Addressing Distribution Center and Warehouse Noise during Construction, Operation, and Expansion

Consumer buying patterns, overseas manufacturing centers, and freight/goods transit modes have changed rapidly in recent years, bringing tremendous growth in the numbers (and sizes) of warehouses and distribution centers. Additionally, the coronavirus pandemic has only helped stoke the demand for online shopping and home delivery of products, which relies on a robust and growing storage and distribution network that includes warehouse and distribution centers. A single building often can take up hundreds of thousands of square feet, and some are well over a million square feet in size. Such facilities are often sited in formerly undeveloped or overlooked areas on the outskirts of urban areas.

These projects bring the promise of renewal and growth to the region and local communities, primarily through job opportunities, however, such proposed projects also elicit community concern over construction and operational noise, such as truck parking/idling, loading dock operations, and rooftop HVAC. Projects can address community concern over warehouse and distribution center noise through two methods, namely, acoustical studies and noise modeling.

Acoustical Studies and Noise Modeling Allay Community Concerns over Distribution Center and Warehouse Noise

One way developers can address community concern about noise is by conducting noise studies taking into consideration various circumstances and project configurations. For the most part, acoustical studies of warehouse and distribution center projects reveal that construction and operation noise increases are relatively small from these projects. Mitigation measures, when they are needed, are comparable to those of other, smaller development projects (such as the requirement for temporary construction noise barriers and/or permanent perimeter noise barriers around the truck courtyards, etc.). These findings, backed by defensible predictive analyses and considerations of local zoning and other factors, can help inform communities and avoid or de-escalate potential opposition to warehouse and distribution center projects.

Noise models are another tool that can be employed to help a community better understand the sources and extent of noise, but creating them can be costly and time-consuming. Dudek’s simple but effective Noise Tool performs predictive analysis that incorporates International Organization of Standardization (ISO) 9613-2 standard algorithms, emulating many of the capabilities of commercially available (but far more expensive) sound propagation modeling software programs.

For example, the Dudek Noise Tool allows rapid evaluation of aggregate noise levels at off-site community receptors due to the combination of on-site truck parking/idling, loading dock operations, and rooftop HVAC sound sources. Additionally, like the commercially available programs that our Noise Tool mimics, prediction output can be presented not only for a few specific receptor locations, but as color-coded “noise level bands” or “contours” across an entire geographic area, helping project stakeholders see—at a glance—potential noise concerns with respect to local ordinance or general plan compliance.

Color-coded “noise level bands” or “contours” help project stakeholders see potential distribution center and warehouse noise levels across an entire geographic area.

NorCal Warehouse Project Analyzed to City and County Standards

Over the past year, Dudek’s noise team has provided dozens of clients with noise analyses, models, and technical memoranda for warehouse and distribution center projects in Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Joaquin counties, as well as the cities of Los Angeles and Torrance.

Recently, we conducted a noise and vibration analysis for a proposed project on county land near a growing city in Northern California. The project, which would include multiple structures totaling more than 650,000 square feet in warehousing space, is in an area experiencing rapid development of similar projects. The land upon which the project is proposed to be constructed is likely to be annexed in the near future by the adjacent city, so the noise analysis included the regulatory standards for both the local county and the city, and took into consideration potential noise impacts under both jurisdictions. Dudek’s findings showed that, because of the relatively large distances between the project site and nearby noise and vibration-sensitive uses, impacts would be less-than-significant under any of the applicable standards.

Dudek’s experience and expertise in the warehousing and distribution center market, coupled with our innovative Noise Tool to expedite defensible quantitative predictive analyses of project-related noise and its potential exceedances of applicable standards, enables reassessment of facilities into the future, through expansion or modernization. Our noise team includes senior acousticians who are INCE Board Certified and have the expertise in and experience preparing acoustical studies for these kinds of warehousing and distribution centers.

For more information, contact us.