A new method for enhancing the acoustic design of built environments promises to improve the aural comfort of their occupants, even in din-filled urban areas.

Acoustic pollution is often considered to be a ubiquitous and inexorable aspect of life in the modern world's teeming urban environments.

Jarring noise can be produced by myriad sources, including automobiles, urban transit systems and low-flying aircraft, as well as construction sites, various forms of public media, popular food and entertainment venues, and the sheer mass of pedestrians convening on city streets during busy hours.

Given that there are so many sources of potential acoustic disturbance in a thriving urban environment, it’s all but impossible to eradicate noise pollution completely.

A new design methodology which is being increasingly adopted by architects and environmental engineers promises to significantly mitigate the impact of noise pollution, however, by abetting the creation of built environments with better acoustic features.

According to Damian Murphy, reader in Audio and Music Technology at the University of York, auralisation is the acoustic equivalent of digital visualization during the design process.

It entails the creation of simulated acoustic environments that enable designers to acquire a vivid sense of what occupants will hear in a real world setting long before that setting is actually built or developed.

These simulations mean that test runs of the acoustic character of buildings or public spaces can be conducted during the design phase of their development in order to determine the extent to which they are affected by noise pollution.

This in turn enables architects and builders to alter or tinker with the design in order to improve the acoustic environment, averting the need for costly reworking once the structure is actually built.

Murphy points out that 3D acoustic modeling using computers has become highly sophisticated, capable of accurately simulating the impact of complex outdoor soundscapes – including those of urban settings, upon the acoustic quality of enclosed spaces within buildings.

These advanced simulations must take noise sources such as road traffic, low-flying aircraft, birds and verbal exchanges into account, as well as the propensity for such sounds to travel across long distances and the nature of their interactions with a complex physical environment.

In addition abetting the design of buildings with greater levels of acoustic comfort for occupants, this kind of sophisticated auralisation could also enable policymakers to better assess the potential impact of major infrastructure works on the surrounding environment and nearby residents.