Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Impact of Noise on Health is Real – What Can Municipalities Do?

55 A Ave

For about 15 years, I lived in an apartment that backed onto the floodplain. While I wasn’t shielded from all sounds from 53rd Avenue, these sounds were muted. I was never worried about the sounds of traffic waking me up at night if I left a window open.

Last summer, I moved to an apartment that fronted 203rd Street at Industrial Avenue. Some traffic would drown out my TV if I left the windows open. I never kept windows open at night.

I now own a townhouse at the end of 55A Avenue that fronts the street. It is right next to 196th Street. This street is quiet though a few people enjoy their subwoofers or crank the bass in their vehicle, including at night. These loud sounds impact all people along the street. I’ve been woken up a few times.

There are also some folks with vehicles that have loud mufflers that race across the 196th Street overpass.

I know I might sound like an alarmist, but urban noise harms cardiovascular health, creates cognitive impairments, causes sleep disturbance, impacts mental health, and has pulmonary effects.

So, what can a municipality do about urban noise?

One of the things that municipalities can do is require developers to improve the sound reduction from the exterior to the interior of buildings. It makes a big difference. For example, the apartment on 203rd Street has excellent sound reduction from the exterior. I cannot say the same about my townhouse. The good news is that Langley City’s newly adopted Official Community Plan states that:

Development fronting the SkyTrain guideway, and/or any Provincial Highway, major arterial and railway, shall incorporate measures to mitigate noise impacts and incorporate Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) guidelines for maximum acceptable levels of noise in dwellings, including triple-glazed windows, additional wall insulation, sound dampening or absorbing walls and cladding materials, and concrete construction, solid glazed balconies, sound absorptive landscaping and street tree plantings, and water features.

Recent housing projects along major roads in Langley City now incorporate these recommendations.

The best solution is to reduce the noise at the source by enforcing mufflers and speaker/subwoofer sound levels. Of course, like enforcing speeding, this is easier said than done. In Paris, they are trialing an automated method to enforce loudness levels.

Today, we understand that noise pollution negatively impacts human health, and we are now starting to look at ways to mitigate these impacts in urban areas.

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