Urban Sound Symposium

April 19-21, 2021

Plenary program overview

The symposium will take place on three days; each day is dedicated to a separate topic:

  • Monday, 19 April 2021: Impact of urban sound on life in the city
  • Tuesday, 20 April 2021: Techniques and technologies
  • Wednesday, 21 April 2021: Design and planning

The program of the symposium is shown below.

Monday, 19 April 2021 – Impact of urban sound on the life in the city


BrusselsBeijingNew YorkTitleSpeaker(s)Type
13:0020:0007:00Urban trends and their impact on soundscape

Dick Botteldooren, Arnaud CanKeynote
13:4520:4507:45Post-COVID19, a lasting effect on soundscape?Brigitte Schulte-Fortkamp, Francesco Aletta, Juan Bello, Catherine Lavandier, Susanne MoebusPanel discussion
14:1521:1508:15Break, visit poster booths, meet
14:4521:4508:45Inequity in urban sound environment
Irene Van Kamp, Chau Chi KwanKeynote
15:1522:1509:15Noise and the city: Effects of unwanted sound on health and wellbeing and how greenery and urban planning could help reduce them
Mark Brink, Danielle Vienneau, Kerstin Persson WayeKeynote
16:0023:0010:00Break, visit poster booths, meet
16:3023:3010:30Public space soundscapes - three continents, three approaches
Sarah Payne, Jin Yong Jeon, Daniel SteeleKeynote
17:1500:1511:15The world wide soundwalk: hands on exploring of the urban soundscapeHands on
18:0001:0012:00Social events
18:1501:1512:15Participatory sound art projects in southern Italy (Room 2)Led by: Nicola di CroceHands on

Tuesday, 20 April 2021 – Techniques and technologies

Keynote Materials


BrusselsBeijingNew YorkTitleSpeaker(s)Type
13:0020:0007:00Smart city sound monitoring and its applications
Juan Bello, David BernfeldKeynote
13:4520:4507:45Break, visit poster booths, meet
14:1521:1508:15Virtual reality for urban sound
Julien Maillard, Kurt Heutschi, Catherine GuastavinoKeynote
15:0022:0009:00Break, visit poster booths, meet
15:3022:3009:30Mapping and prediction
Pierre Aumond, Maarten Hornikx, André FiebigKeynote
16:1523:1510:15New approaches to noise reductionKirill Horoshenkov, Timothy Van Renterghem, Jian KangKeynote
17:0000:0011:00Break, visit poster booths, meet
17:1500:1511:15Densification of cities, the challenge for urban soundMaryse Lavoie, Andy Chung, Efstathios Margaritis, Trond Maag, Oscar BreugelmansPanel discussion
18:0001:0012:00Social events
18:1501:1512:15[Registration required!] Soundscape co-design exercise
(Room 2)
Led by: Edda Bild et al.Hands on

Wednesday, 21 April 2021 – Design and planning


BrusselsBeijingNew YorkTitleSpeaker(s)Type
13:0020:0007:00Urban planning: practicionner's experience with soundOscar Breugelmans, Deborah DelaunayKeynote
13:4520:4507:45Break, visit poster booths, meet
14:1521:1508:15Participatory approachesLisa Lavia, Mattia Cobianchi, Nadine SchützKeynote
15:1522:1509:15Raising awareness and educationJudicael Picaut, Trevor Cox, Papatya Nur Dökmeci Yörükoğlu, Christine KerriganPanel discussion
15:4522:4509:45Break, visit poster booths, meet
16:1523:1510:15Designing the public space sound environmentJordan Lacey, Andy Chung, Gunnar Cerwen, Trond MaagKeynote
17:1500:1511:15Urban sound, quo vadis?Panel discussion
18:0001:0012:00Social events
18:1501:1512:15[Registration required!] Soundscape co-design exercise
(Room 2)
Led by: Edda Bild et al.Hands on

Abstracts – Impact of urban sound on the life in the city

Urban trends and their impact on soundscape

Dick Botteldooren, Arnaud Can

Urban sound is a product of the way our cities are organized and our society functions. The emergence of new sound sources in the last century has shaped the urban sound environments we know today. Fluidification of living rhythms, sprawl and intensification, or the changes in individual mobility practices modify the intensity and temporality of sound sources and thus shape our sonic environment. New areal sound sources may soon appear to complement the light urban freight traffic, mobility provided as a service may cause significant changes in vehicle types and therefore the noise they produce.

At the same time, the way urban dwellers perceive and understand the sonic environment is changing. Expectations and sensitivities are changing. Urban sound impacts on city life, its health effects are documented, it can make a city attractive or not. The living environment in urban areas is gaining more attention as is its resilience against global warming and pandemics. Inequity within a city is accentuated, and urban sound, which closely relates with urban morphology is one of its causes.

But if urban sound is a lively object, so is research and practices that deal with it. New technologies, including smart city and data-rich societies enabled approaches, may also allow policy makers to deploy new modes of governance. This could include urban sound management at a much smaller spatial and temporal granularity.

Public space soundscapes - three continents, three approaches

Sarah Payne, Jin Yong Jeon, Daniel Steele

Three speakers in three continents discuss their soundscape research and in particular the methods they have used to investigate public spaces. These methods range from laboratory to in situ and include a wide range of technologies from paper-based questionnaires to immersive virtual reality playback systems. The researchers describe how they utilise these methods to document, characterize, and make theories about how people experience public space soundscapes. How these methods lead to practical results for use by professionals and municipalities is also highlighted in their discussions.

Inequity in urban sound environment

Irene Van Kamp

Understanding the inequity in risks

Environmental noise has a negative impact on all of society, but some groups seem more affected than others. While lower socioeconomic status is associated with poorer health in general, it is not clear whether these inequalities arise from increased exposure, increased sensitivity to exposure, increased vulnerability or a combination of those. Socio-economic status in itself does not cause disease, but apart from biological sensitivity, susceptibility can be a consequence of the exposure itself and thus be related to the places where people live, where they spend their time and their lifestyle. Living in congested building space or in building fabric and street configurations that do not promote healthy behavior can impact on the effects of exposures. Also social risk factors and lack of access to protective measures play an important role. These aspects should be accounted  for in health impact assessment by:

  1. dividing the study population in relevant subgroups,
  2. including information about activity patterns and behaviours,
  3. including information about other factors enhancing or reducing susceptibility,
  4. and by reporting outcomes for subpopulations.

A set of case studies will be presented to illustrate how the well-off often profit more from (environmental) interventions and (autonomic) demographics selections into highly exposed areas appear to play an important role in these differential effects. Interventions in specifically difficult high-rise old urban towns based on changing the building fabric and building and street configurations could improve these.

Driving forces behind these selection mechanisms should be mapped in more detail and should be targeted in policy action. This is aligned with the ‘health in all policies’ approach.

Chi-Kwan Chau

Impact of urban landscape and building configurations on oppressiveness and noise annoyance in a high-dense city

The connections between sound perception and the visual environment in densely built urban settings have attracted a lot of attention in recent years. An open view is a priced commodity to dwellers in a spatially contested city such as Hong Kong. However, there is very limited understanding about the extent to which views encroached by mountains, heavily trafficked roads, greenery and obstructing buildings at various distances affect the responses of noise annoyance and perceived oppressiveness. The foregoing issues were investigated in two studies.

The first study recruited 246 participants who were presented with 11 audio-visual stimuli comprising simulated views of different percentages of sea, wooded mountain and trafficked road on a mock-up window panel in a semi-anechoic lab setting. Multivariate analyses of the collected responses showed that views embracing mountains close-by could enhance annoyance. In the second study, simulations in immersive virtual reality of an aging high-rise residential neighbourhood with spatial and façade attributes at road traffic noise levels between 55 and 65 dBA were presented to 53 participants who gave annoyance and oppressiveness ratings to 16 scenarios. Findings from multivariate models show that the probability of high noise annoyance responses could be significantly lowered with a larger separation distance, the presence of vertical greening, and refurbishment on building façades. In addition, decreasing noise level, increasing separation distance, presence of building spacing, vertical greening and refurbished building façades were likely to reduce oppressive feeling. Implicitly, the model suggested that people with exposure to poorly maintained building facades and blocked views would suffer from high oppressiveness and noise annoyance. These adverse impacts could be moderated if vertical greenery was placed on the facades of surrounding buildings

Noise and the city: Effects of unwanted sound on health and wellbeing and how greenery and urban planning could help reduce them

Mark Brink, Danielle Vienneau, Kerstin Persson Waye

The health impact of urban noise on annoyance, sleep and cardiovascular outcomes are well established and there is a growing knowledge on the effects of noise on metabolic diseases, mental health and cognitive functions. Less well researched are how factors in the environment such as greenery can buffer these outcomes, or how urban planning best can lessen the burden. Also, we know very little on how noise may affect human health in a life course perspective.

This presentation will touch upon these three latter aspects. The life course perspective will be exemplified using sleep as a model. Sleep is vital for physical and mental health, and believed to be an important mediator of noise exposure and human health. The life course perspective will touch upon the importance of early exposures, and cumulative exposures for the developments of sleep patterns and whether this may be of importance for mental and physical health at older ages.

Moving outside the bedroom, our local residential setting and broader community environments can also influence mental and physical health. Highlights from large adult cohort studies, investigating the effects of noise and other urban co-exposures on cardiovascular outcomes, will demonstrate the potential benefits of greenery. Availability of neighbourhood greenery also came into focus of city planners as a potential means to reduce noise annoyance. Results from a Swiss noise survey revealed if “putting more green into cities” is a promising avenue to lessen the noise burden, and to which degree other measures, e.g. a quiet side on each building, could also help reducing annoyance and sleep disturbances of city dwellers.

Abstracts – Techniques and technologies

Smart city sound monitoring and its applications

Juan Bello, David Bernfeld

Noise monitoring is a key element of noise pollution mitigation. Innovative sensor networks are being deployed in more and more cities and it seems important at this point to describe and compare existing innovative approaches. The key note speakers will present smart city sound monitoring and their applications. The talk will include the presentation of two measurement networks with different characteristics and objectives. The use of machine learning technology, big data analysis, citizen sciences, and the aspects of communication with citizens, will be covered. Finally, specific sensors dedicated to particular applications such as the detection of loud vehicles (acoustic radar) or the monitoring of noise in lively neighbourhoods, will also be described. The key note will conclude with an open discussion on the challenges of noise monitoring in the smart city context.

Virtual reality for urban sound

Julien Maillard, Kurt Heutschi, Catherine Guastavino

Virtual reality and other immersive technologies are receiving increased attention to support soundscape design in education and practice. This keynote will describe the many ways in which virtual reality can be used by professionals of the built environment, as a training tool to learn about soundscape, as a co-design tool and as a public consultation tool. We will first describe design requirements and then identify the main challenges in creating virtual soundscapces.

One challenge relates to the simulation of moving sources (e.g. vehicles) in urban environments. The starting point is an emission signal and a set of impulse responses for discrete source positions from which a continuous source movement is to be simulated.  We will share ideas and experiences on the transformation of the original impulse responses into generic ones that allow for simple interpolation strategies. Another challenge is the development of a hybrid method, combining an engineering method and boundary element method, to model complex mitigation options. Audio demonstrations will illustrate the different outcomes.

Mapping and prediction

Pierre Aumond, Maarten Hornikx, André Fiebig

Following the environmental noise assessment approach to predict and map noise to identify areas exposed to harmful noises and to derive actions for protecting residents, newest technological developments promise advanced parameter predictions including listening. For example, NoiseModelling is a free and open-source tool initially designed to produce environmental noise maps on large urban areas which has been used for the production of sound mapping closer to perception using methods that integrate the multiplicity of sound sources and the dynamics of sound environments. Morever, sensor networks allowing permanent noise monitoring over larger areas indicate options for instantaneous, dynamic noise maps always up-to date and useable for immediate actions. Sensor networks could be used to compute more advanced indicators based on time signals generating perception-related, psychoacoustic noise maps. In this context the smart city developments call for advanced noise mapping as well as for improved predictions reflecting actual conditions instead of calculations based on some simplified assumptions. However, if sensor networks focus on overall noise, the need for (automatic) source separation immediately arises. The presentation will highlight the current state of mapping and prediction tools and will discuss the progress made and the challenges to overcome.

New approaches to noise reduction

Kirill HoroshenkovTimothy Van Renterghem, Jian Kang

The first part of this talk, by Horoshenkov, will discuss the ability of living (green) plants to absorb noise. It will be shown that the leave area density and type of soil substrate are key parameters which affect the ability of these plans to be acoustically efficient absorbers. Different methods of measurement and modelling of the acoustical properties of living plants will be discussed. It will be shown that living plants are also able to scatter a significant proportion of the incident sound energy which is difficult to measure in-situ or in a laboratory with standard measurement methods.

The second part of this talk, by Van Renterghem, will explore the concept of acoustical landscaping as a natural way to mitigate environmental noise. Raising and depressing the landscape, even to a limited extent, shows to be a valuable but underused approach to reduce sound pressure levels. Focus is on measurement campaigns in public spaces and parks that are heavily exposed to road traffic noise. These results will be positioned in the general framework of urban sound reduction by natural means.

The third part of this talk, by Kang, will then explore relationships between sound field and morphology/texture of built-up areas. A number of typical urban areas have been considered, including relatively high-density city built-up area and low-density town areas, covering a range of building heights, from high-rise to two-story buildings. In terms of sound field, a series of indices have been considered, including spatial noise level Ln. Various sound sources have been taken into account. The work is mainly based on simulation using noise-mapping techniques, as well as Matlab programming, where the effects of building arrangements in a given urban area have also been explored based on genetic algorithms.

Soundscape co-design exercise

Edda Bild et al.

Hands-on exercise, led by the Sounds in the City group at McGill University, as part of a ‘Sound fundamentals for professionals of the built environment’ course. The course is intended for urban design and planning professionals looking to keep sound-in-mind. We will be moderating a short roleplaying activity on co-designing at the intersection of soundscape and urban design.

A link to register will be sent by e-mail to all participants, please sign up by Monday night.

Abstracts – Design and planning

Urban planning: practicionner’s experience with sound

Oscar Breugelmans, Deborah Delaunay

Montreal and Amsterdam are very different cities, but face similar challenges to combat environmental noise pollution. In this session we will explore the major issues that both cities have to deal with and the challenges they face in the future. How do differences between their legislative frameworks and the availability of noise maps and annoyance data shape the actions that can be undertaken. And what policies, projects and measures have both cities come up with to deal with different noise sources, such as transportation noise, festivals, outdoor terraces and low frequency noise.

Amsterdam has a large housing shortage and limited possibilities to build in a region where different functions compete for the remaining space. We will explore results of their noise policy that obliges the construction of a quiet façade. Montreal has great nightlife’s opportunities but also cohabitation and noise challenges at night. We will examine, in particular, how the city develops a night-time policy to permit a diversified, sustainable, healthy and safe nightlife.

Participatory approaches

Mattia CobianchiNadine SchützLisa Lavia

The first two talks in this session, by Mattia Cobianchi and Carmen Rosas Pérez, will focus on acoustic inclusivity in the design of indoor and outdoor spaces, promoting the participation of groups with a different sensorial perception. Many guidelines and standards in acoustics have been designed based on average values, often failing to cover the perspective and needs of a large part of the population. This denotes the necessity for rethinking the traditional models and methodologies in favour of broader approaches that include groups such as aural diverse and neurodivergent individuals and auditory subcultures.

The third talk, by Nadine Schütz, will focus on accessibility thinking beyond the regulatory framework and discusses artistic approaches for a more inclusive and multisensory urban landscape design. Schütz investigates the role of sound in the sensitive relationship between people and their environment, considering the diversity of uses and users in public space, her primary field of intervention. This work also implies considering sound together with the other senses, which participate inseparably in our daily environmental experience.

The fourth talk, by Lisa Lavia, will focus on the practical application of ISO soundscape standards in urban planning and development generally, and specifically in the UK. A proposed framework for participatory soundscape planning will be discussed and focus on the central aspect of soundscape management: assessing the perception of space users (i.e. stakeholders) in context. The necessity of integrating aural diversity and aural accessibility, as quality of life, social justice and equity imperatives in current planning frameworks, will be explored.

Designing the public space sound environment

Jordan Lacey, Andy Chung, Gunnar Cerwen, Trond Maag

This keynote will provide four divergent paths towards a shared outcome: the design of public space environments. Trond Maag will show that working with urban sound can be shaped through the various perspectives of professionals and local communities, supporting the awareness of how surfaces, materials, architectures and landscapes – and how people activate these forms – contribute to the city’s sound and identity. Gunnar Cerwén will present a design tool called “Soundscape Actions”, consisting of 33 design actions divided into three main categories. Andy Chung will illustrate how virtual technology can be applied to create immersive experiences and obtain feedback for soundscape design. Jordan Lacey will discuss the electroacoustic practice of transforming motorway parkland soundscapes, and methods for integrating spatial sound design with urban furniture.

Soundscape co-design exercise

Edda Bild et al.

Hands-on exercise, led by the Sounds in the City group at McGill University, as part of a ‘Sound fundamentals for professionals of the built environment’ course. The course is intended for urban design and planning professionals looking to keep sound-in-mind. We will be moderating a short roleplaying activity on co-designing at the intersection of soundscape and urban design.

A link to register will be sent by e-mail to all participants, please sign up by Monday night.

Keynote Materials

Links to follow-up on Urban Sound Symposium Keynotes on April 20th 2021:

Smart city monitoring

Virtual Reality for Urban sound

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