Heathrow is to pay for building earthquake-proof shelters in local school playgrounds to protect children from the rumble of overhead aircraft noise.
The £1.8m scheme follows the experience of a primary school in Hounslow that lies under one of the two main Heathrow flight paths. In April this year, it erected four of the “superadobe” domes, originally designed for earthquake and emergency zones in Asia and Africa. The striking white structures – made from coiled bags of earth with plaster walls – cut the noise of incoming aeroplanes by about 17 decibels. The original domes at Hounslow Heath infants school, where incoming planes pass 180 metres overhead every 90 seconds at peak times, can accommodate up to 30 young pupils.
The airport is to pay 21 local schools for the cost of building the shelters to reduce noise for outdoor lessons or during breaktimes. Heathrow said the scheme, under which each school will receive £85,000, was part of its commitment to exploring innovative solutions to reduce the impact of aircraft noise.
Kathryn Harper-Quinn, headteacher of Hounslow Heath, said the school had been delighted with the adobe buildings and welcomed Heathrow’s new scheme.
Since 2005, the airport has provided some noise insulation for schools, although local councils have argued that the money has not gone far enough to provide ventilation as well as soundproofing, leaving teachers to choose between being too hot or too noisy in summer.
Matt Gorman, sustainability director at Heathrow, said: “We know that aircraft noise has an impact on local communities. This innovative scheme has already proved a great success in providing pupils with noise respite,and we hope all 21 schools will enjoy the buildings as much as Hounslow Heath has.”
The shelters were designed originally by the Iranian architect Nader Khalili as a potential low-tech, low-cost building should man ever start building settlements on the moon. However, they were first used in large numbers for a refugee crisis after the 1990-91 Gulf war, before coming to Hounslow via other emergency zones in Africa and Asia.
Julian Faulkner, who built the Hounslow Heath structures, had previously erected about 70 of the domes, which can withstand tremors of a magnitude up to 5.7, in regions of Nepal.
Aircraft noise has become an important factor in the political debate over the expansion of Heathrow: 750,000 local people are affected by the disturbance, according to European measures. The airport has set out a strategy to tackle aircraft noise, including quieter planes and operating procedures. Heathrow has also published its first league table of the noisiest airlines: Poland’s LOT, Israel’s El Al and Thai Airways are the worst offenders.
Plans submitted this year by Heathrow to the Davies commission, which is considering if and where airports in the south-east should be expanded, laid out options for up to three additional runways, potentially putting many new areas of west London under flight paths.
See also Daily Mail
Heathrow pays £1.8m for school earthquake-proof moon huts to protect pupils’ ears from aircraft noise
- Heathrow will give 21 primary schools average of £85,000 each
- Huts allow children to play and learn outside without noise interference
- Originally designed for lunar landings and used in refugee camps
Some extracts from a long article, below:
- Students from Hounslow Heath infants school play around one of four adobe huts designed to help minimise the noise of aircraft landing at Heathrow airport
- The playground is directly under the flight path of Heathrow’s southern runway and outside play for the children is interrupted every two minutes or so by landing aircraft passing over their headsThe airport, which is the fourth busiest in the world, sees on average 1,288 flights arrive and depart from its five terminals – the equivalent of 471,000 flights a year.
Primary schools that are affected by 63 decibels and above are eligible for the adobe building funding as Heathrow says they recognise the importance of outdoor learning.
Another educational establishments will be given financial help to sound proof their buildings, a Heeathrow spokesman said.
The number of schools and colleges affected is 43, Heathrow said.
Seven nurseries, four libraries, four community/village halls and six hospices/nursing homes also fall within the zone.
The domes, an invention of Iranian architect Nader Khalili, were originally meant for lunar settlements
‘For play time it’s fantastic that they have somewhere to withdraw – even the ones that are too young to articulate that they’re feeling concerned about the noise,’ Ms Harper-Quinn said.
The domes have no doors so are an open space but with a ‘strong psychological and physical barrier’ against the noise, she said.
She estimates that when outside, teachers are inaudible to pupils for 25 seconds in every 90 because of the jets.
‘You can still hear the planes in the huts but you can also hear your own voice,’ she said.
- Options for increasing capacity at London Heathrow airport include a third runway and allowing planes to land and take-off on its two runways at the same time instead of the current alternating pattern.‘Having quiet time is absolutely critical. To lose runway alternation would be a disaster,’ said Harper-Quinn.
Heathrow has been making efforts to tackle the noise the inevitably arises from its airport.
Adobe earth houses in school playground give pupils refuge from Heathrow noise
Earth houses give pupils refuge from Heathrow noise
Superadobe domes first used for Gulf war refugees rise up at Hounslow schools coping with lessons under flight path
bv Gwyn Topham, transport correspondent
Buildings originally designed for earthquake and emergency zones in Asia and Africa are now being erected in London playgrounds to shield schoolchildren from the noise of aircraft landing at Heathrow.
Four “superadobe” domes have gone up at a primary school in Hounslow, under the flight path for Heathrow’s southern runway, and two other schools in the area plan to build similar structures. Constructed from coiled bags of earth with white plaster walls, the domes reduce the roar from incoming aeroplanes by 17 decibels for pupils inside.
The domes’ builder, Julian Faulkner, said he had constructed about 70 homes and shelters using the same materials and techniques more common in Africa and Asia, predominantly in Nepal’s earthquake-prone Kathmandu valley.
Planes pass 180 metres (600ft) overhead at Hounslow Heath infant school on their way to land at Heathrow. Faulkner said he was shocked by the sight of children clasping their hands over their ears in the playground. He said the buildings helped to mitigate the planes’ impact, “both of the noise and psychologically”. Classes of up to 30 can be seated inside the main dome, which has a diameter of 5.2 metres, with space for more in a sunken amphitheatre outside.
Another Hounslow primary nearby and a school in neighbouring Slough have commissioned their own adobes from Faulkner’s firm, Small Earth.
The superadobe design was an invention of the Iranian architect Nader Khalili, originally with a view to lunar settlements but first employed in a refugee crisis after the 1990-91 Gulf war, before answering the needs of west London’s noise-afflicted schoolchildren. The buildings can withstand tremors with a magnitude of up to 5.7. Their domes are also immune to the damage occasionally wrought on local homes’ tiled roofs by vortices from incoming jets.
The headteacher, Kathryn Harper-Quinn, estimates that when outside, teachers are rendered inaudible to pupils for 25 seconds in every 90. “I’ve been very concerned about the effects of the noise on the children’s learning,” she said.
In the huts, she added, “you can still hear the planes but you can also hear your own voice”. She said that as outdoor learning was both valued by teachers and a statutory part of the curriculum, staff had developed strategies to deal with aircraft noise, including the use of whistles to alert children who could not hear when teachers were speaking.
She said it was also important that the adobe structures were a refuge for children outside lesson times. “When kids are playing they are also developing their language skills, and in the playground again they’re being interrupted.”
Within the main building of the school, which teaches 520 infants aged between three and seven, special soundproofing measures are in place which diminish, but do not eliminate, aircraft noise.
Hounslow council has launched a public consultation on the effects of aircraft, sending 100,000 questionnaires to its residents, to form its submission to the Davies commission on airport capacity in south-east England. The commission will report in 2015 on the need for new runways, but may also propose measures later this year to permit more flights at Heathrow.
The council has decided against a simple yes-no referendum on Heathrow expansion, as favoured in neighbouring boroughs, as it recognises that the airport is a key local employer and most residents’ views are nuanced. However, it has backed calls from the London assembly member Murad Qureshi for a total ban on night flights.
It also wants to see improved noise mitigation measures. Under a current scheme, Heathrow pays for the installation of double glazing in the bedrooms of houses within a designated “noise contour”, where aircraft noise regularly exceeds 63 decibels. The airport has also funded the soundproofing of certain public buildings, although the council argues that the money is inadequate for both soundproofing and ventilation.
In many schools, that means summer brings a choice of stifling heat or noise in some classrooms. Hounslow Heath has had ventilation installed and Heathrow also eventually chipped in around £10,000 for the adobe shelters. However, Harper-Quinn said: “For the government to consider a third runway is very irresponsible. It will subject even more communities to the unacceptable levels of noise we suffer.”
one of the comments under the article:
The article refers to children’s learning – not actual damage to their hearing.
Just to provide a context, normal conversation is equivalent to a level of 60 decibels (not loud enough to cause damage) and we are told here that if aircraft noise regularly exceeds 63 decibels then there is a scheme whereby Heathrow will pay for the installation of double glazing in bedrooms. The noise level needs to be about 85 decibels before damage occurs (new safety regulations in the UK necessitate the wearing of hearing protection above 85 decibels).
However there is some evidence here to suggest that the children are being exposed to higher levels than that of, say, a normal conversation (60 decibels). I think that it would be a good idea if someone actually measured the noise levels in their playground over a period of time – just to be sure that this problem is not only hindering the learning process but actually causing long term damage to their hearing.
Fear that ‘Heathrow noise reduces pupil learning by third’ – as Hounslow opens its Heathrow consultation
Heathrow noise ‘hinders pupils’ reading progress’ – would only worsen with more runways and fights
March 28, 2013 Children living under the Heathrow flight path are suffering two-month lags in their reading development as a result of aircraft noise. Hounslow council says pupils in the borough have to put up with “continual disruption”, and warned the problem will worsen if the airport expands to three or more runways. Around 40 schools are directly under the Heathrow flight paths with planes landing every 90 seconds or so much of the day. The council cites an international study by London University into aircraft noise which found it led to a “significant impairment” in reading development, as well as affecting long-term memory and motivation. As well as a 2-month delay in reading, the children’s education is suffering from the continual disruption from low-flying jets. If schools don’t have triple glazing the interruptions to lessons can be relentless. One school near the airport has had shelters installed in the playground so children can escape the noise. A 2010 ECRD study suggested that chronic aircraft noise has a deleterious effect on memory, sustained attention, reading comprehension and reading ability. Click here to view full story…
The Soundscape Project for children around Heathrow to experience peace and quiet
in school settings where incessant aviation noise prevails.… Thousands of children endure their school days under Heathrow flight paths,
often subjected to very high levels of noise from planes overhead.… Finding appropriate settings which are not affected by air traffic has been Soundscape’s
… 33,000 children in one neighbouring borough, alone, have diminished use of
their school grounds owing to overflying.( London Borough of Hounslow head of
children’s services 2009)
… Hearing the sounds of birdsong, grasshoppers, water flowing, or wind rustling in trees is a rare experience when the natural sounds are drowned by NOISE POLLUTION.
Soundscape wants the children to have the right to be heard, and to hear sounds of nature in a quiet setting