment in a broader urban regeneration
scheme. The interventions helped residents to feel safer, suffer less from noise
pollution, and increased a sense of social cohesion through citywide collaboration.
The city of Sheffield is a good example where water features have been embedded
in urban design to enhance the perception of the acoustic environment’s quality
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
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(Kang, 2012). Particularly, at the central train station, a complex system of fountains
and noise barriers, as shown in Figure 8, implements a masking strategy for the
traffic noise coming from the nearby major road. Different water features provide
spectral variety and different frequency ranges resulting in an effective masking of
the traffic noise. The interventions demonstrate the importance of utilising diversity
when designing soundscapes and created spaces with a cultural meaning (the water
of the fountains and the metal of the barrier stand for the river and the steel industry,
which are key symbols of Sheffield’s history) to enhance residents’ and visitors’
enjoyment of the areas and reduced noise annoyance.
Figure 8 - Example of soundscape intervention in Sheffield (UK), using water features for masking
and noise barriers for sound level reduction
A soundscape intervention was developed in St. Knuts Torg on a central square in
the city of Malmö in southern Sweden (Cerwén, 2016). The intervention was
organised as a quasi-experiment on an urban square, where noise barriers covered
with ivy where installed and forest sounds were added through loudspeakers to form
an ‘arbour’ with an improved soundscape. One finding of the study in Malmö was
that the quietest acoustic environment was not perceived as the best condition,
confirming that carefully curated added sounds might be useful tools in soundscape
design.
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
Maffei and Lisa Lavia: Building and Environment 10.1016/j.buildenv.2016.08.011
Building and Environment, Volume XXX, 2016, Pages XXXX
There have also been soundscape studies and interventions outside the urban
realm, which focus more on acoustic ecology and soundscape preservation in rural
and natural areas (e.g., Pheasant, Horoshenkov, Watts, & Barret, 2008; Pilcher,
Newman, & Manning, 2009; Siebein & Skelton, 2009; Pijanowski & Farina, 2011).
The National Park Service (NPS) in the USA has developed a comprehensive
soundscape policy to be applied in its sites for the protection and management of the
parks’ acoustic environments (Miller, 2008). The policy acknowledges the
importance of preservation of the acoustic environment for both enhancing the
visitors’ experience and protecting animal communication and encompasses a broad
range of strategies, including: measuring reference acoustic conditions, limiting
human-made sounds, setting acoustic management goals and objectives and how to
address them by management. These projects benefit all species that interact with
them, and aid the protection and conservation of soundscapes of special interest for
conservation, restoration, and protection.
10. Conclusions: what are the challenges of soundscape research for the
next years?
The previous questions provided an overall picture of the current state of
soundscape research and pointed out that there are still several gaps in this field that
need to be addressed by researchers and practitioners.
In 2008 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO/TC 43/SC 1)
established a new expert working group on soundscape (WG54) working on
“Perceptual assessment of soundscape quality”. The work of the WG 54 led to the
Part 1 of the standard discussed in Question 1 (International Organization for
Standardization, 2014), which provides basic definitions and framework for
soundscape research. However, Question 5 pointed out that research on methods
for collecting soundscape data and ways to process them is still in progress (Brown,
Kang, & Gjestland, 2011). The WG 54 is currently working on the Part 2 of the
standard, titled “Acoustics — Soundscape Part 2: Data collection”. This will
provide information about minimum reporting requirements for soundscape studies
and methods and protocols for physical (e.g. binaural recordings, ambisonics) and
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
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perceptual data collection, both on site (e.g. soundwalks) and off site (e.g. laboratory
experiments). Thus, more studies about the optimisation of soundscape data
collection in an ecologically valid way that does not disturb the usual context of
perceiving the acoustic environment are desirable, as there are relatively few studies
dealing with these methodological aspects of soundscape research (Payne, Davies,
& Adams, 2009; Axelsson, Nilsson, & Berglund, 2009; van Kempen, Devilee, Swart,
& van Kamp, 2014).
It is still not clear what kind of analysis is best to use for soundscape data. Over the
years, researchers have sought correlations between physical and perceptual data
(e.g., Lercher & Schulte-Fortkamp, 2003; Brambilla, Gallo, & Zambon, 2013;
Rychtáriková & Vermeir, 2013). However, such correlations are not necessarily
useful per se. In order to use soundscape data to inform planning and design, it is
also essential to involve all related stakeholders but also to solve the soundscape
‘predictability’ issue. Thus, more effort should be directed to developing predictive
models for the perception of the acoustic environment starting from physical features
of the environment, according to a descriptor-indicator(s) framework (Aletta, Kang, &
Axelsson, 2016). On the one hand, this might provide actual operative ‘tools’, closing
the gap between soundscape research, policy-making, and design practice; on the
other hand, predictive models can also provide further insights into the origins of the
perceptual constructs. As mentioned in the introduction, numerous studies have
investigated the ‘calmness’ dimension of soundscape and several models have been
proposed to predict this construct using physical indicators (e.g., Watts, Miah, &
Pheasant, 2013; Brambilla & Gallo, 2016). However, other dimensions of
soundscape might be more relevant in different contexts, like urban streets or
commercial districts (Yu, Kang, & Ma, 2016). Therefore, there is a need to agree on
what kind of descriptors (i.e., perceptual dimensions) are more suitable for what kind
of contexts, and for this purpose further semantic scales should be developed and
standardised.
Question 7 addressed the ‘soundscape design’ topic, which is possibly the most
relevant for the built environment practitioners. While one could argue that
perception itself cannot be ‘designed’, it is true that the built environment can be
designed to elicit perception. As soon as the current acoustic environment (and the
Jian Kang, Francesco Aletta, Truls T. Gjestland, Lex A. Brown, Dick Botteldooren, Brigitte Schulte-
Fortkamp, Peter Lercher, Irene van Kamp, Klaus Genuit, André Fiebig, José Luis Bento Coelho, Luigi
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corresponding soundscape) of a place has been characterised as discussed in
Question 5, the design process can start. According to the different ‘acoustic
objectives’ (Brown & Muhar, 2004) several design strategies might be proposed. For
instance: using water features to mask unwanted sounds (as discussed in the
introduction); exploiting the saliency (as discussed in Question 2) of wanted sounds
(e.g., birdsong in urban parks) to provide attentional masking; exploiting non-
acoustical (e.g., visual) factors to modulate perception of both wanted and unwanted
sounds; controlling the characteristics of unwanted sounds to make them less
noticeable. In cases where poor acoustic design is pre-existing added sounds or
music may be the most pragmatic soundscape design intervention (Eastel,
Bannister, Kang, Aletta, Lavia, & Witchel, 2014), but active systems (e.g.,
loudspeakers) should not be the default solution in urban public spaces or act as a
substitute for good design. For this reason, there is a need to investigate more
systematic design strategies for soundscape which can be sustainable and
integrated in long term planning for the future of urban areas.
Overall, soundscape research needs more scientific evidence of its potential to
promote healthy urban environments through cognitive restoration. This will help to
disseminate the outcomes from soundscape research and eventually to integrate this
scientific field in the broader framework of policy-making and urban planning.
Acknowledgements
The authors are grateful to all those involved in the COST TUD Action TD-0804
Soundscape of European Cities and Landscapes.
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... The ISO 12913 series of standards [1][2][3] represents a paradigm shift in sound environment management and details perceptual methods to holistically assess and analyse the sound environment. As opposed to traditional noise management, the soundscape management framework perceives sound as a resource rather than a waste [4]; focuses on sounds of preference rather than sounds of discomfort; and manages unwanted with wanted sounds as well as reducing unwanted sounds rather than just reducing sound levels [5]. Hence, there are soundscape intervention techniques based on augmentation or introduction of masking sounds into the acoustic environment to improve the overall perception of acoustic comfort. ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Soundscape augmentation is an emerging approach for noise mitigation by introducing additional sounds known as "maskers" to increase acoustic comfort. Traditionally, the choice of maskers is often predicated on expert guidance or post-hoc analysis which can be time-consuming and sometimes arbitrary. Moreover, this often results in a static set of maskers that are inflexible to the dynamic nature of real-world acoustic environments. Overcoming the inflexibility of traditional soundscape augmentation is twofold. First, given a snapshot of a soundscape, the system must be able to select an optimal masker without human supervision. Second, the system must also be able to react to changes in the acoustic environment with near real-time latency. In this work, we harness the combined prowess of cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) to allow in-situ listening and playback using microcontrollers while delegating computationally expensive inference tasks to the cloud. In particular, a serverless cloud architecture was used for inference, ensuring near real-time latency and scalability without the need to provision computing resources. A working prototype of the system is currently being deployed in a public area experiencing high traffic noise, as well as undergoing public evaluation for future improvements.
... The ISO 12913 series of standards [1][2][3] represents a paradigm shift in sound environment management and details perceptual methods to holistically assess and analyse the sound environment. As opposed to traditional noise management, the soundscape management framework perceives sound as a resource rather than a waste [4]; focuses on sounds of preference rather than sounds of discomfort; and manages unwanted with wanted sounds as well as reducing unwanted sounds rather than just reducing sound levels [5]. Hence, there are soundscape intervention techniques based on augmentation or introduction of masking sounds into the acoustic environment to improve the overall perception of acoustic comfort. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Soundscape augmentation is an emerging approach for noise mitigation by introducing additional sounds known as "maskers" to increase acoustic comfort. Traditionally, the choice of maskers is often predicated on expert guidance or post-hoc analysis which can be time-consuming and sometimes arbitrary. Moreover, this often results in a static set of maskers that are inflexible to the dynamic nature of real-world acoustic environments. Overcoming the inflexibility of traditional soundscape augmentation is twofold. First, given a snapshot of a soundscape, the system must be able to select an optimal masker without human supervision. Second, the system must also be able to react to changes in the acoustic environment with near real-time latency. In this work, we harness the combined prowess of cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) to allow in-situ listening and playback using microcontrollers while delegating computationally expensive inference tasks to the cloud. In particular, a serverless cloud architecture was used for inference, ensuring near real-time latency and scalability without the need to provision computing resources. A working prototype of the system is currently being deployed in a public area experiencing high traffic noise, as well as undergoing public evaluation for future improvements.
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The quality of the natural sound environment is important for the well-being of humans and for urban sustainability. Therefore, it is important to study how the soundscape of the natural environment affects humans with respect to the different densities of vegetation, and how this affects the frequency of singing events and the sound pressure levels of common birds that generate natural sounds in a commonly visited urban park in Abuja, Nigeria. This study involves the recording of birdsongs, the measurement of sound pressure levels, and a questionnaire evaluation of sound perception and the degree of acoustic comfort in the park. Acoustic comfort, which affects humans, describes the fundamental feelings of users towards the acoustic environment. The results show that first, there is a significant difference between the frequency of singing events of birds for each category of vegetation density (low, medium, and high density) under cloudy and sunny weather conditions, but there is no significant difference during rainy weather. Secondly, the measured sound pressure levels of the birdsongs are affected by vegetation density. This study shows a significant difference between the sound pressure levels of birdsongs and the vegetation density under cloudy, sunny, and rainy weather conditions. In addition, the frequency of singing events of birds is affected by the sound pressure levels of birdsongs with respect to different vegetation densities under different weather conditions. Thirdly, the results from the respondents (N = 160) in this study indicated that the acoustic perception of the park was described as being pleasant, vibrant, eventful, calming, and not considered to be chaotic or annoying in any sense. It also shows that the human perception of birdsong in the park was moderately to strongly correlated with different densities of vegetation, and that demographics play an important role in how natural sounds are perceived in the environment under different weather conditions.
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The past two decades have seen an ongoing paradigm shift from noise control to soundscaping, and soundscape approaches have been applied in noise management projects. However, cost-benefit analysis (CBA), which is widely used for economic appraisal of projects that would impact on the sound environment, remains noise-based and residential-location-focused. As a result, benefits of wanted sounds are omitted from appraisal. While there is a wealth of literature seeking to place a value/cost on changes in noise exposure, little research has been done on soundscape valuation. Consequently, there is little evidence on the monetary value of soundscape, which is essential for developing soundscape-based CBA. This paper initiates a systematic discussion on this emerging topic, by addressing ten questions covering the definition and scope for soundscape valuation, potential valuation methods for primary soundscape valuation research and required data, special concerns on private and public contexts, non-monetary valuation and soundscapes of cultural and/or historical significance, and the eventual application of soundscape values in CBA and beyond. Answers are based on reflection of existing literature on environmental valuation and soundscape, and visionary opinions by the authors from research, practice and policy sectors, and can help establish a framework to support future research in soundscape valuation and relevant areas.
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