So why are you complaining?

June 15th, 2016

by Nick Miller

S'Martin- S'Mararten

Maybe one person’s noise is another person’s music. Train horns in the distance can have a kind of nostalgic sound, but people who live near a grade crossing may not think so. (Try a room on the back side of the Hampton Inn San Diego – Downtown. You might take your earplugs.) Find any newspaper article on the Internet about aircraft noise complaints, check the comments and you’ll find things like “These folks should have known they are buying near an airport,” or considerably snarkier. Which might be a reasonable remark except even knowing doesn’t translate to a real awareness of what living with loud aircraft overflights day-after-day is really like. Of course, what realtor or home owner is going to try to alert the prospective buyer to the reality of life near an airport?

Quite a few airports require that home buyers receive some sort of disclosure statement, but all the ones I know about are presented at the closing. A little late, don’t you think? The only possibly effective method I know of is attempted by DFW airport. They try to get realtors to send in home buyers, and DFW shows them large displays of where aircraft fly. Much better, I think, than telling the buyer their house is in a noise zone or is within some decibel value of a noise contour. Who’s going to understand that?

I feel quite certain that most people who buy a home in the near vicinity of a commercial air carrier airport (say within 1 to 5 miles, depending on specific location and the level of operations at the airport) are unaware of what it can be like to live there day-after-day, night-after-night. I find it quite interesting, however, that there is a predominant meme that posits house prices reflect the acceptability of aircraft noise (hedonic pricing method). In other words, people pay less for such homes because they discount the price since they will have to live with the noise. Using hedonic pricing assumes that the buyer decides what to pay because he knows what he’s buying. That’s fine for buying a 60-inch flat screen TV to replace a 20-inch flat screen. But I think it’s an inaccurate means of assigning a cost to noise, or “monetizing” aircraft noise so that it can be compared with other costs (e.g. air quality health effects) or benefits (e.g. accessibility to transportation) of living near an airport. Studies seem generally to show a reduction in house price of 10% to 12% per 10 dB increase in aircraft noise, beginning at some identified lower level where there is an assumed no effect of aircraft noise.

But does this method really reflect the “cost” of noise? Some argue that noise is a quality of life issue upon which no price can be placed – a problem common to many amenities, such as low crime rates, clean streets or green spaces. Another way of thinking about the cost of noise, if we must, is how community dislike of noise affects decision-making about airports. Think about the many years (decades even) that it takes to propose, approve, design and build a new runway or a runway lengthening. What are the costs of the many studies reported as drafts, revisions, and revisions of revisions and associated public meetings, to say nothing of the costs of delayed construction and travel delays due to insufficient air travel capacity?

Finally, here’s an incident I recall reading about, but can’t verify for certain. Someone living in Northeast Harbor, ME, didn’t like the sound he could hear of the local sewage treatment plant. He asked the town if they could quiet it, getting the reply that they didn’t have the money to modernize it. So he donated, I believe, $60,000 to help the town pay for the quieting. Whether accurately remembered or not, I believe the substance is correct, and this story suggests to me a possible short-coming of asking people how much they would be willing to pay for less noise. The answer probably depends on what resources they have available.

HMMH Assists FAA and Airports in Standardizing the Process for Determining Sound Insulation Program Eligibility

June 7th, 2016

by J. Eric Cox

HMMH has provided acoustical testing, design, and other consulting services to airports throughout the country that have implemented sound insulation programs in accordance with FAA Order 5100.38D Airport Improvement Program (AIP) Handbook. HMMH has most recently been conducting sound insulation measurements around several airports including:

  • T. F. Green State Airport (PVD) in Providence, Rhode Island
  • Tweed – New Haven Airport (HVN) in New Haven, Connecticut
  • Louisville International Airport (SDF) in Louisville, Kentucky (shown below)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Over the last several months, HMMH has also assisted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and airport sponsors in standardizing the process for determining sound insulation program eligibility per current FAA requirements and criteria, which include that the average interior noise level for a residential building or educational facility must be 45 dB or greater.This work has included a recently completed Policy, Engineering, Analysis and Research Support (PEARS) study for the FAA Office of Environment and Energy regarding selection of appropriate aircraft noise spectra for use in determining outdoor-to-indoor building noise level reduction (NLR).

In addition, we have assisted several airport authorities (including Los Angeles World Airports and the Port of Seattle) in developing sound insulation program acoustical testing plans (ATP) for FAA review. This work has included providing additional information and supporting details related to the various methods that may be used to measure the exterior building façade sound level in the determination of NLR, each of which require a different adjustment to the measured level to account for the reflection of sound energy from the façade under test that is not transmitted through the exterior wall and instead travels back to the measurement microphone.

And as part of our on-going sound insulation testing work at Louisville International Airport, we have recently been evaluating noise mitigation program eligibility for several educational buildings and residential dormitories at the nearby University of Louisville Belknap Campus. This has required us to evaluate methods to compute daytime average sound levels (as required for educational facilities by FAA) that are consistent with the noise study, aircraft operations data, and analysis methods previously utilized to generate the Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) noise contours for the Noise Exposure Map (NEM).

Finally, I will be presenting a paper at the New England Noise-Con Revolution in Noise Control conference to be held in Providence, Rhode Island during June 13 – 15, 2016. This paper investigates the correlation between aircraft interior noise levels and various residential building construction features. The results of this analysis are then considered in the context of the current guidance provided in Appendix R of the FAA AIP handbook, which specifics a procedure to determine the eligibility of residences for sound insulation programs based on interior noise levels for categories of homes. Ultimately, we were unable to identify any specific building construction details which might result in truly effective categorizations of residential structures for this purpose since even the best possible approaches resulted in ranges of interior DNL noise levels that directly overlap and all of which span the 45 dB FAA criteria. An example presentation graphic is provided below comparing average interior DNL values for single family homes with total window assembly glazing thickness.

graph
If you are interested and would like to learn more, please attend my Noise-Con presentation entitled “Investigation of Correlation between Aircraft Interior Noise Levels and Residential Building Construction Details” on Tuesday June 14, 2016 from 1:20 PM – 1:40 PM in Room 550 A/B of the Omni Providence Hotel during the “Building Acoustics Measurement and Modeling” conference session. Hope to see you there!

 

 

Some Stuff I Like to Think I’ve Learned

April 21st, 2016

by Nick Miller

founders 2a

HMMH Founders (from left to right) Nick Miller, Andy Harris, Carl Hanson, and Bob Miller.

I began my career in acoustics, noise, and how people react to noise in 1973 after quitting the Air Force. Not that USAF was a bad experience – it taught me a lot.  After living with pretty liberal parents, and going to liberal universities and colleges for about 8 ½ years, I found I actually could like politically conservative people and shoot an S&W Combat Masterpiece with reasonable precision without really aiming.  But never mind that; it’s just that lessons for life are everywhere.

Anyway, I began at Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge Mass, (BBN) and found myself in a liberal, open-minded organization where my group in environmental noise analysis and control was struggling to find the best ways to resolve or attempt to resolve the relatively new political issue of the public’s dislike of all sorts of noise – from factories to construction to race tracks to new parking garages to planes, trains and automobiles. We worked with and for the likes of Ted Schultz, Ken Eldred, Dick Bolt (testimony about the 18 minute gap in the Nixon tapes fame), Bob Newman, and other brilliant people of whom you may not have heard like Chuck Dietrich, John Shadley, Warren Blazier and other good guys.  Truly a great place to start a career and learn.

As BBN turned away from acoustics to computer workings like design of the internet, Andy, Bob, Carl and I founded HMMH in 1981 (guess what the initials stand for). It was, and continues to be, another great experience, if you can get past the initial stress of putting your house up as collateral.  I remember vividly the day we four with our spouses met with bank representatives and all signed papers tying the future of our homes to our future success (or failure).  Well, we actually succeeded beyond our dreams, had a heck of a good time working together, bringing compatriots in noise into the company, sharing ups and downs, and building a company of more than 40 people.  That may not seem large to most people, but for a boutique business, we thought – “Not bad.”

Andy was president until 1989, and then I was until 2004 when we handed leadership to Mary Ellen. Andy, Bob and Carl have all retired and I will be within a year’s time.  I’ve naturally started wondering what to do next, and what about my 40 plus years of experience?  Do I walk away and leave the battle field of political acoustics or not?  I’m leaning toward going cold turkey.  However, my son-in-law’s father pointed out how much experience, ideas and insights I would be taking away from the industry.

To get to the point, I have decided to at least write a series of blogs describing some of the things I’ve learned about noise and people, leadership and mentoring. This is perhaps a common human desire to pass on something of what one has learned in a lifetime career.  I’ve noticed that a number of old folks like to write books about their accomplishments.  I certainly won’t be doing that.  I’m not sure what I’ve accomplished, but I do know I’ve learned some things.  Also these things are not worth a book; I’m not going to do what I notice some authors do and take a few basic pieces of wisdom and use up 200 to 300 pages talking about them in different ways.

So, I intend to write a series of blogs over the next months. That is my intent, anyway.  I will start with issues of the discipline: noise and people’s reactions thereto in different contexts and to different sources.  This will be fun for me, anyway.

TRB Releases HMMH-Authored Report on Renewable Energy at Airports

April 7th, 2016

ACRP_Report_151_Coverx500-2

HMMH is pleased to announce the release of  ACRP Report 151 “Developing a Business Case for Renewable Energy at Airports” by the Transportation Research Board (TRB). The report, authored by Stephen Barrett, Director of Climate and Energy, and Philip DeVita, Director of Air Quality, focuses on identifying and communicating the inherent benefits of renewable energy as part of the business case analysis. To reinforce its practical application, the Guidebook presents direct experience in renewable energy business case development to show both how those attributes are valued differently by different organizations with different missions, and how this broader renewable energy business experience translates to the airport business. The Guidebook reviews the criteria used to evaluate a renewable energy project and presents a system for weighting evaluation factors, including long-term self-sustainability and environmental/social considerations, based on the airport’s particular objectives. It walks through a model business case and evaluates the key factors fundamental in the renewable energy business case. The Guidebook also provides examples of similar renewable energy business cases from both an airport’s perspective as well as other organizations, including an airline, a university, and a hospital, and the lessons learned for airports.

This report was the first ever released by the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) in a “pre-publication” format (in November 2015) as part of its interest in accelerating the presentation of its research products to the industry, and demonstrates the high-level of confidence in the draft product.

HMMH has also prepared several other reports under this program including ACRP Report 141 “Renewable Energy as an Airport Revenue Source,” which provides the industry with business models and financial information to show how airports have gained financial benefits from renewable energy projects, ACRP Report 108 “Energy Facilities Compatibility with Airports and Airspace,” which reviews the aviation industry’s experience with a variety of energy technologies, and ACRP Synthesis 28 “Investigating Safety Impacts of Energy Technologies on Airports and Aviation,” which was the precursor study to ACRP Report 108.

 

HMMH joins RTCA

April 4th, 2016

By Mary Ellen Eagan

RTCA_logo_948x428

HMMH is pleased to announce that it has joined RTCA, which is a non-for-profit association that was founded in 1935 as a radio technical commission for aeronautics. RTCA is a Federal advisory committee that works in response to requests from the FAA to develop consensus among diverse, competing interests on critical aviation modernization issues in an increasingly global enterprise. Chartered by the FAA to operate Federal advisory committees, RTCA employs a consensus-driven process to generate minimum performance standards for Air Traffic Control systems and equipment; to forge recommendations on key aviation policies, and identifying and developing mitigation on issues affecting air traffic management operations. RTCA developed performance standards form the basis for FAA regulatory requirements while the policy advice informs the FAA’s prioritization and investment decisions.

HMMH has supported a number of RTCA task forces in the past. Diana Wasiuk is a member of the NextGen Integration Working Group (NIWG), which drives industry agreement on the prioritization and timing of investments in NextGen and thePBN Time, Speed, and Spacing Task Group, which prioritizes the waterfall of PBN implementation and evaluates opportunities to maximize PBN benefits in the near-and mid-term. Mary Ellen Eagan is on the PBN Blueprint Community Outreach Task Group, which identifies best practices in communication around PBN noise issues. Mary Ellen Eagan is on the PBN Blueprint Community Outreach Task Group, which is identifying best practices in communication around PBN noise issues.

“We are pleased to increase our engagement with RTCA”, said Mary Ellen Eagan. “We are excited to bring our extensive noise and airspace experience to an organization is seeking to develop consensus across a wide stakeholder group, much as we do in our practice daily.”