Sunday, February 26, 2023

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.

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