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Noise Mitigation: The Valuation of Noise

Dr Bob Thorne

Quiet has Value, Noise has Cost

Conceptually, peace, tranquillity and quiet have value while noise has cost. The valuation of quiet or noise as commodities is not an unusual idea. They are commodities that can be bought and sold like any other commodity.

Noise affects individuals and the community by modifying the extrinsic and intrinsic nature of the environment that attracts and holds people to the locality. The noise may have a positive value or, more likely given its nature, a negative value. Unregulated noise emissions—immissions, for example—impose a cost on to the person hearing that noise, without compensation or redistribution of cost back to its creator. Noise is multidimensional and must be quantified and qualified to be valued9.

There is a cost in producing the noise, a cost in receiving the noise and a cost in reducing or mitigating such noise. As an example, noise can be quantified by sound exposure levels or audibility, and qualified in terms of unwantedness, annoyance and loss of amenity.

The European Commission has published a State-of-the-Art on Economic Valuation of Noise report[17,20]. The report reviews different valuation methodologies including stated preference and revealed preference methods. An economic estimate of social benefits of reduced noise allows the identification of measures that will provide the highest social benefits per costs.

The notional costs of increased noise for a residential area as follows:

From this analysis there are clear inequities suffered by elements of the community if unreasonable noise is expressly permitted by this consent process...

9 See, for example, ‘Ecosystem Valuation’ which presents various methods of ecosystem pricing methods and benefit transfer at


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