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RMIT University, in partnership with UTS, is conducting experimental and interdisciplinary research into possible applications of noise management systems alongside motorway sound walls. The project is located in the School of Architecture & Design’s research center, D_Lab, the project team includes researchers Sarah Pink and Shanti Sumartojo from the Digital Ethnography Research Centre.

Transurban, who are funding the research via the Transurban Innovation Grant, are a Top 20 company on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) that manage and develop urban toll road networks in Australia and the United States of America.

The project is an initiative of RMIT’s vice-chancellor postdoctoral fellow, Jordan Lacey, whose research is located at the interface of urban design and the sonic arts. He states, ‘a wonderful opportunity emerged to bring together a range of world-leading experts to conduct unique experimentations into the potential shaping of motorway noise into new listening environments’.

The interdisciplinary team reaches across three research areas – acoustic engineering, sound design and sensory ethnography – each headed by world-leading practitioners in their respective disciplines. Subsequently, Xiaojun Qiu (UTS), Lawrence Harvey (SIAL Sound Studios, RMIT) and Sarah Pink (DERC, RMIT). The research team also includes internationally recognised audio artist and sound designer Stephan Moore (Northwestern University, Chicago), and research fellow and sensory ethnographer Shanti Sumartojo (DERC, RMIT).

The collaboration aims to determine if the present state of noise cancellation and noise transformation technologies can be combined to effectively act as a soundscaping tool, which enhances urban livability along motorway sound walls.

Considered separately, noise cancellation involves the application of a proprietary Active Noise Cancellation system that can reduce low frequency sounds in and around home environments affected by motorway noise. Noise transformation involves the installation of electroacoustic soundscape systems, which aims to improve aesthetic experiences in the network of parklands and walking tracks located on the non-roadside of motorway sound walls.

An ethnography team will be working with community members in both Sydney and Melbourne, to consider if the combined technologies create any meaningful impacts for those residents who live close to motorway sound walls. The research team aims to discover soundscape ‘types’ that might be integrated into future motorway construction and housing design.

The research team are quick to add that there is no guarantee the project will lead to actual noise mitigation outcomes. However, targeted local communities and a major motorway infrastructure group will be given the opportunity to trial cutting edge research approaches to noise management, the outcomes of which could inform future motorway infrastructure projects.


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