6.4 Buffers for Noise Control


Buffers can reduce noise from roads and other sources to levels that allow normal outdoor activities to occur. A 100-foot wide planted buffer will reduce noise by 5 to 8 decibels (dBA). Using a barrier in the buffer such as a landform can significantly increase buffer effectiveness (10 to 15 dBA reduction per 100-foot wide buffer with 12-foot high landform).

Guidelines are provided below for roads. Use the diagrams on the adjacent page to estimate a setback distance from a typical 100-foot wide buffer to achieve an acceptable noise level.


Key Design Considerations

  • Locate buffer close to the noise source while providing an appropriate setback for accidents and drifting snow.
  • Evergreen species will offer year-around noise control.
  • Create a dense buffer with trees and shrubs to prevent gaps.
  • Select plants tolerant of air pollution and de-icing methods.
  • Natural buffers will be less effective than planted buffers.
  • Consider topography and use existing landforms as noise barriers where possible.

Estimating Setback Distance from Noise Control Buffers

Example: An outdoor recreational site near a highway needs to be located to meet the desired noise levels of 60 to 65 dBA. If 100-ft wide tree/shrub buffer is used, the site needs to be 100 to 200 feet behind the buffer. The site can be located immediately behind the buffer if a 12-ft high landform is incorporated into the buffer.

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