Archive for May, 2009

Graduation Season

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I went to two graduations this week.  The first was my god-daughter, Lauren, who graduated from Wheaton College with a major in History and an interest in finding a job.  The other was my daughter Greta’s graduation from pre-school – only twelve more years until she starts college; no retirement for me until 2025!

It occurs to me that graduating from college in the worst economic climate in most of our lives is probably quite challenging.  However, I have learned over the last few months (from graduating seniors) that it can be rather liberating to have low expectations for launching into a career.  For the first time in many years, graduates are not rushing to make a buck on Wall Street or the Internet, but thinking about what they really want to do – and many (like Lauren) are choosing to seek opportunities to make the world a better place.  Even if that means waiting tables on the side.

And what about Greta?  She sang ‘It’s a small world’ with her multi-cultural preschool class (including sign language), knows all about Facebook, and is ready to take the world by storm.  Good thing too, since we’ve just burdened her with a giant deficit.  I hope that one benefit of the current recession is that kids (and parents) will be less focused on building resumes and more focused on learning.  Wouldn’t it be great if we just gave our kids time to be curious rather than pushed to be excellent?

And since Dr. Seuss is Greta’s favorite author, it seems only fitting to close with this:

You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.  You’re on your own.  And you know what you know.  And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go.

Oh the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss

AWEA Annual Conference

Monday, May 18th, 2009

by Phil DeVita

I recently attended the WINDPOWER 2009 Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, Illinois  where HMMH was an exhibitor.  This was the fourth consecutive year we have exhibited at the conference – one that is rapidly becoming the marquee trade show in the wind energy business.

This year’s conference was the largest wind power event in the world, with over 23,000 attendees and 1,200 exhibiting companies.  For some perspective, this is up from 13,000 attendees last year in Houston, Texas and 1,000 attendees in 2001.

The conference was highlighted by talks from five Governors: Pat Quinn of Illinois, Ted Strickland of Ohio, Chet Culver of Iowa, Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, and Jennifer Graham of Michigan.  There were other Governors and economic development groups in attendance all vying for the attention of the wind industry to the benefits of their states and communities for locating renewable energy jobs.

The conference highlighted the advancement of wind energy technology over the years.  Last year alone, 8,500 MW of new windpower was installed, accounting for over 40% of the new generating capacity in the U.S.  In addition to the success of onshore wind, the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) recently issued new rules for offshore wind development.  This should clear the way for developing future offshore wind projects and enable the U.S. to become a major player in offshore wind generation.

The conference also built upon the current administration’s commitment to renewable energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  This was further highlighted by T. Boone Pickens and his talk about developing viable wind energy to produce electricity along with developing a national renewable energy standard (RES).  A national RES would force electricity producers across the nation to generate a certain percentage of electricity through renewable energy sources.  The national RES is currently being debated in Congress.

As evidenced by the presentations and discussions on the exhibition floor, noise is still a very important issue in siting and operating wind turbines.  HMMH has been involved in conducting noise studies for various wind turbine projects across the United States, including expert testimony for the Sheffield Wind Project.  HMMH has recently branched out from our core noise consulting business and is now capable of offering a broader array of consulting services related to wind energy, including visual assessments.  A list of our services can be viewed on our website

See you at next year’s WINDPOWER Conference in Dallas, Texas!

Hearing is Believing

Friday, May 8th, 2009

by Doug Barrett

Although “soundscape” may sound jargony compared to more familiar expressions like “landscape” and “viewscape,” the term has been around at least since the 1970s (R. Murray Schafer, The Tuning of the World, 1977).  Soundscape encompasses all aspects of an acoustical environment, and often is used to characterize natural sounds in unspoiled outdoor environments.  Consideration of soundscape, however, also is critical for urban spaces where people live, work, and play.  Within these settings, street traffic, aircraft overflights, and other noise sources can affect the character and even the intended use of an outdoor facility.

On May 19, the Acoustical Society of America and the City of Portland, Oregon Noise Control Office will host a joint symposium on “Urban Design with Soundscape in Mind.”  The symposium’s goal is “to provide planners, architects, engineers and the interested public with tools to use in addressing noise impacts in an urban setting.”  Topics will include “The Political Need to Consider Noise Impacts on Urban Livability” and “The Physical Need to Consider Noise Impacts on Urban Livability.”  A critical, related topic is the development of tools and techniques to help both decision makers and the general public consider future noise impacts, by hearing them with their own ears now.

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After years of struggling to describe the arcane world of noise metrics, logarithmic decibel scales, and frequency-weighting to the public, HMMH decided that there had to be a better way to answer the question “what will it sound like?”  Fortunately, recent advances in digital recording and processing technology provided the foundation for a solution.  Building on these tools, HMMH developed Virtual Soundscapes™ so that listeners can understand what a proposed project will sound like without the distractions of logarithms or even the mention of a decibel.

Using binaural (stereo in-ear microphone) recordings, acoustic models, and specialized sound mixing software, Virtual Soundscapes™ create incredibly realistic stereo simulations by layering together background soundscapes and other noise sources.  These recordings, which may be presented at meetings, installed on a touch-screen kiosk or computer, or posted on a website, allow decision-makers and community members to hear and modify future sound environments through a compelling, interactive experience.  (Use HMMH’s Soundscape Builder™ to create your own Virtual Soundscape™.)

Recently, Central Broward Transit and San Diego International Airport employed customized versions of HMMH’s Virtual Soundscapes™ at large public meetings.  In these venues, listeners experienced interactive simulations using a touch-screen kiosk (touch the screen to select a virtual airplane, train, bus, or barking dog – touch it again to open or close a sound insulated window) and high-quality noise canceling headphones.  Gene Reindel, Manager of HMMH’s Sacramento office, reported back after a successful meeting in San Diego, “I knew that things were going well when listeners reflexively looked skyward when they heard an airplane accompanied by barking dogs!”

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