Citizen Science and Open Source Planning for Quieter and Healthier Cities.

October 22, 2020 — The Big Picture

In 2002, the European Environmental Noise Directive was released with the aim of establishing a common methodology among Member States to reduce noise pollution. One of the noise reduction measures introduced by the Directive was the creation of a plan for quiet areas in open country and agglomerations. The importance of protecting quiet areas in cities has also been recently suggested by the World Health Organization. Indeed, access to quiet areas can provide benefits to health and well-being by facilitating restoration, improving concentration, favouring good sleep quality and boosting mental health. Furthermore, as Rowcroft and colleagues suggest, access to quiet areas brings direct and indirect economic benefits, for example, by saving on health costs and increasing worker productivity.

But how can quiet areas be identified so as to be protected? Hush City, a free citizen science mobile app, addresses this question by drawing on citizen science and soundscape research to involve people in the identification and evaluation of urban quiet areas. Hush City enables people to identify and assess quiet areas in cities as to create an open access, web-based map of these areas, with the potential of orientating plans and policies for healthier living.

Launched in 2017 within the context of a pilot study in Berlin, Hush City is now used internationally and available in 5 languages: English, German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. Hush City is also adopted by the City Councils of Berlin (2018) and Limerick (2020-2021) for the creation of Plans of Quiet Areas.

Using the Hush City app, you can also:

  • Filter the quiet areas according to their sound levels, descriptors used to tag them, quietness, visual quality and accessibility, as perceived by the users who crowdsourced the quiet areas;
  • Share the quiet areas via social media;
  • Review your personal surveys and delete them anytime without justification;
  • Become a Hush City Ambassador;
  • Give feedback on the Hush City project.

The quiet areas crowdsourced with the Hush City app are linked in real time to an open access map: the Hush City Map.

Join the Hush City community. It is simple!

  • Download the free Hush City app and install it on your smartphone
  • Go to one of your favorite quiet places
  • Launch the Hush City app and click on the button “Map the quietness around you”
  • Record the sound of the quiet place where you are and measure its sound levels*
  • Take a picture of the place where you recorded the sound
  • Answer the questions addressing the environmental quality of this quiet place
  • Share this information with the Hush City community.
  • Or, use the app to find a quiet spot near to you. Go to it and enjoy spending some time there.

More by Dr. Antonella Radicchi [icon name=”arrow-circle-down” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]

Sound and the Healthy City

Radicchi A. et al. (2020). “Sound and the Healthy City”. Leading Editorial of the
special issue Sound and the Healthy City of Cities & Health Journal Editorial.

Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

About the author