Photo:  Anna Josefine Sørensen/Thea Mathilde Larsen/Lærke Cecilie Bjerre

Acoustic city planning provides urban breathing spaces

Thursday 12 Jan 17


Per Goltermann
DTU Civil Engineering
+45 45 25 16 84
In late 2016, three DTU students attended an international acoustics conference in Hawaii. Here they won the Young Investigator Best Paper Award in the “Noise” category for their project on how acoustics can be used in city planning.

The three students Anna Josefine Sørensen, Thea Mathilde Larsen and Lærke Cecilie Bjerre are respectively studying Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering and Building Design at graduate level.

In the spring of 2015, they carried out a joint project in the course Environmental Acoustics on how a better and broader understanding of acoustic quality can be used in the planning of future cities.

The project was so good that they won the "Young Researcher Award 2016” at Danish Sound Day in the spring of 2016. In late 2016 they went on to Honolulu, Hawaii to attend the conference 5th Joint Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and Acoustical Society of Japan, where they won yet another award.

Good feedback from prominent researchers

At the conference they presented their project "On-site and laboratory soundscape evaluations of three recreational urban spaces" in the session "Noise Impacts and Soundscapes to Outdoor Gathering Spaces" for a specialist jury in the category "Noise".

"Our presentation focused in particular on how to use listening experiments to imitate or simulate the noise perception in the full context outdoors. Afterwards, we participated in a panel discussion, where our project was presented along with nine other projects and received a lot of attention. We got really good feedback and a good discussion with some of the most prominent researchers in the field, "says Thea Mathilde Larsen.

"At the Danish Sound Day 2016 pitched our project and won the Young Researcher Awardand a travel voucher of 8000 kr. The award was presented to us on the grounds that we had found a convenient and easy implementable solution that meets the increasing need for urban oases,” Thea Mathilde Larsen tells about the initial award that sent the three students to Hawaii.

International need for urban breathing spaces

Just before the three students left for the conference in Hawaii they submitted a paper based on their project to a journal. They are now waiting for a reply on whether the article is being accepted or not.

"Our project shows that the actual context has a huge impact on our perception of sound in urban spaces. City planners must therefore be careful to base future solutions on laboratory experiments alone. We think that our results are important, and we are pleased to share them with researchers internationally since urbanisation and the need for city planning exist worldwide, "says Lærke Cecilie Bjerre, who has just completed her Master's Degree in Building Design.

The project is a good example of what a student can accomplice by cross-disciplinary collaboration at DTU, says Per Goltermann, Professor and Head of Education at DTU Civil Engineering.

"Here we can see what three enthusiastic students from DTU can achieve when they work together across different educational programmes. They have combined their theoretical knowledge, measurements of reality and experimental work in laboratories with common sense for the application of the results. It is a very fine example of how to create new knowledge that pushes boundaries and can impress internationally – and is furthermore of use to society," says Per Goltermann.

About the project "On-site and laboratory soundscape evaluations of three recreational urban spaces”

Due to increasing urbanisation, there is a bigger need than ever before for sustainable solutions to create spaces where people can have a breathing space from the stress of everyday life. The project "On-site and laboratory soundscape evaluations of three recreational urban spaces" focuses on how the description of sound sources and a wider understanding of acoustic quality brings new knowledge into the planning of future cities.

In the project, the noise level as a threshold for quiet areas was challenged. That was done by examining preferred audio sources in three different places in Copenhagen and how people perceive the acoustic environment there. As a control, audio recordings from the sound sources were presented in a listening room where the subjects had either a visual context or just the audio recordings.

The results showed that the sound perception in the listening room was directly correlated with the volume level. This was not the case outside in the urban spaces, where there was a clear relationship between the preferred audio sources that were present and the perception of comfortable urban spaces.