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Conference paper2006

Democratic shortcomings in the planning process with use of equivalent noise and possibilities to supplement this measure with a new, more understandable high-noise parameter

Skärbäck, Erik


Involvement of the public in the planning process is a criterion for democracy. The level of noise tends to be investigated and evaluated separately as mathematical calculations of decibel exposure. Such information is difficult for non-experts to understand, and lack of understanding means lack of democracy. The sound environment should not only focus on regulating the level of noise exposure, but also on the development of silent places and areas. Resent research has shown that serenity is a key factor for the environmental perception of several environmental characteristics corresponding to basic human needs. Serenity, however, has not yet become a resource factor on a par with other criteria in physical planning processes. Other more pedagogical ways of describing the sound environment must be use in addition to the more scientific decibel calculations. This paper illustrates the issue on the basis of a study of railway planning in southern Sweden. Besides the ordinary calculations of equivalent noise provided by the railway consultant, a pedagogical method has been developed and practised to describe the duration of high noise accumulated during a 24-h period. High noise comes from trains passing through without stopping. This case study compares impact assessments from equivalent noise and maximum noise exposure with impact assessment from a new high-noise parameter. The study shows how the hardly understandable decibel values make it difficult to detect rather extreme noise situations. The exposure duration of high noise is far easier to understand and therefore relevant, thus better fulfilling the criterion of democracy, than is comparing equivalent noise values

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Publisher: NAEP


Conference paper at the annual NAEP Conference 2006 “Global Perspectives on Regional Issues: The Future for Environmental Professionals in the Next 30 Years”