Acoustic Consultancy Services at Edinburgh Zoo

Xi Engineering

Xi Engineering Consultants acted as independent acoustic consultants to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, advising on the potential impact of a proposed development at the former Corstorphine Hospital, adjacent to Edinburgh Zoo. As home to a number of endangered species, who are sensitive to both noise and vibration, it was important for the Zoo to ensure its inhabitants would not be disturbed by construction activity.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s Chief Executive Officer, Barbara Smith, said:

“Xi Engineering Consultants provided excellent advice and a very professional service.”

The scope of work paid particular attention to giant pandas due to their sensitive hearing and the proximity of their habitat to the proposed construction site. To measure and manage the potential impact a construction site would have on the giant pandas, Xi initially carried out acoustic monitoring to determine the current noise levels to which the pandas were exposed. Xi were then able to conduct predictive acoustic modelling to determine the likely increase in noise levels which would be experienced from construction activity. An assessment was then made on possible mitigation measures which could be taken to ensure the Zoo’s inhabitants would not be adversely affected by the noise generated during construction.

Scientific evidence, published in Global Ecology and Conservation, shows that pandas are particularly sensitive to high-frequency noises and can detect sound into the ultrasonic range (Owen, Megan A. et al. “Hearing sensitivity in context: Conservation implications for a highly vocal endangered species.” Global Ecology and Conservation. 17th March 2016). They can hear up to 70kHz, which is more than 3 times the hearing range of humans. For this reason, Xi produced noise contour maps across both human and ultrasonic hearing ranges to determine the likely impact the proposed development would have on the Zoo’s inhabitants.

Following Xi’s assessment of the current situation and analysis of the predicted noise levels expected from construction, a legally binding Acoustic and Vibration Method Statement was put in place. The document defines the upper limits of noise permitted from the construction site and specifies that a 2m high acoustic barrier should be installed between the development and the Zoo premises during the demolition and construction phase of the development.

Acting as experts to the Zoo, Xi were able to quantify both noise and vibration at the site covering the full hearing range of giant pandas. This allowed Xi to provide the evidence required to advise the Zoo on the potential impacts of the proposed construction site on its inhabitants. The acoustic evidence which Xi produced was used as evidence for the planning authorities and allowed the RZSS to plan accordingly and formulate mitigation strategies for specific species.

Xi’s Managing Director, Dr Mark-Paul Buckingham said:

“We were delighted to work with such an important organisation and help with the conservation efforts of Edinburgh Zoo”.

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