Project DeStress – mapping quiet urban outdoor areas

Shhhh!!! Project DeStress, run by Dr Sarah Payne at Heriot-Watt University, is a research project exploring quiet urban outdoor places and their health-promoting properties. For creating healthy, sustainable societies, preserving quiet can be just as important as reducing noises

Project DeStress aims to raise awareness to the public, practitioners, and stakeholders about the important value of quiet places in cities. Step one in this project is to identify where and what the public think quiet areas are. Residents, workers, and regular visitors to Edinburgh, Sheffield, and Brighton and Hove are invited to identify spaces they visit to relax in relative peace. Quiet may not always be the right word for these spaces, as the sound of, for example, children playing in a park, waves on shingle (in Brighton), or wind in trees can provide respite. Therefore as well as mapping quiet people are also being asked to identify calm and tranquil areas, as quiet may not always be the right word.

Noise and health

During Noise Action Week, awareness is raised of the damage that loud and annoying sounds has to our health and steps we can take to help reduce noise. This is important as the World Health Organisation states there is “overwhelming evidence that exposure to environmental noise has adverse health effects”. In addition to noise perhaps we should also consider the flip side more often – the importance of quiet. If noise can have detrimental effects, can quiet have health-promoting effects? There is some evidence that suggests access to quiet places is beneficial to our health, helping to mitigate against the effects of the noisy, busy world. Indeed the Environmental Noise Directive (END 2002/49/EC) recommends the identification and preservation of “environmental noise quality where it is good”.


The Project DeStress mapping questionnaire  is asking people to describe the quiet, tranquil and calm places they go to, what they do there, and why they think it is quiet. For anyone particiapting in the research there is a chance to win one of three £15 amazon vouchers.

The commonalities in the places identified will help create guidelines on what types of places should be preserved by local councils to ensure there is some quiet in the cities. Therefore, throughout Noise Action Week, in addition to thinking about how you can reduce noise, have a think about where quiet is already and the need to ensure it is preserved. So start mapping those quiet areas if you live, work or visit Edinburgh, Sheffield, or Brighton and Hove! then start adding these places to the map!

More about Project DeStress

Project DeStress, run by Dr Sarah Payne at Heriot-Watt University, is a 16 month research project about Designing and Engineering Soundscapes To enable Restorative Environments for Sustainable Societies. Its first step is to look at identifying quiet urban outdoor areas, but not through sound level meters or the size of a place, but by asking the public about their quiet areas. The data collected and commonalities in the places identified will be compared with local councils’ quiet area identification techniques to create comprehensive guidelines for recommending quiet areas that work for everyone. In later phases of DeStress a visual soundscape simulator will be created which will help determine and raise awareness of the health promoting benefits of quiet areas. By considering sound issues from both sides, noisy and quiet, a more healthy and productive environment will be created.

More at:

Project DeStress Website:




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