Sparrow and Finch Gardening Tips from an expert in acoustics on how to make your home and garden more peaceful

Tips from an expert in acoustics on how to make your home and garden more peaceful

We spend more time at home now than ever, and chances of unwanted noise infiltrating your lockdown are high unless you’re living in the middle of nowhere.

It’s hard to completely block out sound, whether it’s the noise of cars, music from a neighbor, or the drone of the lawnmower. It’s because it is a pressure-wave that easily diffracts and passes through porous objects such as trees and bushes.

It is also affected by the wind and temperature gradients in the atmosphere. It is because of this that we can hear the sound of a distant motorway when the wind blows in the same direction. Or, on a cold morning with no wind, it may seem like the highway is at the bottom of your garden when there is an inversion of temperature.

A second issue is sound. People living in quiet areas may be more disturbed by the occasional passing vehicle than those living in areas where noise from traffic is more frequent.

Creating quiet

The best way to reduce noise is by lowering it at the source. Unfortunately, it is not possible to control the noise of vehicles that pass by our gardens and homes. For road traffic, reducing speed limits would be helpful, as would smoother roads or, even better, surfaces that absorb sound, such as porous pavement. All of these jobs are the responsibility of the highway authority, but their budget may be more urgent.

You can make your home and garden a bit more peaceful by doing a few things. You can create a barrier by building a wall or an earth mound or boarding a fence close to the road. But they must be high and long enough to make any difference.

The location of the house in relation to the road is important. It is important to place any barriers so that they do not block the view of the road from any windows or parts of the garden.

If placed near the road, a high wall or substantial fencing can help reduce noise from traffic. Author provided

Consider creating a quiet zone where you can relax if noise cannot be controlled in the entire garden. It may be necessary to build a fence or wall around a part of the garden in order to block out the main sources of noise. The house can also act as a barrier.

A water feature can also mask residual noise. It’s best to choose a sound that sounds natural but not too loud. This could disturb you or your neighbors.

Natural Features

It is interesting to note that our perceptions of tranquility are influenced not only by what we hear but also by what we see.

Brain scans have shown that auditory information is processed differently, depending on the scene. Researchers have found that although the noises of a motorway and a sandy beach are similar at a distance, brain patterns can be significantly different when the same sound is played to volunteers while they view a scene with a beach instead. The tranquility rating also differs.

Create your tranquil hideaway by using plants, fences, and hedges. Pexels

research has revealed that tranquility is rated by the number of natural features, such as rocks, water, greenery, and sand, in a location, and also the level of noise.

There is a compromise here in that the perception of tranquility will improve if there are more trees or water visible. It is important to keep this in mind when designing a tranquil garden.

Find tranquility in your home.

Some of the same principles are applicable inside the home. Install double glazing on windows and doors to reduce noise sources. Add a thicker layer of insulation in the loft for aircraft noise control.

Consider changing your bedroom to the side, away from the traffic. Consider using large pictures of nature for wall art.

Lockdown has reduced the traffic and allowed us to hear the birds more frequently. It would be nice if the “new norm” included some of these benefits. People will realize that not all of their car trips are necessary. It’s also important to remember that nature is all around us – we only need to take a few moments to listen.

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