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Nov 08, 2003

Time to give credit where credit is due: “Neighbors complain; RTD noise quieted“ — residents complained about noise from an RTD facility (Denver), and RTD did something about it. Good job.

RTD’s actions are an example of one of the best-kept secrets in noise control: a token effort directed at the noisiest activity will often resolve noise complaints. I’m not talking about spending thousands of dollars for noise barriers or drastically readjusting schedules. Often, simple things will help reduce the negative affects of noise, and demonstrate to the community that you are sensitive to its needs.

For example: I worked as a nighttime “noise cop” on a large construction project a few years ago. An ongoing construction activity was located near an apartment building. The construction noise wasn’t particularly loud (it was well within the noise specifications I was enforcing) but it did generate a constant noise that was audible inside the building.

For three nights in a row, a woman in the building called the noise hotline at exactly 11:25pm each night. We did our best to accommodate her, but we were curious as to why she called at 11:25 each night, especially since the activity she complained about usually started at around 7:00pm. The we figured it out: we postulated that the woman came home from work, turned on the television, and kept it on for the night. The noise from the television masked the noise from the construction, and she didn’t notice it! However, she apparently watched the evening news, but turned off the TV after the weather report, which ended at 11:25. When she turned off her television, she noticed the construction noise, and she called the hotline because she feared the noise would prevent her from falling asleep.

The solution was simple. Usually the construction crew took their “lunch” break at midnight. We had them take their break starting around 11:15pm instead. When the woman turned off her television, she didn’t hear the construction activity. The crew started up their work around midnight, presumably when the woman was asleep. Because the noise level from the work was relatively low, the noise was not likely to awaken her. We continued with this schedule for 2 weeks, and had no further complaints.

Again, a simple method that provided an effective solution to the problem at minimal cost and disruption to the schedule. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to be the good guy.


The St. Petersburg Times (Florida) is running a profile on the inventer of surround sound. When they say he “invented” surround sound, I assume they are talking about matrixed surround sound, since discrete surround sound had been around in several forms prior to 1967 (Fantasia being one of the prominent early examples).

Diane Carter (another acquaintance from jobs past) is in the news, measuring airplane sound levels to assist in land-use planning. has set an ambitious goal: “to collect in one place all existing ordinances in the United States.” and in Canada relating to noise in its many forms.

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