Recognizing that noise affects the lives of citizens, Seoul is carrying out stringent anti-noise measures for large-scale construction sites as a way to make Seoul a quiet and pleasant place to live.
Noise Affects Everyday Lives
Construction Sites, Biggest Source of Noise
Noise pollution has worsened due to frequent reconstruction projects within the city, growing population and greater traffic volume in Seoul. The problem has become so wide that it has become a social issue. Consequently, citizens have voiced their concerns over noise and the number of complaints has increased from 15,922 in 2009 to 27,559 in 2013. The in-depth analysis of the noise complaints in 2013 found that 76.8% (21,154 cases) were regarding noise coming from construction site, 18.7% (5,165) were associated with megaphone and noise relating to commercial activities, 0.5% (100) from traffic noise, and 4.1% (1,134) had to do with others such as animal, inter-floor noise in apartment buildings.
Anti-Noise Measures for Construction Sites
Seoul had its own noise inspection measure before but it was proven ineffective. Under the previous guideline, when a complaint is submitted, a district official from the corresponding area is dispatched to the site in question who would then measure the noise level of the site. Because such an approach is not proactive in nature, it did little to curb noise level. Seoul also understood that a regular inspection instead of on-demand inspection mechanism would be more effective in noise reduction.
Better, More Speedy Anti-Noise Measures
To tackle the construction site noise problems which took up 70% of all noise complaints in Seoul, the SMG decided to create an effective noise monitoring system and launched a comprehensive anti-noise measure for construction sites in April 2011.
Construction Noise Monitoring System
The Seoul government has taken a tailored approach to noise control. It applies differentiated standards depending on the size and process of construction and has strengthened standards regarding soundproof wall materials and installation. All construction sites over 1,000m2 of total ground area are required to install aluminum or polypropylene soundproof wall (effective in reducing 26~30 DB) before they apply for a construction permit. Furthermore, for processes that cause heavy noise pollution such as drilling and blasting, all construction sites must be equipped with double soundproofing with an additional removable or sealed soundproof wall. On the other hand, construction sites smaller than 1,000㎡ of total ground area are exempt from preliminary register requirement but are obliged to install sheath plastic steel (effective in reducing 25dB) when applying for construction permit. The Seoul government also wrote down an anti-noise process standard guideline for each process.
In 2014 alone, Seoul successfully installed a total 25 noise meters, 1 or 2 in each of the 17 large-scale construction sites of which the construction period is longer than 2 years. The SMG plans to expand the number to 50 by 2015. Seoul is also encouraging large-scale construction sites of greater than 100,000 ㎡ to voluntarily install such meters. The meter measures noise around the clock and forwards the data to the Public Health and Environment Research Institute as well as each district. Real time disclosure of the data keeps construction officials fully alert and promotes them to keep track of their noise level.
Seoul mandated all construction works ordered by the public sector to install low-noise machineries first, and then mandated all private sector constructions to follow suit. The requirement has been strengthened with onsite noise inspection and soundproof facility installation inspection. For construction sites which caused more than 3 cases of complaints, a more stringent monitoring and inspection measures are to be applied.
Country’s First Mobile Noise Meter Vehicles
As the first municipality in Korea, Seoul deployed 4 mobile noise meter vehicles to noise sites. In the past, noise metering was not done until a complaint was lodged, and metering was done just once. Since there are discrepancies between the noise level at the time of complaint submission and the time of metering, the previous measure failed to meet the expectation of citizens.
To address the loophole and thus garner public trust, Seoul introduced the mobile noise metering vehicle even before the central government. The vehicle equipped with scientific metering system can be dispatched to noise site immediately when needed. Or, in case a city official is not available for inspection, the vehicle itself can remain on the spot and check the noise level every 5 minutes around the clock, which virtually makes it impossible for construction site to put a stopgap work. Meanwhile, Seoul is operating an ombudsman system to encourage more businesses in downtown Seoul such as Myungdong, Hongdae to be conscious of noise control and seek help to the city government if needs be. By 2015, staff will be expanded to 20 to give more strength to the ombudsman system.