How noisy is your neighborhood? A Silver Lake mathematician might have your answer


Brendan Farrell of HowLoud.net


5 Question Profile Brendan Farrell and his wife were apartment hunting in Los Angeles a year ago. Although it was relatively easy to research crime and walkability statistics for L.A. neighborhoods, Farrell realized there was no way to determine just how noisy a neighborhood could be. So Brendan, an applied mathematician and former instructor at CalTech who lives in Silver Lake, applied his skills and expertise to the development of HowLoud, Inc., a recently launched online service that can provide information on neighborhood noise. A patent application was submitted for the technology. HowLoud is available in Los Angeles and Orange counties for now.

Why did you create How Loud?
I created HowLoud because I was looking for a new apartment and could not find any information available on how loud different locations are. I previously lived in an apartment where I could hear a 24-hour car wash running late at night. At 10 or 11 p.m. in the summer, I could hear the hoses going on and off, and it was really annoying. I thought a site should exist that allows people to find out if the apartment they are considering is near such noise sources.

How does How Loud work?
A user just goes to our page, HowLoud.net, and enters a residential address in Los Angeles County, hits enter, and our information and map appear. The Soundscore for the address is the overall noise level, with numbers in the 30s and 40s being really loud, and then the 80s and 90s being very quiet. The Soundscore takes into account vehicle traffic, airplane traffic and local sources like schools, restaurants, car repair shops etc. There is no registration and no cost for people to use it.

What training/education do you have to start this venture?
I have a PhD in Applied Mathematics from UC Davis, and spent five years after that as a researcher in applied math and electrical engineering. Our work involves a lot of mathematical computation and data analysis.

How loud is where you live?
I’ve lived in Silver Lake for four years. My house and most of my neighborhood has Soudscores in the 50s or moderate noise. I hear traffic from the big street [Hyperion] just a hundred yards away. Even late at night or early in the morning, I can still hear traffic there. Just one parallel street further from the main road is a lot quieter.

What’s does the future have in store for How Loud?
We want to get users interest and support and then expand as quickly as possible. We want everyone in the country to be able to look up an address and get really useful information before they rent an apartment or stay at an Airbnb.

Cecilia Padilla Brill is a communications writer and journalist. She writes news, health, education and feature stories. Cecilia is currently working on her first novel. She has lived in Echo Park since 1999

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  1. My address in Lincoln Heights already brings up severe, I wonder how much louder all the cherry bombs and M80’s going off would make it. I think there needs to be a seasonal “fireworks factor” added in to the equation, so that the noise level between early June and and late July can be determined. That should put us at ear-drum bursting level. Oh well, time to stock up on Xanax. Happy 4th everyone.

  2. 35-year Echo Park resident

    My house is opposite an elementary school playground, noise from which was not factored into my score. How can I let Brendan Farrell know so that he can adjust his computation?

  3. Hmmm, what to do, what to do??? The city life without noise and children MUST exist somewhere in LA…maybe in the suburbian world, yet pretty unlikely. I’m sure most that live in the city might, just might, realize noise, citylife, people ( including those pesky children and schools) are all things they would choose to co-exist with. Most schools have been around before those of us moved in. Our local school, for example, has been in existence for 125 years, and I have yet to meet anyone that age living across the street from said school, or within walking/hearing distance. And those who want to buy into the city life ( as opposed to the suburban life where children, schools, and noise still exist!) would maybe, just maybe, drive around their prospective new neighborhood to discover that there are children and WAIT maybe a place where they receive an education. WOW, are we still living in a world where children are to speak when spoken to AND be seen (SOMETIMES) and not heard or experience the joys of life life without making any noise? I THINK NOT! Maybe the serenity of the woods and/or a deserted island would be the happiest place on earth. NO WAIT, that’s Disneyland, where fun, noise, families, children AND MICKEY don’t mind noise and still have fun!

  4. The site doesn’t seem to take into consideration flight paths (most of south LA isn’t within 6 miles of LAX, but planes have landing and take-off loops that span a considerably larger area) or police helicopter activity…

  5. I got a score of 92 peaceful, but I can’t say I agree. I would give it a 55 or 60. There is an elementary school below which I hear the announcements and kids play during there breaks all day long. If Dodger Stadium has an event, I hear the roar of the crowd (which I like). In the summer, I hear music events from Gracie Simons Lodge in the park. I hear the hum of the 2 & 5 freeway. All of those don’t particularly bother me, but the helicopters are very very noisy and not peaceful whatsoever. So, I am not so sure the stats are working, but I like the idea of it. I hope he can incorporate these noise levels as well. it is a super clever idea and I would reference it if it becomes more accurate.

  6. this doesn’t include helicopter noise. Studio City is HORRIBLE for that, but ends up with moderate noise score because not near an airport. ergo, this needs a lot of work.

  7. A sound pressure meter (decibel meter) can be bought cheaply at Radio Shack and other outlets. Higher numbers usually mean NOISIER, not softer, on the meter. Hold up the meter in the air in an area you are interested in at the time of day you are interested in, and you will have a REAL idea about the sound level in that area. It does not take a mathematician or an app. Plus, you will be able to measure sound levels anywhere you can go. Some day, everyone will be sick of apps, too.

  8. Where I live in Silver Lake came up as Peaceful and very quiet with a score of 81. It noted that this address is not very close to any airports. But we are directly under some sort of helicopter superhighway with choppers going at all hours directly over my house. It’s a nuisance. They fly so low in the wee hours of the morning that my walls shake and they wake me up.

    There’s an initiative on now regarding the helicopter noise all over the city: heli-noise-la.com

    Maybe the statistics from the Helicopter Noise initiative can be factored into this database for more accurate readings that include the scourge of helicopters in LA.

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