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What is a noise map and how does it help to track noise pollution?

Published on 8 February, 2024

Pollution and outdoor air quality,

Noise pollution has become an exponentially growing environmental problem that affects both people’s quality of life and the balance of ecosystems.

The areas where noise monitoring is required to control noise pollution are many and varied, including urban centres, commercial areas, roads, airports, ports, industrial environments…

But what tools are available to measure environmental noise based on current regulations?

Noise pollution legislation

In Spain, noise is legislated through Law 37/2003, of 17 November, on Noise, which is based on Directive 2002/49/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 25 June 2002, on the assessment and management of environmental noise.

In addition, there are two Royal Decrees that detail certain aspects of this law, such as:

Strategic noise pollution mapping: the tool for noise management

Strategic Noise Maps (SRMs), required by Spanish legislation, are an essential tool in the management of noise pollution.

They respond to the need to know where sound pressure levels need to be controlled and consist of a detailed graphical representation of ambient noise levels in a given geographical area.

The results of these maps are used to assess and visualise noise exposure in different areas, to identify noise sources and their impact on the environment.

Several steps are required to produce these maps:

  1. Identify the geographical areas to be included in the strategic noise map, which may include urban agglomerations, major road and rail routes, major airports, etc., depending on the requirements of local legislation.
  2. Collect relevant data such as peak traffic hours, airport and train operating hours and frequencies, events and agglomerations… This requires the installation of noise measurement equipment at strategic points in the study area to continuously monitor noise levels under different conditions. This data is essential to accurately assess the noise exposure of an area.
  3. This is followed by acoustic modelling, which predicts and calculates noise levels at different points in the selected areas.
  4. The noise zoning stage divides the area into different zones according to the predicted noise level, making it easier to identify areas that may require specific mitigation measures.
  5. Finally, the strategic noise map is produced using the information gathered in the previous steps.

Acoustic monitoring is therefore a prerequisite in the data collection and modelling stages in order to produce strategic noise maps based on real data.

What are the most common sources of noise pollution?

Noise monitoring in the most common areas or sources of noise pollution helps to manage and mitigate the effects of noise pollution.

Some of the most common areas are

  • Urban centres, residential, commercial and recreational areas.
  • Industrial areas.
  • Health, education and cultural areas (areas most sensitive to noise pollution).
  • Areas with transport infrastructure (roads, airports, ports, railway stations, etc.).
  • Agricultural and rural areas, because of the impact of noise on wildlife.

How to measure noise and noise pollution?

As mentioned above, the instrument used to measure noise is the sound level meter: a measuring instrument designed to quantify and evaluate the noise levels in a given environment.

Since the areas most prone to noise pollution are also the most prone to air pollution, the most practical monitoring solution is one that addresses both.

This is the case with Envira’s air quality monitoring stations: all models have the option of incorporating sound level meters and gas and particle analysers, allowing all measurement parameters to be integrated into a single instrument.

The portable Nanoenvi EQ monitoring station, with its light and handy design, is ideal for measuring noise and air pollutants in cities, low emission zones and particularly sensitive areas near schools, health centres, hospitals and nursing homes.

Envira’s compact air quality stations, equipped with reference instruments and Class 1 sound level meters, are ideal for monitoring noise and air pollution in places where it is necessary to provide valid data to the competent authorities, such as airports and ports.

Finally, mobile air quality stations have the same reference instrumentation as fixed and compact stations, but can be easily moved to carry out specific measurement campaigns, such as modelling the strategic noise map.

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