SoSe 2017: Sound and Health - in the City

Course description


Health is one of the basic human needs and is determined by the socio-cultural, economic, ecological and physical environment. Living in cities implies that health of the citizens depends not only on basic supplies and infrastructure such as food, water, shelter, disposal systems and health services, but also on the quality and spatial planning of the built environment which translates into varying degrees of soil, air, water and noise pollution from industrial, sanitary and transport systems. We already know that water, soil, air and noise pollution from industry and other human activities are considered to be main health impacts affecting humans who live in urban areas. However less is known about these environmental health impacts mediated by the built environment.


Noise pollution in Germany is regulated by several laws and regulations. These regulations only restrict decibel levels (dB(A)) to below a certain threshold and have no consideration for frequency ranges of sounds below the restricted dB(A) level or the periodicity of sound incursions, two factors which have been identified as critical disruptors of animal, avian, and reptilian biodiversity, population size and individual health within the fields of population ecology and bioacoustics. In this respect the currently emerging topic of Soundscape Ecology seeks to understand sound as a pattern of decibels and frequency over time via formulaic combinations of these three variables to explain how 'soundscapes' are related to human health and the built environment. If soundscape metrics have been successfully used to identify healthy animal habitats, couldn't soundscape metrics be used to identify healthy human habitats?


This project is in cooperation with the Department of Landscape Ecology and Landscape Planning (LLP) within the Faculty of Spatial Planning at the TU Dortmund University. Aims are to analyze the built, social, environmental and health conditions of selected small-scale study areas in Bochum in relation to soundscape metrics calculated from field recordings with specialized Lärmmessgeräten. For this purpose primary and secondary data will be collected and evaluated, with a main focus on mapping and soundscape measurements in the areas of interest. Practical skills include application of GIS (urban mapping), health assessment, sound signature measures and evaluation using specialized techniques and equipment.


The course is organized as a combination of seminars, group work and field work. The seminars will consist of lectures and practical work to help students draw together and apply the knowledge and skills necessary for characterizing and analyzing their study area and will be held on Thursdays; field work will be carried out during the seminar time and will require participation from all enrolled students.


Prerequisites: ArcGIS (or similar software for mapping and spatial analysis), interest in basic physics and interest in interdisciplinary work.