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Special Issue "Promoting Healthy and Supportive Acoustic Environments: Going beyond the Quietness"

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Francesco Aletta

1. UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett, University College London (UCL), Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London WC1H 0NN, UK
2. Department of Information technology, Ghent University, 9052 Ghent, Belgium
Website | E-Mail
Interests: environmental acoustics, soundscape, community noise, noise annoyance, urban planning, environmental design, environmental assessment, landscape design
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Jian Kang

UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering, The Bartlett, University College London (UCL), Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London WC1H 0NN, UK
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +44(0)20 3108 7338 (Ex: 57338)
Interests: environmental and building acoustics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

When confronted with the topic of the quality of the acoustic environments, societies and communities around the world tend to consider “sound” mainly in its negative facet of “noise”. This approach is reflected in a number of recommendations and prescriptions to reduce people’s exposure to excessive sound levels from transportation and industry, promoted by international institutions and authorities, such as the World Health Organization or the European Union. Notwithstanding, such a strategy is not always effective in delivering the desired enhancements in terms of health and quality of life, and this is because “quietness” is not necessarily to define an acoustic environment of high quality. Indeed, environmental sounds often have a positive effect, as they provide information, communicate safety, enable certain desirable activities, and, more generally, contribute to people’s appeasement and psychophysical well-being. With the rapid increase of urbanization, more research is needed towards new approaches for the characterisation, management, and design of urban acoustic environments that support (and not only allow) restoration, health, and better quality of life, as well as basic research on the mechanisms underpinning the perception of environmental sounds in context and how their experience might affect health-related outcomes.

This Special Issue aims to gather contributions related (but not limited) to inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches to the characterisation of the quality of the acoustic environments; perception of acoustic environments, or soundscapes; relationship between acoustic environments and positive health-related effects; new prediction and modelling methodologies for the acoustic environments and their qualities; mapping and monitoring of sound sources in the built environment; and the relationship between sound, space, and behaviour in the built environment. Contributions from a range of disciplines are welcome, including soundscape studies, noise control engineering, environmental design, social sciences, architecture and urban planning, spatial analysis, environmental psychology, epidemiology, and public health.

Dr. Francesco Aletta
Prof. Jian Kang
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • environmental acoustics
  • community noise
  • quiet areas
  • soundscape, sound perception
  • noise mapping
  • noise annoyance
  • urban sound planning
  • environmental health
  • Quality of Life (QoL)
  • Quality of Experience (QoE)

Published Papers (3 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Towards an Urban Vibrancy Model: A Soundscape Approach
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(8), 1712; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15081712
Received: 12 July 2018 / Revised: 4 August 2018 / Accepted: 8 August 2018 / Published: 10 August 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1948 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Soundscape research needs to develop predictive tools for environmental design. A number of descriptor-indicator(s) models have been proposed so far, particularly for the “tranquility” dimension to manage “quiet areas” in urban contexts. However, there is a current lack of models addressing environments offering
[...] Read more.
Soundscape research needs to develop predictive tools for environmental design. A number of descriptor-indicator(s) models have been proposed so far, particularly for the “tranquility” dimension to manage “quiet areas” in urban contexts. However, there is a current lack of models addressing environments offering actively engaging soundscapes, i.e., the “vibrancy” dimension. The main aim of this study was to establish a predictive model for a vibrancy descriptor based on physical parameters, which could be used by designers and practitioners. A group interview was carried out to formulate a hypothesis on what elements would be influential for vibrancy perception. Afterwards, data on vibrancy perception were collected for different locations in the UK and China through a laboratory experiment and their physical parameters were used as indicators to establish a predictive model. Such indicators included both aural and visual parameters. The model, based on Roughness, Presence of People, Fluctuation Strength, Loudness and Presence of Music as predictors, explained 76% of the variance in the mean individual vibrancy scores. A statistically significant correlation was found between vibrancy scores and eventfulness scores, but not between vibrancy scores and pleasantness scores. Overall results showed that vibrancy is contextual and depends both on the soundscape and on the visual scenery. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Lower Noise Annoyance Associated with GIS-Derived Greenspace: Pathways through Perceived Greenspace and Residential Noise
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(7), 1533; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15071533
Received: 1 July 2018 / Revised: 17 July 2018 / Accepted: 19 July 2018 / Published: 19 July 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1252 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Growing amounts of evidence support an association between self-reported greenspace near the home and lower noise annoyance; however, objectively defined greenspace has rarely been considered. In the present study, we tested the association between objective measures of greenspace and noise annoyance, with a
[...] Read more.
Growing amounts of evidence support an association between self-reported greenspace near the home and lower noise annoyance; however, objectively defined greenspace has rarely been considered. In the present study, we tested the association between objective measures of greenspace and noise annoyance, with a focus on underpinning pathways through noise level and perceived greenspace. We sampled 720 students aged 18 to 35 years from the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. Objective greenspace was defined by several Geographic Information System (GIS)-derived metrics: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), tree cover density, percentage of green space in circular buffers of 100, 300 and 500 m, and the Euclidean distance to the nearest structured green space. Perceived greenspace was defined by the mean of responses to five items asking about its quantity, accessibility, visibility, usage, and quality. We assessed noise annoyance due to transportation and other neighborhood noise sources and daytime noise level (Lday) at the residence. Tests of the parallel mediation models showed that higher NDVI and percentage of green space in all buffers were associated with lower noise annoyance, whereas for higher tree cover this association was observed only in the 100 m buffer zone. In addition, the effects of NDVI and percentage of green space were mediated by higher perceived greenspace and lower Lday. In the case of tree cover, only perceived greenspace was a mediator. Our findings suggest that the potential for greenspace to reduce noise annoyance extends beyond noise abatement. Applying a combination of GIS-derived and perceptual measures should enable researchers to better tap individuals’ experience of residential greenspace and noise. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview Associations between Positive Health-Related Effects and Soundscapes Perceptual Constructs: A Systematic Review
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(11), 2392; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15112392
Received: 10 September 2018 / Revised: 6 October 2018 / Accepted: 22 October 2018 / Published: 29 October 2018
PDF Full-text (815 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In policy-making and research alike, environmental sounds are often considered only as psychophysical stressors, leading to adverse health effects. The soundscape approach, on the other hand, aims to extend the scope of sound-related research to consider sounds as resources, promoting healthy and supportive
[...] Read more.
In policy-making and research alike, environmental sounds are often considered only as psychophysical stressors, leading to adverse health effects. The soundscape approach, on the other hand, aims to extend the scope of sound-related research to consider sounds as resources, promoting healthy and supportive environments. The ISO 12913-1 standard defined soundscapes as acoustic environments “as perceived by people, in context.” The aim of this study was assessing associations between positive soundscapes (e.g., pleasant, calm, less annoying) and positive health-related effects (e.g., increased restoration, reduced stress-inducing mechanisms, etc.). Studies collecting data about individual responses to urban acoustic environments, and individual responses on psychophysical well-being were selected, looking at cases where positive effects were observed. The Web of Science, Scopus and PubMed databases were searched for peer-reviewed journal papers published in English between 1 January 1991 and 31 May 2018, with combinations of the keywords “soundscape” and at least one among “health”, “well-being” or “quality of life.” An additional manual search was performed on the reference lists of the retrieved items. Inclusion criteria were: (1) including at least one measure of soundscape dimensions as per the ISO 12913-1 definition; (2) including at least one health-related measure (either physiological or psychological); (3) observing/discussing a “positive” effect of the soundscape on the health-related outcome. The search returned 130 results; after removing duplicates, two authors screened titles and abstracts and selected 19 papers for further analysis. Seven studies were eventually included, with 2783 participants in total. Each study included at least a valence-related soundscape measure. Regarding the health-related measures, four studies included physiological monitoring and the remaining three included self-reported psychological measures. Positive soundscapes were associated with faster stress-recovery processes in laboratory experiments, and better self-reported health conditions in large-scale surveys. Due to the limited number of items and differences in measures across studies, no statistical analysis was performed, and a qualitative approach to data synthesis was sought. Results support the claim that, in contrast with looking at noise only as an environmental stressor, sound perception can act as an enhancer of the human experience in the urban realm, from a health-related point of view. Full article
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: A Self-Assessment Noise-Annoyance Questionnaire: Impact of Irrelevant Speech Noise on Health, Well-Being and Productivity of Workers in Shared and Open-Plan Offices
Authors: Di Blasio S., Shtrepi L., Astolfi A.
Abstract: It is currently demonstrated that noise annoyance is strongly related to irrelevant speech noise in open-plan office. A short self-assessment questionnaire was conducted in shared and open-plan offices in order to evaluate workers’ perception of irrelevant speech noise with respect to health, well-being, performance and room acoustics design. The questionnaire also investigated the attitude of workers towards the active control of their voice levels using an innovative device capable of generating instantaneous feedback. The survey was carried out in several companies, two research centres and one university in Italy. Answers were collected from 1078 respondents of which 51% worked in shared offices and 41% in open-plan offices. The results highlighted that 67% of subjects are annoyed by irrelevant speech noise in open-plan offices. Workers implement several strategies in order to cope with irrelevant speech noise, such as use the technological tool (32%), adaptive behaviours (23%) and ask colleagues to reduce voice levels (20%). In addition, 72% of workers affirmed their willingness to be actively involved in irrelevant speech noise reduction using the innovative device in open-plan offices. The findings suggest the potential effect of occupants’ behaviour on acoustic comfort in offices regarding irrelevant speech noise reduction.

Title: Quiet areas in Sweden: A study on implementations in Swedish municipalities *
Authors: Mossberg, G. Cerwén
* part of this work has been presented at the 2018 AESOP Congress in Gothenburg, Sweden and the 2018 Euronoise Congress in Hersonissos, Greece
Abstract: The notion of quiet areas has been given increased attention within the EU in recent years. In 2002, the EU END directive stipulated that member states should map existing quiet areas and formulate strategies to keep them quiet. Quiet areas could thus play an important role to balance densified urban development in the future, by ensuring access to relative quietness and associated health benefits. The present paper reports on a recent study in Sweden investigating how the notion of quiet areas has been implemented in Swedish municipalities. The study, initiated by the Sound Environment Center in 2017, was carried out in two steps. In Step 1, a short digital questionnaire was sent out to all 290 municipalities in Sweden. This gave an overview of the general situation and highlighted initiatives for further study (Step 2). Overall, the study reveals that more than half of Sweden’s municipalities address quiet areas in official documents, but that significantly fewer have sophisticated strategies for implementation (around 7%). Moreover, the interest for quiet areas does not seem to be directly related to the END directive. In fact, 64% of comprehensive initiatives were referred to as being local while only 4% related to the EU directive. The study additionally highlights a number of considerations and examples of how quiet areas are approached in Sweden today. As a general tendency, Sweden has come a long way in terms of identifying and mapping quiet areas, but there are fewer examples of attempts to protect, maintain and market them.

Title: Soundtracking the public space: positive outcomes of the Musikiosk soundscape intervention
Authors: Daniel Steele, Edda Bild, Cynthia Tarlao, Catherine Guastavino
Abstract: Decades of research has supported the idea that striving for lower sound levels in urban environments is the cornerstone of protecting public health. Growing research on urban soundscape, however, highlights a more complex role of sound in public spaces, mediated by context, and the potential of diverse soundscape interventions to contribute to the urban public experience.
Musikiosk is an unsupervised, interactive installation that allows users to play their own audio content from their own devices over publicly provided speakers. It was deployed in the gazebo of Parc du Portugal, a small public park in Montreal in the summer of 2015 to assess the outcomes of an urban soundscape intervention. The mixed-methods data collection relied on a combination of questionnaires with park users (N = 197), interviews with both Musikiosk users (N = 12) and nearby residents (N = 5), behavioral observations (N = 950), and acoustic monitoring, as well as public outreach activities throughout the intervention.
An integrated analysis of the results revealed positive outcomes both at the individual level (in terms of soundscape evaluations, attention restoration, and mood benefits) and at the social level (in terms of increased interaction, lingering behaviors, perceived safety, and sense of place). The park was perceived as more pleasant and convivial for both users and non-users as a result of the installation. Moreover, no detrimental effects were observed; importantly, perceived calmness and appropriateness of the soundscape were not affected, and no official noise complaints were registered. Musikiosk animated an underused section of the park without displacing existing park users while also promoting increased interaction and sharing, particularly of music. The documented positive outcomes have been described as lasting, changing the patterns of park use after the installation was removed.
Links are drawn to a growing body of research on urban quality of life, including implications for public health. This intervention also led to a strategy for interacting with both residents and the city decision-makers on matters related to urban sound that supports a long-term collaboration.

Title: Effects of Socio-Economic Indicators on the Perception of Urban Acoustic Environment in Chinese Megacities
Authors: Hui Xie, Yuzhe Ge, Fangfang Luo
Abstract: Acoustic environment in urban dwellings is one of the most important factors for human health; it is urgent to explore the impacts of ambient noise on residents in megacities with the increase of traffic noise. The aim of this study is to investigate the effects of several socio-economic indicators, namely gender, age, roadside residence, average daily time at home, and urban structure, on the subjective evaluation of residential acoustic environment, through questionnaire surveys and in-depth interviews at two Chinese megacities (Chongqing and Guangzhou). From results that are gathered from quantitative data, it is interesting to note that residents in Chongqing, a typical mountainous city, are less satisfied with their acoustic environment than those in Guangzhou, a plain city, but there are no significant differences between residents in the two megacities in terms of their satisfactions of thermal, humid and luminous environment. Regarding the perception of acoustic environment, there were significant differences between residents living in roadside home and non-roadside home, but no significant differences were found between men and women, the young and the old. From qualitative data, participants stated that the noisiest time period is related to traffic volume, and most of them have been awaken up by traffic noise when sleeping, according to the results of in-depth interviews. Furthermore, the discussion aims to give implications for the China government, that it helps to find a way to improving urban acoustic environment.

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