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Façade Design for the Urban Soundscape

Abstract. Urban noise pollution is a major environmental health problem. International organizations are making efforts at all levels to prevent health damage due to noise in the built environment, but the design of the built environment typically neglects the acoustic influence of buildings. Sustainable design practices and policies have developed innovative solutions through the last decades but extensive research from different disciplines agrees that noise problems on the built environment need to be addressed through new design methods that focus on the health and well-being of the population. The concept of soundscape was internationally adopted to provide a holistic approach to the acoustic environment, beyond noise, and its effect on the quality of life. Soundscape is defined as “an acoustic environment as perceived or experienced and/or understood by a person or people, in context” (ISO 12913-1:2014). “So the perception of those that are enveloped and engaged in their environment becomes a descriptor of that environment, as much as the physical attributes of the environment” (Brooks, B., Schulte-Fortkamp, B., - The Soundscape Standard, 2016).

The building envelope typically acts as an interface between interior spaces and the environment where a project is located. The geometry and material selection influence the dynamics of the users inside and outside of the building, not only by its physical boundary conditions but also for the effects on the comfort, productivity and health of the occupants. The objective of this research is to address the contemporary global problem of environmental noise and its effects on the health of its inhabitants taking into account the specific role of architecture, being this discipline responsible for shaping and materializing our cities and therefore, defining major components of the urban soundscape. In order to offer creative architectural-acoustic strategies its necessary to have a clear overview of the health problems pointed out by policy makers, regulations in the construction industry, current state of façade engineering, and the tools and methods being used by practitioners.

Computational design methods could support in the development of soundscape design tools by predicting the influence of buildings on the urban soundscape. Tools for soundscape design should not only depend on traffic or industrial noise, but to consider the extensive amount of sounds that are perceived by the ear. Human-made sounds and natural sounds. Furthermore, a soundscape tool should go beyond the physical properties of sound and the physical properties of the built environment, meaning that feelings such as annoyance, comfort or privacy could be integrated in the design as new parameters.

Duration: 1/2019 – 12/2019

Project participants: Technische Hochschule Ostwestfalen-Lippe - ConstructionLab

The project is currently open for strategic partnerships.