Posts Tagged ‘hmmh’

A Book About Noise

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

by Nick Miller

In early 2007, I received an invite to the Noise Pollution Clearing House 10th Anniversary celebration.  Well, ok, no marketing possibility there, but Les Blomberg has been nice enough to me to keep me apprised of his latest projects, and send interesting people my way; plus, I noted that the celebration was to be held in Bill Moyer’s New York apartment.  Sign me up.  A real New York experience!

Arriving there via Acela through Penn Station and a cab uptown, the doorman directed me to the elevator and the operator who took me to the Moyers’ apartment.  Les led me through two crowed rooms and introduced me to a gentleman named Garret Keizer.  Garret told me he was writing a book about noise, and started asking me questions about what I do, while scribbling notes on a little pad.  That meeting translated into many phone calls, many emails, a visit to HMMH to interview a half dozen of us who have been in the noise business for many years, and dinner at my house with me, my wife Andrea, Doug Barrett and Diana Duffy. Garret’s book came out last spring and late this summer, Noise Control Engineering published a review I had written of the book:

  • The Unwanted Sound of Everything we Want, A Book about Noise
  • Garret Keizer
  • Public Affairs, Perseus Books Group, New York, 400pp, 27.95 USD – Hardcover, ISBN 978-1586485528

Garret Keizer’s first sentence gave me confidence that I was starting a book that would not be a straight polemic about the evils of noise and the wonders of quiet: “Noise is not the most important problem in the world.”  And so it is not, but with Garret’s relentless research into history, countless interviews with the makers, receivers and analyzers of noise, and synthesis of all, noise provides a window on culture, politics, power and weakness.  He goes on that noise is a “weak” issue in that it affects the weak, and if you complain about it, you’re often considered weak – a “complainer” who can’t deal with the way the world works.  But, he warns, “…be wary of drawing pat moral analogies between noise and evil, quiet and good.”  Ted Bundy was a “quiet and helpful tenant.”

Well, that last is a bit extreme, perhaps, but Garret throws out zingers from time to time and made me think – a lot.  In considering America’s influence on other cultures, has it ever occurred to you that a “…culture attempting to imitate America rarely grows quieter?”  And every few pages, I found myself stopping to reflect on a linkage he’d just made.  But don’t pigeon-hole Garret; he admits he loves midtown Manhattan, his chain saw, and the Rolling Stones.

I suspect a lot of us are like Garret.  We love our appliances, but want to get away from them once in a while.  Which leads to a sad truth that he raises in many ways: the poor and disadvantaged of the modern (industrialized or industrializing) world can’t get away from the noise.  My wife and I lived briefly in a rather noisy suburban apartment complex, but we could get away on weekends to the pastoral quiet of York County, PA.  I can imagine there are many people living in tight quarters where the noise never stops, and there’s no going up the country for a quiet vacation.

Trains and Planes

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

by Lance Meister

A recent article got me thinking about traveling by train and by plane and how we see and use each mode of travel.  Planes are the get you there quick, long distance mode of travel.  Fast and glamorous.  Trains are the slow, leisurely, short distance mode of travel.  Utilitarian and functional.  At least, that’s the way many people see them.  Now, I am admittedly a bit of a train fan, but it’s clear that high speed rail (HSR) is changing those perceptions of travel around the world, even in the US. 

The article from China is a dramatic example of this phenomenon of trains competing equally with planes on time.  In Spain the traffic between Madrid and Barcelona (once the busiest air corridor in the world) has gone from 90% of the passengers on planes to over 50% of the passengers now on trains.  In the US, the Acela service on the Northeast Corridor between Boston and New York and New York and Washington has 37% and 50% of the market share, respectively.  That’s in the US!  My own anecdotal experience is that when I am going to Manhattan for work, I take the train every time.  It just makes sense. 

When traveling from Boston to New York, the train does take 3:15 minutes and the plane only 45 minutes, but that’s not the entire story.  You have to be at the airport at least an hour early.  There’s security, boarding, taxing, etc. to be taken into account.  In addition, you arrive in New York at either JFK or LaGuardia, and have to get into the city from there, which can add significant time.  The total travel time is equivalent, and at times, the HSR even has an edge.  Imagine if the Acela could go 150 mph on the entire corridor!

Some people see this as a competition, but in reality, the two modes of travel have different purposes.  For city pairs within a few hundred miles, true HSR makes sense and can be significantly shorter than air travel.  For longer distances, such as Boston to Chicago, or Boston to Los Angeles, the plane makes sense every time. 

An example of this is in Spain. The airlines not only didn’t fight the train over price and service between Madrid and Barcelona, but actually welcomed the trains.  The introduction of service allowed them to free up a significant number of landing slots for much more profitable international flights and use the trains to get people to the airports for the flights.  It was the proverbial “win-win” situation for all. 

We have to realize that we can only pave so many roads, or create so many new runways, much less airports.  HSR can be a great option at shorter distances, and can be an excellent form of travel.  Each mode has its advantages and disadvantages, and its own primary purpose.  In many countries, this is already a reality.  There’s a lot of hope that HSR in the US will come into its own and be a real travel mode, not just in the Northeast Corridor.

First Founders’ Award

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

by Nick Miller

With Mary Ellen’s encouragement, Bob, Carl and I developed the concept for a “Founders’ Award” that would be used to recognize a project and the team that made that project reflect some of the fundamental principles we had in mind when we started HMMH.  The inscription on the award says it best:

“In recognition of outstanding performance on a project that was uniquely challenging, technically innovative, and resulted in proven client satisfaction.”

Founders' Award Plaque

Founders' Award Plaque

As shown on the plaque, which we awarded at the HMMH Annual Meeting this month, we chose the first recipient Dave Towers and his team that conducted the “Dynamics and Noise Consultancy Services for Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation.”  This was a project Dave led in Kowloon to provide vibration isolation for a new underground link between the East Rail and West Rail lines in the center of Kowloon.  The line passes near the world famous Peninsula Hotel, other hotels, residential buildings, the science museum, and a concert hall.  The tunnel had to be constructed without causing damaging or annoying vibrations, and designed to prevent vibrations from train operations once completed.

After the tunnel was built and the vibration control treatments we had analyzed and judged to be adequate were installed, but before any trains ran on the tracks, HMMH measured transmission of vibrations from the finished tunnel into the sensitive buildings during a field trip Jason Ross called “the most difficult one in recorded history!”  The transmission data helped refine the analysis and further confirmed the adequacy of the treatments.

Recently the Environmental Project Director, Richard Kwan, met with Carl at Internoise in Ottawa and reported the line is open for service and there are no noise or vibration problems.  Richard told Carl:

“Dave impressed us greatly with his superb technical knowledge and skillful application of such.  We’re delighted that he understood the client’s objectives and requirements so well and executed his assignments in a manner that would be an envy to many professionals.  Dave is a rare combination of sterling technical expert, master diplomat and seasoned project manager.”

Dave Towers deserves credit for successfully managing a difficult project with a challenging budget.  Jason and Tim Johnson were involved in the technical work and helped Dave teach a rail noise course to the client’s staff in Hong Kong.  Doug Barrett was called upon in an emergency to drop everything and attend project review meetings in Hong Kong.  Carl was involved in negotiations and contract meetings, mostly ceremonial, in Hong Kong.

We’re delighted to have begun a tradition and hope the award will be given to special projects from now forever forward to help keep HMMH’s fundamental principles alive.