Facade Design in the Urban Soundscape

Alvaro Balderrama promoviert im Fachbereich Detmolder Schule für Architektur und Innenarchitektur an der TH OWL in Kooperation mit der Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment an der Delft University of Technology, betreut durch Professor Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Knaack und Professor Daniel Arztmann.

Alvaro Balderrama

Cities worldwide are expanding at an unprecedented rate. Urban densification promotes high-rise construction to allocate more people in less land; however, these built environments are typically associated with noise pollution due to the greater amount of sound sources surrounded by buildings. Noise pollution is a major environmental problem causing annoyance, sleep disturbance, hypertension and premature death (European Environment Agency, 2014), resulting in a burden to health care systems, insurance companies, and the real estate market among other economies.

Noise policies are being applied by some industries and local authorities, but regulations in the construction industry regarding a sustainable acoustic environment are very low or non-existing in most countries. Construction codes and sustainability certifications made progress on regulating environmental factors such as energy and water efficiency, as well as indoor environmental comfort, but leave a clear gap around the impact that buildings can have on the acoustic environment outside, ignoring the relationship between buildings and urban noise.

Building facades occupy a significant amount of surfaces in the urban fabric, and studies show that individual facades have the potential to increase or reduce environmental noise in substantial amounts (Techen and Krimm, 2014), (Arup, 2016). Today, systematic regulations on the acoustic impact of a building outside do not exist, and although there is vast research on related topics, as well as advanced software calculation tools, there is not a standard method to holistically evaluate a facade’s acoustic influence. This study aims to develop a rating system that takes subjective and objective parameters to qualify and quantify the acoustic impact of a specific facade to its individual context. This research could facilitate the communication across the construction industry, public health and policy makers, offering opportunities for innovative strategies towards living in sustainable cities.