SoundPLAN Info #11                      August 2014

From the developers of the leading noise simulation software for

transportation/industry/aircraft and indoor factory noise:

Dear SoundPLAN users and future users,

Here is another newsletter to help you become more proficient with SoundPLAN, create better investigation models, and get results more quickly. This one's focus is

Air Pollution Dispersion Modeling

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Previous issues of SoundPLAN Info:

Info #1 in PDF format

Info #2 in PDF format

Info #3 in PDF format

Info #4 in PDF format

Info #5 in PDF format

Info #6 in PDF format

Info #7 in PDF format

Info #8 in PDF format

Info #9 in PDF format

Info #10 in PDF format


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                          Air Pollution Modeling    

 SoundPLAN is used as part of the planning process for roads, railways, industry and airport developments. In the planning stages of infra-structure development, it is common to evaluate plans in a thorough environmental assessment study in which both noise and air pollution play a part. Because modeling for both requires some of the same data it is only natural that you find both disciplines under the roof of SoundPLAN. If you are familiar with how SoundPLAN Noise Plans work, that knowledge transfers to SoundPLAN Air Plans or vise verse, making it faster and easier to study both noise and air pollution solutions using SoundPLAN.

SoundPLAN Air Plans

For many years SoundPLAN has offered software for noise modeling and for calculating and assessing air quality. A long history working with air pollution calculations is especially important so users have confidence in their results

When SoundPLAN created the first Air Plan modules more than 20 years ago, it seemed obvious consultants making environmental impact studies would also have high synergy doing noise propagation calculations and pollutant dispersion using the same basic models of the urban landscape with roads and buildings. Simple models was the starting point.

As computer capabilities and memory increased, it became clear those simple models were  no longer sufficient to accurately model air pollution scenarios. In contrast to noise simulations, air pollution models are highly dependant on the meteorological situation for the dispersion calculation, requiring multiple meteorological situations. In order to correctly assess the pollution load for average and various percentiles, it is paramount to simulate the dispersion of the pollutants for many, many wind directions and stability scenarios. On top of this, the air pollutants are often reactive gases that change over time under the presence of UV light.

The simplified models of the early days are no longer state of the art! The findings of these air pollution models is often critical and needs to withstand the scrutiny of the court system, so it is of utmost importance the models have good validation and defined boundary conditions, and are supported by a team of experts and used by well trained people.

Some History

Prior to SoundPLAN 7.2, there were three (3) different dispersion models and a base module for SoundPLAN Air Plans:

      MISKAM  is a powerful micro scale model. It’s one of the best validated models for small urban areas. The model calculates the dispersion with the help of a hydraulic wind field that covers the calculation area in 3D like a finite element program. Unfortunately, the model boundaries are reached as soon as non-flat topography with non laminar flow is present.

       Austal2000 interface, a SoundPLAN user interface to a  German public domain Lagrange model, acts as a reference model in accordance to the German planning law. Austal2000 regards smoothly undulated terrain, but its diagnostic wind field model TALdia should not be used for traffic sources between buildings. Sources should not be close to the ground in the presence of buildings or other obstacles as is the case in street canyons and housing areas.

       Gauss TA Luft’86 is an old fashioned German Gauss model for quick overviews. Gauss models are acceptable for a first estimate on the meso scale, but for annual air pollution statistics, these models cannot deliver sufficient answers as they are not based on a wind field and thus cannot model the effects of meteorology or the flow around obstacles.

All three model are in use either with their own limited user interface or as part of third party software environment. All models have greatly profited from the SoundPLAN user interface for data entry and graphical post processing.

Screen captures of various air pollution libraries

Wind distribution with classification of wind strength [m/s] and wind direction and stability diagrams. 

Pollution distribution related to wind direction, ratio of NO/NO2, effects of peak cut-offs.                                       

Average annual wind speed and concentration of NO and NO2 for each of the 24 hours of the day for a given wind direction sector, supplemented by user defined percentiles.                  

The current state of affairs

Working with the first generation air pollution dispersion models we learned that in order to get the annual average statistics correct and to extract the worst conditions present for only a couple hours a year, the meteorology and wind fields were more complicated than the first models were able describe. We also realized we needed to change our idea who used the models when we discovered that in most cases the person doing the air pollution dispersion modeling was not the person doing the noise modeling. We split noise and air pollution into two independent licenses that can be operated concurrently, now known as SoundPLAN Noise and SoundPLAN Air.

The management of meteorological conditions and the control of different scenarios are a constant focus of our developers. SoundPLAN Air changes quickly as what yesterday was impossible might today already be solved! Even between major updates, SoundPLAN releases improvements and innovations, making it very important for the user to stay current with Update + Maintenance so he can download these releases from our website. U+M makes other things possible, too:

Base Module Air Pollution

The SoundPLAN library “Meteorological Station,” which is part of the base module air pollution, was once created as a table to put in measurement data to show a wind rose, to classify wind flow data, and to export files. We quickly realized this is not enough, because measured meteorological data must be assessed profoundly and modified very cautiously, especially if the reference meteorological station is outside the investigation area!

We continuously added tools to assess, complete and modify data. SoundPLAN displays different aspects which supply information about the data quality and pinpoints where the data are insufficient. Continuously means tools are added as internet updates between regular SoundPLAN versions.

Consequently, the Meteorological Station Library (Meteo Lib) has become a mighty tool to save time and avoid nasty surprises inspecting calculation results. We have also added diagrams to analyze background pollution measurement and to deliver supporting arguments why the background concentrations need to be adjusted.

A helpful side effect if bad measurements cannot be repaired, is that the library helps visualize data problems and supplies good argument positions when you must request better data or explain why your budget was insufficient.

Version 7.4 also supplies a new tool to analyze the distribution of calm periods according to their duration.

The new MISKAM brick model shows what errors can happen if a correct SoundPLAN noise model is directly applied without the required adjustments for the MISKAM flat terrain concept.

Current state - 7.3 MISKAM Graphics

In March, 2014, MISKAM users with U+M received a 7.3 update with completely revised Graphics features for perfect modeling control. This provided several advantages.

As MISKAM calculates only flat terrain, SoundPLAN has an automatism to set the buildings from a noise model to a flat surface so nobody has to care about terrain elevations. However, if the terrain is more undulating than allowed, the adjusted model area is no longer within the boundaries of the equations that make up MISKAM. So you need a possibility to see the result of the automatism before you start the calculation.

Knowing MISKAM sets all objects to a flat terrain, users forget the DGM is needed to calculate relative heights of the sources above ground because roads imported from a noise project are mostly digitized to reside on top of the DGM! It is aggravating if after days of calculation you see roads are floating somewhere in the air!

Another situation is floating buildings. Buildings in the noise project can be stacked on top one another, but the flat terrain model MISKAM requires all building objects be rooted on the ground (see the pictures on the left).

For a long time only the calculation kernel control graphics allowed viewing the data layer by layer. Now two new views in the Graphics module also allow a 3D overview.

The display of the natural terrain (as DGM) and the brick model depicting the flattened 3D grid used by MISKAM calculation areas are now available. For presentations, you  can combine the brick model with the result display, which can be included as a result layer or as a cross section map.

Versions 7.3 and 7.4 push SoundPLAN far ahead:

Searching for a better solution than adding more and more models with a small scope, we contacted the Institute of Internal Combustion Engines and Thermodynamics of the Technical University of Graz. We knew they had developed a model with a much larger scope. The authors were interested in distributing it for consultancy, but they did not have the manpower to add such a powerful interface that SoundPLAN can easily offer. They agreed we would implement their programs GRAMM and GRAL. These programs cover a huge application scope and are part of our new module called GRAL system.

We also improved the MISKAM interface to get a suite of two (2) models for almost every task of air pollution impact studies for common planning purposes.

The MISKAM advanced upgrade was released with version 7.3 and GRAL system will be released with Version 7.4 later this year.

MISKAM advanced with the possibility to have air flow through portals, underflow bridges and get slowed down by vegetation.

7.3 Upgrade to MISKAM advanced

MISKAM is still maintained in its updated version, but it is no longer sold this way. New MISKAM users receive the interface called MISKAM advanced. If you have a MISKAM license with current U+M we recommend you upgrade to MISKAM advanced for 2.000 €, to take advantage of the 64 bit version with

        more memory for larger calculation areas or finer grids,

     underflow definition for the MISKAM wind field to simulate bridges, portals, floating roofs, etc., and

   flow through objects to regard the inhomogeneous influence of vegetation on the wind flow in more detail than roughness areas.

Coming soon - 7.4 GRAL system:

Version 7.4 will be delivered later this year and will solve the problems associated with steep terrain, low wind speed and tunnels. Two models will be used for this.


The “GRAz Meso scale Model” can calculate wind fields for complex terrain and land use on the meso scale. It should be used with a coarse grid of 50 x 50 to 300 x 300 m because the influence of topography can only be regarded within the calculation area. Therefore, the GRAMM calculation area must be very large to be representative in the desired dispersion area. However, if a huge area is calculated once, it can provide many smaller calculation areas with initial wind direction and speed information for the micro scale dispersion calculations. It is also possible to export wind statistics from a GRAMM calculation to support a MISKAM calculation.


The “GRAz Lagrange model” works on multiple scales. It calculates whole cities or highways in a diagnostic meso scale mode, e.g. 10 x 10 m, or as smaller urban quarters in a prognostic micro scale mode with grid size down to 2 x 2 m. If the inflow into the calculation area is inhomogeneous due to terrain and land use effects, a GRAMM wind field library must be pre-calculated. On flat terrain with free inflow, GRAL calculates without GRAMM.

GRAL low wind speed treatment.

Most models overestimate the concentrations for low wind speeds.

GRAL was developed in an Austrian mountainous area, in the basin of Graz, where calms are very frequent. Therefore, calm treatment was one of the main challenges which had to be solved. The problem: Wind speed and wind direction are mostly averaged over 1 h intervals to get a local representation. Modeling wind flow must therefore also be done with a steady flow over 1 h, which is not a natural state. GRAL found a way to use those steady state wind fields, letting the Lagrange particles meander at the same time like natural wind flow does.

GRAL tunnels

In the mountainous area where GRAL comes from, tunnels are very frequent. GRAL had the task to simulate meandering wind flow as well as the impulse of the tunnel out blow, starting with a realistic impulse and concentration.

With most other models, tunnel portals can be modeled only as a volume source in front of the tunnel mouth. This is not correct, because tunnel exhaust is already mixed with ambient air and the relaxation of the out blow impulse competes with the meteorological conditions in front of the tunnel portal.

Prognostic CFD models can of course regard meteorology and the tunnel out blow hour by hour physically correctly. However, this requires the calculation of 8760 wind fields per year that needs a lot of time, and again there is the problem assuming steady state conditions for 1 h intervals, which exist perhaps in wind tunnel experiments, but are rarely found in nature.

GRAL provides a third solution which is accurate and quick. The particles starting at the tunnel mouth are not carried passively by adjusted wind fields, but cross the raw wind fields actively, simulating the initial dilution, the out blow impulse, and temperature effects.

GRAL Post Processing

The GRAL Post Processing allows assigning histograms of time variant emissions to source groups. Using these histograms as standardized distribution patterns, GRAL Post Processing offers a huge set of evaluation maps based on hourly or daily mean concentrations. Besides typical evaluations like mean, max and percentiles, you can also filter mean values on several daytime slices (e.g. 6:00 – 9:00) or periods (e.g. several months). Values lower or higher than the user defined thresholds can be calculated as hours, days or percent. Smell hours can be detected with user defined thresholds, and smell qualities can be assessed with a user defined weight which is not applied on emissions but on detected smell hours .


Module Recommendation

Our favorite recommendation for environmental impact studies is the combination of GRAL system and MISKAM advanced.

GRAL System supports all tasks regarding whole cities, where MISKAM is too slow, but it also can be used for city quarters. The recommended minimum grid space for GRAL is 2x2 m in prognostic mode with buildings. With a special approach it is optimized to handle tunnel exhaust and wind meandering at low wind speed. In contrast to MISKAM, it can handle complex terrain.

MISKAM has more stringent steady state criteria and shows its strengths when sources are close to the ground between dense building structures. Especially when underflow of buildings, bridges and ramps must be regarded and grid resolution must be smaller than 2x2 m,. MISKAM is the best solution. In some cases, GRAMM can be used to calculate local Wind statistics for MISKAM.

More Information

If you would like more information about our air pollution models, please go to If you have further questions about our air pollution models, please email Klaus:

Changes at Braunstein + Berndt GmbH / SoundPLAN GmbH and other noteworthy information

Jochen Schaal, Michael Gillé the new co-presidents of SoundPLAN GmbH (Germany) with Arne Berndt the president of SoundPLAN International LLC (USA)

Retirement of Gert Braunstein

Braunstein + Berndt GmbH was started by Gert Braunstein and Arne Berndt almost 30 years ago! This summer it was time to hand half the reins of the company to the next generation. Gert Braunstein has retired as of July 1st, 2014. We thank him for his expertise and energy without which SoundPLAN would not have become the market leader in environmental noise prediction. Gert will continue as an adviser to the company and to noise control issues in general, and will occasionally work as a consultant.

His position of leadership will be assumed by Michael Gillé and Jochen Schaal. Michael Gillé has worked for many years in SoundPLAN’s software development division. You are familiar with the GeoDatabase he created. Jochen Schaal has also worked for SoundPLAN many years, starting as a consultant and then working in marketing and support for SoundPLAN in Europe. Jochen has considerable experience in the international area as he introduced Noise Mapping in Turkey on behalf of the EU Commission, and he prepared the Tempus project Graduate Course in Noise and Vibration for an Egyptian university.

A change in leadership often is a time for change in organization. With Michel Gillé and Jochen Schaal at the helm with Arne Berndt, the organization changed its name from Braunstein + Berndt GmbH software development and consulting to SoundPLAN GmbH. SoundPLAN GmbH will continue serving our customers for many years as the leader in noise control and air pollution dispersion  modeling with consulting services for noise control and air pollution assessment just as we have been doing since 1985.

SoundPLAN in China

China is a vast country by geographical distance but  even more vast by population, with a population larger than all of Europe and all of North America combined. Europe and North America have more than 15 SoundPLAN distributors while China has had only one (1) until now.

We decided to change the distribution system for SoundPLAN in China to better serve our customers in this large and diverse region.. Misheng in Hong Kong will assume the role of the main distributor for Greater China with multiple sub-distributors in regional markets and special market segments. ( To see who is the distributor in your area, email

SoundPLAN Hotline

SoundPLAN has a multi level hotline. If you have questions how the program works, contact your local distributor for help. If the local distributor has questions, he contacts SoundPLAN International LLC and we and SoundPLAN GmbH take it from there.

Sometimes we find the same or similar questions recur, which we like to discuss in our newsletters. We outline below some recent questions. If you have a topic you would like discussed, e-mail 


With the EU´s Environmental Noise Directive 2002/49/EC the European Union attempted to coordinate the noise evaluation for all EU member states. Not only the noise assessment was to be coordinated but also the standards/formulae for the calculation of environmental noise. The first attempt was Harmonoise, which is at large based on the research and formulae of the Nord 2000. The project following Harmonoise and Imagine was CNOSSOS and is supposed to replace the EU interims calculation methods.


We are often we asked if SoundPLAN has implemented Harmonoise or CNOSSOS. Harmonoise was delivered in the form of a black box (a dll ) without sufficient documentation of the formulae used and absolutely insufficient testing. Currently, CNOSSOS does not include anything we can include.

After many years of deliberation, in June the EU decided standards based on the ISO 9613/NMPB would deliver sufficient accuracy for strategic noise mapping with its annual average noise levels. This approach would deliver sufficient answers  at 1/20 of the calculation time compared to a model based on Harmonoise/Nord 2000. So far there are no final formulae to be implemented, but as soon as there are, you will find them in SoundPLAN. Hopefully the new standards for road / rail / industry will be delivered with sufficient documentation and test procedures.

Annoyance re-visited

In SoundPLAN Info #9 we described how to calculate the annoyance of residents in their dwellings as a reaction to the  noise from cars, trains and aircraft. The calculation of the annoyance works well if one noise type is fully dominant, but there were no procedures for situations without a dominant noise type. Simply adding the annoyed and sleep disturbed persons is not sensible!

The German VDI 3722-2 addresses this problem for the calculation of annoyed and highly annoyed persons, and for persons who are sleep disturbed and highly sleep disturbed. The suggestion from the VDI 3722-2 is to use the road noise as the basis and to standardize the answers for rail and aircraft to the road annoyance. The procedure works the following way.

For rail and aircraft noise, determine the % annoyed (and highly annoyed, sleep disturbed and highly sleep disturbed). Then find in the annoyance for road how many dB are necessary to produce the same rate of annoyance and sleep disturbance. This level is called the re-calibrated substitution level. Add this noise level from railway noise and from aircraft noise to the noise level from roads, and then find the total number of annoyed and sleep disturbed persons.

By calibrating the sleep disturbance and the annoyance to the road noise type, it is clear we do not add the same person multiple times when they are disturbed by different types of noise.

To ease the burden on the user to write formulas for the annoyance and sleep disturbance, SoundPLAN created multiple new formulas to calculate the re-calibrated substitution levels for aircraft and rail for annoyance and sleep disturbance. These formulas are in the Spreadsheet and the Graphics.

Quality City Dortmund

Noise modeling software takes the formulae defined in standards such as the ISO 9613 or the German RLS 90 and implements the rules in a high level software. The rules from the standards are helpful, but by themselves are insufficient. There are many cases a fully automatic calculation engine will encounter that the makers of the standard never anticipated. Examples of this can be found in the calculation situations where more than one obstacle screens the receiver from the source. None of the standards have sufficient answers to calculate the side screening or the ground effect for multiple screened cases. None of the standards even write about the possibility that a discrete screen is suspended in the air and noise can pass underneath and over it. There literally hundreds of cases where these problems must be solved in the noise modeling software without any input from the makers of the standards. Noise modeling software is expected to get the correct answers for all situations!

Most standards start their explanation with a cross section through the terrain. How software is supposed to generate this cross-section is not explained. When the standards were written, the abundance of data from aerial surveying was not present, so none of the standards explain how the data reduction from a cloud of elevation points to a valid cross-section shall be performed. Unfortunately, noise mapping for big cities and large areas does not work without proper data reduction. Without it, even today's PCs would not be sufficient for the job!

The DIN 45687 uses the approach of a round robin test between four (4) German software produces to make sure that all programs from the same set of data generate the same answers regardless of differences in internal algorithms and strategies to extract what is important for the accuracy of the results.

The raw data for the project were generated once and then distributed to all companies participating in the round robin test via the QSI interface. Of the 400 receivers calculated, 50 had a discrepancy of more than 3 dB, the maximum was 12 dB, 200 results had a deviation of less than 1 dB.

After some of the initial data were corrected and some of the interpretations of the standards where aligned, the results were much better. One result showed 1.9 dB difference, the majority were within 0.3 dB of each other.

Universities using SoundPLAN for teaching now have the option to make SoundPLAN Essential available to their students. SoundPLAN Essential is not as complex as the full version and is thus more suitable for smaller student projects where time to learn a new software is limited.

SoundPLAN Essential projects can be opened with the full version of the software.

Network licenses for universities now with the addition of SoundPLAN essential

Contact SoundPLAN International if you want to add SoundPLAN essential without extra charge to your existing network license at the university -

License Borrowing

The SoundPLAN network license is a great way to make the software available for an entire team. One PC in the network hosts the network HASP and all other PCs within the network can work with the software if a license is available. If all seats of the license are in use, it is easy to add seats to the network.

Even though the network license allows you to work with a license hosted in the network, if a license is hosted in a different building or a different city, SoundPLAN still requires a constant connection between the HASP PC and the PC you are using. This can be restriction. For example, if you are travelling by airplane or if you go to a jobsite that does not have connection to the Web /VPN, you cannot benefit from the network system.

License Borrowing is the easy solution for a situation like the one just described. License Borrowing lets you temporarily detach a license from the server so it can be used outside the network for up to a week.

If you are interested in this module, let us know at

HASP replacement for network hardlocks

For network licenses, it has become necessary to phase out the hardlock based license server! The SoundPLAN license server is a 32 bit program and cannot cooperate with the 64 bit executable program of SoundPLAN 7.3. Also, there may be difficulties running the software under Win 7 or Win 8. If you have a current SoundPLAN Network License hardlock that is blue or green, it is important to upgrade to a red network HASP. If you have a maintained license with a hardlock, we will replace it with a hasp for free. If your license does not have U&M services, please email

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