Biological and Multifunctional Noise Reduction Barriers

More than 100 million people in Europe alone suffer from harmful levels of noise pollution. That’s why reducing harmful noise exposure poses a major challenge today in shaping healthy communities.

In our daily lives we are exposed to harmful levels of noise, especially in urban areas. There, noise levels usually exceed Lden 55 dB, the threshold level for excess exposure defined by the World Health Organization (WHO). The primary sources of a city’s noise pollution are cars, construction site machinery and power plants, where road traffic noise is the foremost source of noise exposure.

The health consequences of noise exposure caused by road traffic and industry primarily include sleep disturbance and associated increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Generally, strategies to reduce noise exposure in urban areas address reducing traffic (especially heavy vehicles) and lowering speed limits.

Noise reduction barriers fight noise and climate change

But another strategy is to plan for noise insulation and construct noise reduction barriers. Danish PileByg A/S is one innovative company doing just that. Their noise barriers are made of wood instead of carbon-intensive materials such as steel and aluminium, thus helping to absorb and store CO2 and to reduce emissions.

An example is their biological noise reduction wall in Valby, a suburb of Copenhagen, which involves a multifunctional approach by both reducing noise from the road and serving as a cloudburst rainwater reservoir.

Biological noise reduction wall and cloudburst rainwater reservoir in Valby, Copenhagen, by PileByg (Photo: PileByg)

Biological noise reduction wall and cloudburst rainwater reservoir in Valby, Copenhagen, by PileByg (Photo: PileByg)

Sweco was responsible for conducting a life cycle assessment (Carbon Footprint) that compared PileByg’s willow noise screen with a typical steel noise screen. Isak Eklöv, project manager and environmental consultant at Sweco, was impressed by the performance of the biological screens:

“The main results showed that the carbon footprint in kg CO2-eq/m2 for PileByg’s screens was 60-67 percent lower than for the steel screen. In addition to this, PileByg’s screens store carbon in the product over its life cycle, creating a temporary carbon sink.

Read our Urban Insight report: Wholesome Air, Serene Cities for more insights on how to take action to reduce noise pollution and create healthier communities.