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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 643: International Conference on Urban Horticulture

PLANTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL NOISE BARRIERS

Author:   B. Kotzen
Keywords:   noise mitigation, visual aesthetics, environmental protection
Abstract:
Since the introduction of more effective and stringent noise legislation across Europe, environmental noise barriers have become ubiquitous features along many road corridors. Barriers to mitigate noise and views of traffic may be located wherever there is development and human activity, along inner city routes, suburban byways and also along more rural routes where villages and recreational areas require protection. It must be recognised that noise barriers are architectural features in their own right and that they should be designed to fit into their local environments. Indeed, if these barriers are not designed for each individual location they are likely to remain alien visual elements and diminish landscape character and landscape quality. The main aspects of good environmental noise barrier design include the appropriate manipulation of elements and materials and most importantly incorporate the use of plants. When designing noise barriers, plants should always be considered as part and parcel of the design. Plants not only help to integrate the barrier into its surroundings, by reducing apparent scale and screening elements, but they can also provide an aesthetic contribution by softening appearance and by providing architectonic form and robust features. A great depth of soil is not a necessary requirement. Plants can indeed form an integral part of noise barrier design in what are termed 'bio-barriers'. The earth mound is the simplest effective environmental noise barrier. Reinforced earth mounds are used where space is limited but a natural looking barrier is required. Bio-barriers may be divided into four generic types: the 'A' frame and vertical, the box wall, woven-willow and stack and crib bio barriers. Many studies have been undertaken to indicate whether plants themselves reduce noise and this appears possible in certain situations.
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