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Looking for Noise Barrier Ideas  RSS feed

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Hello,
I'm designing a teaching garden that works with college students, young children, and adults in the city.  We want this space to be open and inviting, but the noise from the street is so loud we can barely hear ourselves think, and becomes a problem when teaching.  It's especially a problem for those with hearing loss.  I'm looking for any ideas anyone may have on reducing noise while remaining an open and welcome space for the community? As it stands, many think of this garden as a a private space rather than a community one, and I don't want to make it worse by planting a huge hedge or putting in a wall. We're in Northeastern U.S.  
Thank you!
 
pollinator
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Welcome to Permies, Amanda!

What you can do to deal with the noise is, of course, limited to what you are allowed to do, and how much space you have to do it in.

I don't imagine, for instance, that building a 15-foot-tall raised bed construct would be an option for you, although a planted berm can do wonders, even for highway traffic noise; that would require some creativity to imagine as a feature inviting to the community, as well.

Realistically, I can't see how you could manage to block the noise from the street without adding a physical barrier, which will have some of the negative effects of a wall or hedge that you're trying to avoid. I think mitigation is probably the most practical path.

I would suggest a row of raised beds where you want your noise barrier, and fencing infrastructure for either a living fence solution, or a constructed vertical growspace with plantings on both sides. I would probably look at folding and stitching or grommetting landscaping fabric to make large pockets along the fence to hold several fence-mounted beds on either side, until traffic noise is minimised or the fence full, which will probably amount to the same thing.

In that way, the outside of the noise barrier could be planted for the community, and signs placed as walk-by educational opportunities, placed to carefully direct attention towards the entrance.

Could you perhaps provide a little more information about the space, your constraints, and whatever else might direct our thoughts to places that will help you? Oh, and pictures would be excellent as well.

Keep us posted, and good luck!

-CK
 
garden master
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While I don't think this is what you want, though it maybe worth looking at:

https://www.soundblanketcurtain.com/


My first thought was something like Arborvitae.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thuja


Maybe installing a waterfall might work and be peaceful and relaxing.
 
Amanda Carrier
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Thank you for the great ideas!

I'll explain the space a little better.  This is an old house plot, 1/4 acre in size, off a busy main road, across the street from a college and next door to a school building (meaning that recess takes place behind the garden and there's some more noise there as well, but not always).  There is about 30 feet from the road to a small picket fence, in which space a more community-oriented space is planned for those who want to harvest.  Ideally we would put any noise barrier around where the fence is, making the raised beds a great idea! Then there is about 30 feet to the right of the fence where there is a driveway and then another garden bed, which is completely open with some small plants and flowers.  

In the back of the garden we do plan on creating a classroom space, where the noise curtain might be a good idea.

I've attached a diagram/map to show what this looks like roughly, and I can add pictures later!

Thank you again!
Garden.png
[Thumbnail for Garden.png]
 
Anne Miller
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Here are some threads that might give you some ideas:

https://permies.com/t/51607/permaculture-projects/paddocks-hugelkultur-basecamp

https://permies.com/t/200/24511/permaculture-projects/couple-pics

https://permies.com/t/36537/permaculture-projects/giant-hugelkultur-feet-tall-basecamp









 
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Like others have suggested the only real way to reduce noise like that is probably a barrier of earth in some form. I'm skeptic of the curtain's ability to really do much. Plus the environmental impact of such materials. The only thing I might add is that to get the community used to it you can do it over time and not all at once. So building a bed or berm up to a comfortable height and then every year adding more and more might be less noticeable and more accepting from the outside. It all depends on the community and their attitude really as far as that goes.
 
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My thoughts went to a berm too,  but where to get that much dirt? Craigslist is pretty good at fill dirt. We always have to be careful it is clean and therefore not from near old wooden structures which had lead paint. Arborists for wood chips, of course.  Our city also has some designated locations for picking them up.  Since cemeteries also have dirt.

To increase the inviting feel,  I think, you can put some lawn furniture, stagger ther trees, vary the species of plants ( do it looks more like a hiking park than a hedge) and include edibles that people can recognize as edibles.  Add a sign like "all are welcome"  and a free seed library or other resource that they have to walk on the property to get to. Add some climbing rocks, pretty rocks, and a strawberry patch with some whirly wind things that sparkle and I think kids will have to be pulled away.
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You can go to Hom Depot and buy those sound proof foam boards in bulk. They are not too bad and you can basically add it to any existing sound barrier you have put up and increase the sound proofing ability.
 
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We were seriously considering purchasing some property last year that had one boundary along a busy road with a lot of truck traffic. I spend a number of hours doing research.
I have attached a document that goes deep into traffic noise control solutions.

Essentially most traffic noise is relatively low frequency, which means the only effective way to stop it with a passive system is by using a large mass. Thick concrete walls or earth berms.

What is interesting is that research has shown vegetation does very little in terms of noise control, and in certain situation can even act to make it worse.

Anyway, I found this document very useful.
Filename: Guidelines-Noise_Control_Earth_Berms.pdf
Description: Noise Control
File size: 5 megabytes
 
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I lived on a main road, and the traffic noise increased over time.
I built a wall 6 ft high of soil behind a brick wall about 2 ft high.
The reduction of noise was amazing.
The total width of the earth berm would have been about 15 ft if I did not have  the small walls at each side. I was on a house block and did not have the luxury of unlimited space. But it worked extremely well.
I curved it around at the ends to prevent noise coming around the ends.
If your area is 50 ft long it would have a volume of about 46 cub. yards, so you may need say 60 cub yards of loose soil to achieve that.
I planted mine out and it was almost invisible because of the plants.
 
Amit Enventres
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One thing to consider when earth moving is to watch your water flow because you may accidentally channel it or catch it in some place you don't want.
 
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Maybe the earth can come from a pond to be created at the other side of the property?
 
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Hi Amanda-

I'm reading on this topic now, so don't have proven experience to share.
However, I am finding some help in this book:
Landscaping for Privacy
by Marty Wingate
(copyright 2011)

The author can be a little wishy-washy on guidance, AND these points still got my attention:
1. Instead of a barricade, a buffer may be enough
2. Street trees (short and / or narrow trees) can be used as buffers to diminish the annoyance from traffic on the street, without blocking access or views
3. A visual partial buffer (low bed of flowers or short street trees that still have spaces between them) can affect how one perceives the noise.
4. "Studies have shown, however, that sound decibels can be lowered using dense planting of evergreen trees--but "dense" here means a row of buffering plants at least 16 ft. deep." (me: !)

Book includes many of the strategies noted in this thread already (berms, elevating slope, intervening plant "island").
Also includes plant list for those "street" trees and shrubs that need to be in a tight space and be short and / or narrow.
And it has lots of pictures.

Best wishes,
Mariamne
 
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Lots of dribbling fountains.  

At this point I could fill a book on what I have discovered.  


Here, it seems towels are better than the materials you would normally think of:




Berms are amazing.  

Conifer trees will carry sound over berms.


I would like to ask that you do an experiment and post it here.   Look into pink noise.   Get a recording of pink noise and play it over a large speaker pointed at a 45 degree angle above the road.  Sorta halfway between pointing it at the cars and pointing is straight up.  Try several different volume levels and post your results here.  


 
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Hi, I live in NH and I am right on a State Highway, with a speed limit of 50 MPH. It's the only North-South Road on the East side of the State, so you can just imagine the traffic.  We have a narrow lot, but most of it is forest and surrounded by the National Forest. My original small camp is in a front area, but I later  put a Mobile home out back with a long 600' driveway. One thing I did was I designed my driveway (think the drive that seems to be going to #2 building in plan) very curvy. I purposely left islands of trees to deaden sound. A straight drive like you have in your plan would be an invitation for noise to travel in. I also built a small fountain to muffle sound.  I was thinking for the berm that everyone is suggesting, maybe you could use old tires, like the way they do for earthships? You don't have to fill them up with good planting soil all the way. Fill them with other stuff that no one wants, junk mail, old clothes etc. The tires will do a lot towards muffling sound.
 
John C Daley
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I have screwed tyres together, and filled them with glass bottles I cannot get money for as recycled units. I cap the top with clay mud to ensure the tyres do not collect water and make mossie ponds.
 
Chris Kott
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I personally feel that toxic materials like tires are unsuitable for food production and play spaces. We have whole threads on why.

I think solutions consisting of soil, plants, and supportive infrastructure are much better options for a space that's supposed to teach healthier life choices.

-CK
 
Josephine Howland
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Chris Kott wrote:I personally feel that toxic materials like tires are unsuitable for food production and play spaces. We have whole threads on why.

I think solutions consisting of soil, plants, and supportive infrastructure are much better options for a space that's supposed to teach healthier life choices.

-CK

I'm sorry, I guess I didn't make myself clear. I did not mean for food to be grown in the tire berm. I was thinking more of a graduated berm like steps, but of tires with landscaping plants like small trees and bushes. Masses of Rhododendrons (what ever flowering shrub is suitable for your climate) for example could fill in the berm nicely and give passersby a nice inviting view. You could also place handmade signs in the tires welcoming people to you garden. I've also seen stacks of tires painted all kinds of bright colors.
 
Chris Kott
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Not at all, Josephine. You were quite clear.

Tires are considered quite toxic to human health and the environment. The only worse thing than using tires in the sun and wind is chipping them to use as mulch.

Even buried, they will offgas and degrade, especially if exposed to frost heave.

And they are ugly. Adding paint to a stack of tires doesn't make them any more aesthetically pleasing, and it adds tiny flecks of paint to everything around it, and downwind and downstream as well.

If the square footage exists to do a tire wall, a much nicer, healthier planter could be used instead, and it would hold a greater volume of soil, deadening more sound, and able to house more plant life.

And that soil wouldn't be poisoned by its retaining infrastructure.

As a side note, I would like to echo Paul's dribbling fountains comment. I don't know about the pink noise idea, but it definitely sounds intriguing. I think I like the dribbling fountains idea as it could be stacked with both rainwater capture and oxygenation of stored water, and with that, the potential for oxygenated compost teas.

-CK
 
Josephine Howland
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Chris Kott, point taken.
 
paul wheaton
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I have been in offices where they have pink noise generators through the inside.  Not to reduce noise from outside, but, apparently, there are studies that this improve overall office productivity since it makes it so people in an office are less likely to be distracted by other conversations.  You really don't hear these at all, but you can see them mounted to the ceiling.  And if you stand on a chair and are freaky tall you can almost hear the constant shhhhhhhhh sound from it.  

It just makes me wonder .....   if you direct a constant "shhhhhhh" to the traffic and above the traffic, does it reduce the sound of the traffic 90% to 98%.   Maybe if you go with "SHHHHHHHH" you actually hear the pink noise, but that might be better than listening to the traffic.  And now you can hear the crickets from the other direction.   Maybe pink noise combined with a few fountains?

Again:  it would be an experiment.  Please try and report what happens.



Here is an interesting one:

 
John C Daley
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I am surprised when I continually see comments which refute scientific research that used tyres are toxic.

I still sit on the fence with regard to the truth, but I have read many papers on the subject and I will admit I am leaning to the idea that old tyres, those  generally available nowadays are not toxic.
Here is another paper health effects from tyres
 
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My experience of road noise is that it is mostly tyre/road surface rather than engine noise. Sound is deflected by hard surfaces so a sloped bank that bounces tyre noise over peoples heads will make a big difference. In my crude picture a small mound would make a big impact to perceived tyre noise in the garden.

noise-barrier.png
[Thumbnail for noise-barrier.png]
Even a small barrier can make a big difference to perceived noise
 
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My understanding is that solid materials are needed to  be affective as a  noise barrier. Willow walls are a good example.   They are made of live willow cuttings placed into an earth barrier held in place with wooden or other material fencing to the height required. For the first one to two years the wall will need watering, but not generally once the willow roots are established. This type of construction looks green and healthy very quickly and can be built straight or round curves easily.  See  http://www.adc40.org/presentations/summer2012/Cubick%20TRB12.pdf  for a presentation on different types of green walls for sound attenuation.
 
paul wheaton
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Here is what a tree does.  My understanding is that a conifer tree does this about ten times more than a deciduous tree.
noise-barrier-tree.png
[Thumbnail for noise-barrier-tree.png]
road noise and trees
 
paul wheaton
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And then there is the problem of how you cannot create a barrier near the noise source, but only on your own property.
noise-barrier-short-berm.png
[Thumbnail for noise-barrier-short-berm.png]
road noise and berm
 
paul wheaton
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Here is the thing that I am encouraging testing.   I think the whole test would take about 20 minutes.  

A pink noise generator placed in a location so that the biggest force of the pink noise is not noticed by the cars or by the people.
noise-barrier-pink-noise.png
[Thumbnail for noise-barrier-pink-noise.png]
road noise and pink noise
 
Chris Kott
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I think I like this idea a lot.

I mean, I would do the planter and the plantings and whatnot first, and I would also do the water features, but adding another layer to that might make huge differences.

As I understand it, the white or pink noise frequencies are supposed to intercept and interfere with the sonic vibrations in the air with their own vibrations. I believe higher-end noise cancelling headphones do exactly this, except that they use the inverse of what is being picked up by the external microphones for better cancellation. I think the only better way than just putting on an angled, wide-dispersal pink noise generator would be to have one with active inputs, that adapted to shifting road noise frequencies.

-CK
 
paul wheaton
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My understanding is that noise cancelling stuff works great for headphones, but will not do well for several people being outdoors without headphones.

 
Chris Kott
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The principle is sound, it's just hard to do.

My understanding is that there would need to be a physical barrier, like a headphone ear cup, but in this case a planter or planted berm, and regularly placed omnidirectional mics on the other side of that barrier, along with a speaker or more for each mic output, and the same algorithm doing the same job from each different perspective, such that the pink noise being generated matches the ambient noise on the other side that it's intended to block.

But no, it won't work with a bunch of people with different sonic perspectives, one mic and one speaker.

-CK
 
Amit Enventres
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Gah! That pink noise sound made me twitchy. I have sensitive hearing and worked in offices more than I wanted and I could hear that thing and those stupid florescent lights and the computer hums...*twitch*

I think though, listening closely, some of those notes are covered by water features and leaf rustling, (maybe one reason fancy large places sometimes have waterfalls) so a berm 6ft tall with trees/bushes atop in theory be pretty affective.
 
paul wheaton
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Take the pink noise and turn it down to where you can only hear it because you are listening for it.  Then step about three paces away.  I think that is how it is designed to be used.  

For road noise stuff, I have to wonder about something where the sound is carefully directed to go over the cars.  And then you stand in your garden, turn it up to where you can only hear it because you are listening for it - the turn it down just a pinch more.   Then try turning it on and off.  Does it make a difference?  

Next, add a dribbly water feature or two on this side of the pink noise speaker. Maybe add some frog habitat stuff.   Maybe import a few hundred crickets.  Then add some bird feeders.
 
paul wheaton
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Fred and the boots tested this today.  The pink noise did nothing.  Back to the drawing board.
 
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A lot of the road noise may be a result of the type of pavement, and its condition. If the local roading authority (town, county, state, whoever is responsible) has plans to do maintenance on it in the near future, you could request that they go with a noise-mitigating surface treatment.

We have a street nearby that is the bypass route for a major highway when the nearby gorge is impassable...and that situation became permanent a year ago. So until a new highway is built over the mountain, which could be ten years, we get several thousand cars and trucks every day down a residential street. It had been resurfaced with chipseal using this big gnarly chip that made every set of tyres roar as they went by. After months of pressure from the locals, the central roading authority got a contractor to put down a noise-controlling layer of nice smooth hotmix. It made an enormous difference. On one hand, it's a bit of an extravagance and non-permie with all the petroleum products involved, but on the other, hundreds of townsfolk are able to get to sleep again.

So if there's a resurface job in the offing, they might be persuaded to make it quieter. Can't hurt to ask.
 
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Amit Enventres wrote:My thoughts went to a berm too,  but where to get that much dirt? Craigslist is pretty good at fill dirt. We always have to be careful it is clean and therefore not from near old wooden structures which had lead paint. Arborists for wood chips, of course.  Our city also has some designated locations for picking them up.  Since cemeteries also have dirt.

To increase the inviting feel,  I think, you can put some lawn furniture, stagger ther trees, vary the species of plants ( do it looks more like a hiking park than a hedge) and include edibles that people can recognize as edibles.  Add a sign like "all are welcome"  and a free seed library or other resource that they have to walk on the property to get to. Add some climbing rocks, pretty rocks, and a strawberry patch with some whirly wind things that sparkle and I think kids will have to be pulled away.



This is a good idea.
A place where I used to work changed some landscaping and added a sitting area.  It was comfortable, attractive, and used regularly.
 
paul wheaton
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Where I live it is common to grow vining vegetables such as cucumbers or climbing beans on cattle panels  If you are going to build a berm or raised bed what if you put some cattle panels on end and arched them out over the sidewalk.  I assume that 30 feet to the road includes a sidewalk.  As your vines grow you could: 1. Provide shade for pedestrians. 2. Share the harvest. 3. Put a double layer of vegetation between the street and yourself. 4. Demonstrate function stacking.
 
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I'm throwing up an idea I expect is outside your budget.  I can visualize a recirculating fountain that starts at the roadside with a tall waterfall down a stone face. Have the water feed a stream leading behind the waterfall to meander with a pathway between staggered sections of brick and/or stone walls that lead into the more practical spaces.  With strategic plantings and somewhere to sit this would feel more like a small park than a barrier.   Expensive, though.
 
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