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Sounding Off: Addressing the Top 3 Construction Noise Complaints

Sounding Off: Addressing the Top 3 Construction Noise Complaints

Communities and service providers across the globe are working to manage challenges associated with the global pandemic. Although the construction of critical infrastructure and facilities are generally deemed essential, project managers are experiencing an uptick  in noise complaints as more professionals work from home. To foster stronger community relationships and keep projects on schedule, here are some common complaints and guidance you can use to mitigate them:


  1. “The noise from your project exceeds the local noise ordinance.”

This is generally the most straightforward issue to address. If a neighbor believes the noise from a construction site exceeds what is permissible by law, as little as a few days of construction noise monitoring and subsequent analysis could be enough to determine whether the site is in compliance.

In most jurisdictions, the onus will be on the lead contractor to demonstrate that they comply with all legal requirements, including noise limits. Companies like Black & Veatch who have a wealth of experience managing large construction projects can assist with interpreting the local laws, monitoring the noise from construction activities, and providing an impartial third-party assessment of results with respect to the legal limits. If the noise is found to be excessive, BV can also help with noise mitigation design and implementation.

  1. “The noise just starts up out of nowhere, startles my family, and even wakes up my baby!”

Unpredictability can exacerbate a noise issue. The noise itself may not be excessively loud, but the sudden increase above an otherwise low background level can be startling to neighbors. At night, this can cause sleep disturbance, which is contributing factor to stress.

To avoid this situation, it is generally best to take a proactive approach. As much as possible, inform community members ahead of time—via a town hall or other public forum—about what will be happening, when it will be happening, how loud you expect it will be, and how long the activity will last. This is an opportunity to highlight the public benefits of the project and let neighbors know that you care about their well-being and want to keep them informed. If they present requests in these forums and they are reasonable, try to implement changes to accommodate them.

For example, if many neighbors are working from home and don’t want a lot of construction noise in the background while they’re holding teleconference meetings, consider a compromise that limits noisy activities from your site for a short period of each day—say from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Consider adjusting work shift change times and other down-time activities to make this work for the day-to-day construction schedule without affecting the overall project timeline. This type of “outside-the-box” thinking coupled with some transparency can go a long way to appeasing neighbors and making the short-term disruption of construction project noise become less of a nuisance.

  1. “I don’t care if you meet the ordinance, it’s so loud I can’t think!”

Often, sound levels from construction noise can be well below the legal maximum and yet still frustrate sensitive neighbors. Many local ordinances around the U.S. prohibit noise nuisances, which can be based solely on a person’s judgment of the noise instead of on something measurable like a sound level. The preventative measures discussed above can go a long way to avoiding this situation in the first place. Aside from that, dealing with these types of complaints can be as much art as science.

Barring any legal action, it might be best to keep an open channel of communication with the local community. Provide neighbors with resources such as the direct phone number of a decision-maker. If possible, visit them at their home to experience what they are experiencing—being sure to practice appropriate social distancing, of course!

Often, the noise can be pinpointed to one particular construction activity, such as impact pile driving, or lots of engine noise from an all-night concrete pour. If the offending activity is something that will continue to occur over an extended duration—like weeks or months—then a more detailed noise assessment could be warranted. BV acoustical professionals can place an acoustical monitor on the neighbor’s property to gather data right at the receiver. This is typically coupled with a monitor that is gathering data at the construction site, near the offending noise source(s), so that noise data and events can be correlated.

Finally, the noise from the source(s) can be acoustically modeled using the correlated monitoring data so that noise mitigation options can be developed. If prudent, information about the options can be shared with the neighbor so that they can have a voice in the decision-making process. Otherwise, mitigation sources that specifically address the offending noise sources could go a long way to reducing noise complaints and appeasing neighbors.

Need help cutting through the noise? We’ve got you covered. Contact us today. 

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