Sunday, February 26, 2023

AANViS Conference Summary

by Dan Clayton, SLR Consulting Ltd.

Over 80 acoustics practitioners came together for the 2022 Fall AANViS conference, Sounding Alarms, Solving Problems.

It was great to see so many faces at the conference. There was so much buzz and energy in the rooms before the conference started. The coffee was at the ready and there was a sense of anticipation for the first time the industry had met up en masse since the pandemic.

The day kicked off with lots of people arriving in time for registration, buffet breakfast, and networking before the opening speech from Richard Patching, AANViS President.

Opening Plenary. Richard’s speech first acknowledged the many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit who cared for the traditional territories and lands which were being used for the conference that day. This acknowledgement was made as an act of reconciliation and gratitude to those whose territory we reside on or are visiting.

The conference sponsors were key to keeping the costs for attendees down. Richard thanked all the sponsors, including our Platinum sponsors, Motion Canada and Wallworks, Gold Sponsors, RWDI and SLR Consulting, and Silver Sponsors, AP dynamics, Behrens & Associates Environmental Noise Control, Merlin Integrated Services, NTi Audio, Patching Associates Acoustical Engineering and X-Scala.

Richard reflected on the challenging decision to postpone the original date of this conference from 2020 due to COVID. It was the right decision to make. The timing felt right to hold it in the fall of 2022, and the crowd of people there really showed support for wanting to get back together and get things moving again.

Richard closed off by welcoming everyone to the first of many AANViS conferences, with a hint at a longer duration one in the future (looking at spring 2024, watch this space).

The morning sessions had the conference split into two spaces: one a half-day workshop and the other a series of expert panels at the mercy of a keen audience to ask questions on an array of topics.

Introduction to Acoustics. Steve Bilawchuk provided his insightful “Introduction to Acoustics Workshop” to an eager audience of keen “students.” Steve walked the audience through the concepts of acoustics, with all sorts of sounds being played to demonstrate the points. The seminar helped to develop and enhance the participants’ knowledge of concepts and principles in Acoustics, providing an opportunity to apply theory to practical situations about sound sources and their control.

Why consultants cost so much…or do they? Dan Clayton of SLR Consulting Ltd., James Farquharson of FDI Acoustics Inc., and Jonathan Chui of Stantec were on the panel of experts. This was an interesting Q&A session with some honest and thought-provoking answers. A few highlights were a discussion around equipment charges to clients, what the panel has seen as changes in technology over the years, how to manage scope creep, and field measurements and analysis processes.

Defining the problem. Ian Bonsma of HGC Engineering, Jessie Roy of RWDI, and Pascal Everton of Soft dB gave opinions and answered questions on “Defining the Problem (RFP Requirements).” This session was targeted at individuals who develop RFPs and the challenges consultants face when trying to respond to them. There were some interesting points made about how difficult it often is for consultants to interpret RFPs for what the client needs and the inefficiencies around this process while being balanced with seeking a competitive bidding process, especially where public money is involved. There was also some discussion about the general RFP culture that is now integral to many procurement processes and how it can seem to be cost-advantageous but is becoming more of a competition of who can write the lowest bid with the tightest scope (having lots of caveats), knowing that soon enough scope change will be inevitable. Things wrapped up with some thoughts and suggestions around RFP issuers seeking support from the acoustics industry on how to relay the problem to be solved/scope clearly and posed the idea of having an interview stage in the selection process.

What didn’t work and why?  Andy Strasser of Merlin Integrated Solutions, Cliff Faszer of FFA Consultants in Acoustics and Noise Control, and Richard Patching, AANViS President, were on the panel to reflect on the ineffective choices in the design and construction of solutions for sound and vibration issues, along with solutions that worked. There were many historical projects shared by the panel and some fantastic questions to get to some real nitty-gritty details on what went wrong. A masterclass from the experts with some great insight in the session.

Lunchtime keynote. Prior to his move to Canada, Dan Clayton completed an undergraduate degree and worked for eleven years in the UK. This recent experience with the profession of acoustics in two countries gives Dan a unique perspective on the similarities and differences in the way the profession is practised, regulated and supported. Click here for a more complete description of Dan’s observations on the differences, how the UK developed its approach and some ideas that could improve the industry here in Canada.

Dan’s talk got everyone talking in the networking space about what they could do next to help with the big tasks ahead and the challenges they are facing. It was great to see everyone so passionate about what could be done.

The afternoon sessions split into two rooms again.

Noise regulations. Five key personnel formed part of the panels of this half-day session talking about upcoming changes to and expectations around assessment approaches. There was representation from four major decision-makers and stakeholders in Alberta. These were the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), Alberta Infrastructure, and City of Calgary Transportation Planning.

First off, Joan You (AUC) and Jason Cao (AER) went through some expectations for Noise Impact Assessments (NIAs) submitted to each regulator. After this, the floor opened to questions from the audience.

The requirement for NIAs to be stamped by professional engineers came up. On this, the AUC said this wasn’t a requirement but the AER said it was. There was some confusion in the room around this, especially for practitioners without this classification and how it may be seen as an overly bureaucratic requirement, especially where it may not reflect on competency for completing a technically satisfactory NIA.

They were asked if there was any in-person consultation planned for the upcoming updates to the regulations. The AER stated that they understood that their attendance at this conference would suffice as consultation, which surprised the room. A comment regarding the mix of wind farm assessment in AUC Rule 012 with the rest seems inappropriate and should be split into a separate document, with reference made to the IoA good practice guide. The AUC said that this may not be a bad idea and would consider this going forward.

The next panelists were Heather Leonhardt and Vedran Vavan from the City of Calgary Transportation Planning. The first thing mentioned was how the department now had an acoustics specialist, Vedran, to help with the more technical side of sound in transportation planning. There were lots of questions about the general plan for managing sound from transportation and especially in the general reduction strategy for the city. There were discussions around the benefit of a city-wide noise map.

Finally, Phillip Wloka presented some key elements that form part of the requirements for design under Alberta Infrastructure, with a focus on building design. Phillip gave a great introduction to the requirements and stated some general rules of thumb on their expectations. A notable mention was that Alberta Infrastructure is exploring IIC requirements for future iterations of its Technical Design Requirements (TDR). He also noted that if an acoustics consultant is onboard, he is generally happy and trusts their judgment. He also reflected on what it was like going from working in the private acoustics industry to working for Alberta Infrastructure, which was very insightful.

How to become a good consultant. Corjan Buma, MEANU at the University of Alberta, Justin Caskey of Patching Associates, and Teresa Drew of RWDI provided great insight and experiences on how to excel in this challenging industry, not from just a technical perspective but developing internal projects and resources to help deliver the best possible product to clients while managing the concerns and challenges of running a company.

Paper presentations. The technical part of the day closed off with a variety of technical presentations from the old pros and their new techniques and innovations. These presentations ranged from localizing low-frequency sound sources, temporary acoustic barriers, and innovative approaches to acoustical design and relaying the process to clients or end users through simulation.

Book launch & reception. The final part of the conference was the reception over a few light snacks and the launch of Dr. Marcia Jenneth Epstein's book, Sound and Noise: A Listener's Guide to Everyday Life. It’s a fantastic read if you haven’t had a chance to read it. All the copies brought to the conference were sold to the crowd of attendees.

AANViS would like to thank all attendees of the Sounding Alarms Solving Problems conference in November 2022. We couldn’t have done it without your support and participation.

Keep your eyes peeled for news about the 2024 conference soon.

Reflections of a UK transplant

by Dan Clayton, SLR Consulting Ltd.

Dan Clayton came to Calgary, Alberta from the UK where he worked in the acoustics and vibration field for eleven years after completing his education at the University of Salford in Manchester, England. Since 2018, he has worked for SLR Consulting in several different capacities. Dan gave this keynote presentation at the October 28, 2022 AANViS conference, sharing how he got into the field through his love of music, then into acoustics, through the less typical route in Canada, a specific undergraduate degree in acoustics, and what he has learned from his experience in the field so far.

The Canadian approach to acoustics, sound and vibration differs from that found in the UK and Europe, especially around the different attitudes to public and regulator/local authority/council/municipality desires and pushes for specific and more comprehensive regulations compared to Canada and North America. Some key differences are that, in general, in the UK

  • Ambient sound level measurements and longer surveys are typical.
  • Environmental sound assessments are always compared to a baseline or criteria developed from that, which is typically established via monitoring and/or a mix of monitoring and modelling.
  • There is a push and often requirements from local jurisdictions to have an acoustic assessment complement any new or changed developments/processes.
  • European Union countries are required to provide a noise map of the transportation and industrial (basic complexity) for the country every 5 years.
  • Absolute limits are less common; a general impact approach to environmental sound is used.
  • Occupational assessments have requirements to reduce the sound levels through engineered approaches rather than default to hearing protection, which is seen as the last resort.
  • Acoustic performance requirements for buildings, such as educational and healthcare, are in the building code.
  • Emergency services are seen as a sound source to design for in terms of sound entering buildings.
  • It is more common for large infrastructure projects and key noise polluters to provide grants to insulate affected residents through roof insulation, acoustic glazing, alternative ventilation, etc.
  • Starting to see the use of soundscape as a potential mitigation option, where positive or masking sound sources can be introduced to provide a subjective improvement in the acoustic environment.
  • Municipalities have more oversight of land compatibility planning and decisions with sound and acoustics playing a major part in those decisions.
  • Construction sound and vibration are assessed and mitigated, along with accompanying management plans to help manage as best as practicable. This is especially the case for projects taking place for longer than 6-12 months.
  • There is one regulator in the country that looks at all industrial processes for permits. Sound and vibration are assessed according to the most appropriate technique for predicting impacts on the public. This regulator also applies a pragmatic approach to decision-making and will consider other factors in deciding on appropriate mitigation, not just the impact from an acoustics and vibration standpoint.

A lot of change in the UK and Europe has occurred through the years around the requirements and regulators and municipalities have become more serious about acoustics and vibration: going from being quite relaxed and not required to being integral to decisions on new projects and the management of existing industrial and mining operations. This change happened relatively quickly, over 10-15 years and was generally for the better. Moving to Canada opened my eyes to how fortunate I was to have acoustics undergraduate courses in the UK, and how things should be improved.

There were three key drivers for getting these changes in place:

  • Introduction of the Noise Policy Statement for England (NPSE), where England outlined its high-level targets and aims for noise in the country. Dan said this seemingly insignificant move changed the mindset of the industry, policymakers, and regulators to align on its goals and make decisions based on the aims within it.
  • Active acoustics organizations, the Institute of Acoustics (IoA), and Acoustics & Noise Consultants (ANC), which were integral in the push for better acoustics and vibration policy in the UK, through acoustics education for public and government policymakers and providing an opinion on new assessment standards and policy as the experts and as a united group of industry professionals.
  • Regulators and environmental protection officers became frustrated with complaints from a loose approach to acoustics and vibration assessment requirements. This saw them becoming increasingly demanding of operators and developers to provide assessments and commission testing to demonstrate compliance.

Canadian acoustics practitioners need to do better. We need to take a number of actions as a call to arms to help improve the industry here in Canada, namely

  • Create and nurture an acoustics community for collaboration.
  • Accreditation for practitioners and/or certificate of competence for Acoustics possibly by AANViS/CAA.
  • Members of AANViS/CAA to help the public, regulators, and federal government understand the importance of considering sound and vibration in decisions.
  • Undergraduate/higher education degree in Acoustics in Canada.
  • Assessment, Management, and/or regulation of sound no matter what the source or activity including construction.
  • AANViS/CAA to give opinions and influence good practice in policy and regulation as advisory and consulted bodies.
  • Government should develop a policy with a vision and aims like the NPSE.

o   Vision: Promote good health and good quality of life through the effective management of noise within the context of Government policy on sustainable development.

o   Aims: Through the effective management and control of environmental, neighbour and neighbourhood noise within the context of Government policy on sustainable development:

§  Avoid significant adverse impacts on health and quality of life;

§  Mitigate and minimize adverse impacts on health and quality of life; and

§  Where possible, contribute to the improvement of health and quality of life.