SoundPLAN Info #9                       February 2014

From the Leader in Noise Simulation Software for Transportation/Industry/Aircraft and Indoor Noise

Dear SoundPLAN users and future users,

It's time for another newsletter to help you become more proficient with SoundPLAN, create better investigation models, and get results more quickly. This newsletter's focus is on:

                 Documentation of Projects and Results

                           SoundPLAN TNM Implementation Status         

                   SoundPLAN Training Session Schedule 2014 

The next issue focuses on aircraft noise and importing radar tracks to build the backbone for flight paths.

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If you are not sure how to use a feature described in this info, please contact your local support hotline for assistance. The links are located to the right.

The SoundPLAN Team wishes you a successful 2014!

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


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The information in this newsletter is critical for everyone who creates acoustical models, reviews a noise model  input or results, or writes a report.  As a user or an acoustical firm you should be concerned with Quality Assurance (QA). It is a critical topic because noise projects are getting more and more complex.  SoundPLAN is a planning tool that incorporates a QA thread from start to finish.  The newsletter discusses the QA steps built into SoundPLAN.

Different aspects of the documentation process can be found throughout the program. The picture above is from the master-detail tables of the standard Result Tables. Other aspects of the documentation can be found in the SoundPLAN Manager, the Geo-Database, the Spreadsheet, Graphics, Wall Design, and Expert System for Industrial Noise.

Click here for the TNM implementation

Click here for the 2014 SoundPLAN training course schedule

Standards and their settings

It is especially important when working projects in accordance to ISO 9001 quality assurance to be able to document all aspects of a project. Data must be transparent and calculation results must have a complete history of parameters and settings.

In SoundPLAN, every standard has a configuration page where environmental factors, the conversion of line and area sources into point sources, and many more parameters can be defined. The definitions for a standard are carried through the calculation to the result file. Every result file has a tab for Run Info. The page lists all relevant parameters that may have an influence on the results.

For space reasons only the top of the Run Info is shown.

The Project Info

SoundPLAN is a multi document application, which means the program doesn't use just one database to store raw data and results, but uses multiple file types and multiple files to organize a project. All project data are gathered in a project folder. The user can choose the location of the project folder, including having it reside on a network server.

The Project title is the name of the project folder. Additional information can be provided, including a project description. When opening SoundPLAN, you will always see details of the current project displayed in the lower left corner of the screen.

Part of the task is identifying where the project is located. If you select the correct coordinate system, it is easy to import external data generated for a specific coordinate and reference system such as the one used by Google Earth. It is important to carefully select the coordinate and the reference system.

Projects Encapsulated in Folders

All data are encapsulated in the project folder. This example is project Info9. The project information is saved in the file Project.sp. In this file, the version of SoundPLAN is stored so that projects can be updated for future software versions where data structures may change.

The project folder will host all data, raw input files, calculation results, sheets, tables, graphics, etc.

Organization of Input Files

Noise models are made of different objects like roads, buildings and receivers. Multiple objects, regardless of their object type, are gathered in Geo-Files. One or multiple Geo-Files, bitmaps and the Digital Ground Model files are organized as Situations. There is no limit to the number of Situations or Geo-Files you create. Geo-Files can be moved in the Situation Manager with Drag and Drop. Generating new files or copying old ones with a new name is just a click of the button.

Wherever you place your cursor, either on Situations or Geo-Files, the preview window will graphically present the content of the file.

To make it easy to understand the structure of the project in future years, it is wise to develop a naming convention. If you start each Geo-File with a number, for example you can easily identify the files being associated with each other.

Use the filter in a big project to show only files with your search keyword. This shows all files starting with 004.

The Attribute Explorer

SoundPLAN objects consist of one or multiple coordinates and descriptive attributes. As the speed, traffic volume, road surface and road geometry can change at any place, it is possible in the SoundPLAN Geo-Database to change these parameters at any coordinate. The new parameters are always used onwards from the coordinate where they were entered.

As there are very many attributes associated with roads, the Attribute Explorer offers a setup to select which of the attributes shall be presented in the Attribute Explorer.

Especially when we import data from data sources, we have no control over the accuracy of the data. The Attribute Explorer can sort all objects of a single type by any of the attributes in the table. If we sort all roads in accordance to the average daily traffic and find roads with a traffic volume of 0 vehicles, we can make sure to assign a traffic load to these roads. If a road has 100% of the vehicles being trucks, we probably are looking at a mistake in the data.

The Attribute Explorer not only has informative functions, but also allows  on-line modification of the attributes displayed. With this tool it will be very easy to extrapolate the traffic volume well into the future, for example. If we make a copy of a situation named Road Analysis, call the situation Road Prognosis and make a copy of the Geo-File with the road, we can open the Attribute Explorer for the roads and multiply the column with the average daily traffic by a factor to accommodate future increase in traffic load.


Documentation of Road and Railway Sources and Images

It is important to have a full account of all source emissions for project documentation. Under Documentation in the SoundPLAN Geo-Database you see the source documentation for roads and railway, the documentation of air pollution emitters from the road, and a photo documentation.

The top screen capture to the left is a preview of the road noise source documentation. All relevant parameters are listed road by road. If there are multiple definitions leading to a change in emissions, there will be an entry with all parameters in the table.

For railway axis documentation there can be multiple trains and multiple sections, so the documentation is a bit more complicated than for roads. Secondly, there is a need to document not only the emissions but also the extras that are track related - i.e. addition for track type, tight curves, multiple reflections, bridges and crossings.

For further clarity, SoundPLAN includes an extra object to host digital photos.

To use Photo Documentation, all you have to do is request a new photo, give it a name and click on the folder symbol to navigate to the photo and select it. The preview box shows where other photos are located. "Photo" tab is used to view and customize a photo. If you want to document all photos in the situation, simply use the menu item Documentation/Photo... to get an account of all digital images in the situation.

Preflight Check

We make mistakes and we receive errors in the data from outside sources, too, so logically there will be mistakes in the model. To find the errors most easily, use the menu item tools/preflight. SoundPLAN will load all data as if a calculation should start and will place all warning and error messages into a protocol file available through Help/Protocol. If you see a warning message (the example has the slope of the road exceeding 30%), double click on the warning to open the object in question. Depending on the problem, it is either related to the coordinates or to attributes that are missing or wrong, the fix of the problem itself is an individual solution for each case.


It is very important that software keeps track of what has been calculated and how it has been calculated. SoundPLAN records all calculations in a spreadsheet with the calculation name, the type of calculation (Grid Noise Map, Facade Noise Map...) the place where the results can be found, the data files that were sent to the calculation, and an account when this calculation was last edited and when it was last run.

Because all calculations are in this table, it is very easy to run multiple calculations. Simply check the run column and this calculation will be run when the calculations are run next time. To run the calculation, click on one of the green triangles under the top menu. The first triangle triggers a Distributed Computing Calculation where an unlimited number of calculation servers can be used. The second triangle runs all activated calculations. The third runs the calculation where the cursor is positioned.

Double clicking on a row in the table opens the calculations for editing. Select the data files that should be part of the calculation and the result file number under which the calculation results are found. The picture to the left has some data fields grayed out because the calculation had already run. Results exist and need to be deleted before changes can be made to the calculations settings. Only when there is an unbroken chain between the input data and the calculations settings is it possible to interpret the results of the calculation correctly! This is a very nice feature to ensure better accuracy.

There are also controls for the calculation settings, for the standards used and for noise assessment, and specific controls for the selected Grid Noise Map. The statistics tab opens the way to a statistics run with the most accurate settings and receivers selected by random to allow a statistical assessment of the accuracy of the settings selected for the calculation. The last tab opens a page for writing details concerning the specific calculation.

Results from the Calculation

Results from noise map calculations are discussed below, so this section looks at the results of single point receivers. The more boxes you check, the more details are stored. If you request a Protocol Table, you get a complete account of all propagation related steps of the calculation. This setting produces huge result files and should only be requested for specific receivers.

Examples of the other types of result file are shown below.

Result Tables

The pictures to the left document a single calculation run with industrial sources. The first picture shows this report generator structures the report with Run Info, a list of Single Receivers, Details + Graphics and a Source description that can augment the source documentation of the Geo-Database.

The Single Receiver table is a simple listing of all receivers with the relevant parameters. The user can select or deselect any of the 29 parameters contained in this list. For visibility purposes of our example, the results were limited to the name of the receiver, the usage of the building and the noise levels at night.

After defining the structure of the page with headers and footers, logo boxes, etc., we can examine the print preview. The preview pane to the left allows the user to search in the table, i.e. to find a specific receiver in a multi page document. This report can be printed or saved in multiple formats.

The Single Receiver table is one option, other tables are master/detail tables. Select the receiver in the master list and look at the details of a specific receiver. The following are available as detail options for each receiver:

Spectrum - frequency spectrum at the receiver in tabular form (octave band or third octaves)

24h Distribution - noise level changes over 24 hours are  important for finding the loudest hour at night, for example

Source Contribution - a list of the contributions of all the sources to the receiver

Mean Propagation Leq - see the average spreading, air absorption, screening for each source/receiver

Mean Propagation Lmax - same as above but for the Lmax instead for the Leq

Source Contribution - 24h Distribution - contribution of all sources to the receiver hour by hour

Contribution Spectra - contribution of all sources frequency by frequency

Groups - if multiple sources form a group of sources, the contributions of each source is listed

Diagrams - a frequency diagram for all set time slots, a history of the noise at the receiver and directional diagrams can be presented for each receiver. The last picture to the left is the graphics and diagram page.



The Spreadsheet

The result tables are used to document results from a single calculation. The Spreadsheet allows multiple results to be loaded and differences between before and after scenarios to be generated.  Insert columns in the spreadsheet wherever you want and write formulas to determine the value of the new column. The formulas can take existing columns as parameters and can include statements of if - then - else.

The Spreadsheet has many functions. It can be used to further process a receiver list from a Facade Noise Map, or show where conflicts are for a Single Receiver List, or gather results from a calculation for partial areas (boroughs) of a town. Results from the Spreadsheet can be called up in the Graphics to generate complex evaluations such as displaying borough by borough the average percentage of annoyed people, or the total annoyed people, or how many annoyed people there are per 10 000 m² of the area. Your  creativity has no limits.


Graphical presentations are invaluable for documenting a project. In the framework of a newsletter it is impossible to explore the Graphics module in very much detail. Here is some basic information.

Graphics sheets are composed of Situations and Geo-files, Digital Ground Models, Bitmaps and the results from calculations such as Grid Noise Maps or Facade Noise Maps. Nested boxes with bitmaps, scales and descriptive text allow the user to give the sheets a professional look. The Graphics are flexible enough to allow the user to compose the sheet from as many files of different content as he desires, view it in 2D or 3D, store it, save it as a template for future graphics, and so on.

To the left is a Grid Noise Map superimposed on an aerial photography bitmap.





This is the same area shown with a Facade Noise Map with the END noise exposure statistics in a descriptive box to show you a bit of the flexibility of this multi faceted tool.

A Sheet Manager allows the user to view and manage all components of all drawings made within a project.

Wall Design

For a proposed noise protection wall, an off-line pre-calculation prepares the data for the interactive optimization of the wall. If the noise protection wall is not sufficient for all receivers, SoundPLAN helps by evaluating the cost of the wall versus the cost of an upgrade with noise control windows. The cost of the wall is the red graph to the left, the cost of the windows is green and total cost is shown in black. The red vertical line shows the optimum. The right section of the screen depicts the 3D image of this status.

Aside from pure cost evaluation, Wall Design can also show a composite evaluation comparing cost and economic benefit of noise protection structures.

Expert Industry

Expert System for Industrial Noise does for industrial noise what Wall Design does for transportation noise. Expert Industry optimizes noise control. This module allows the user to sort all receivers in accordance to the highest noise problem (excess of the noise limit). For each of the receivers a list of contribution is ranked in accordance to source contribution to the noise level. This function is a sorted documentation.

The optimization is done by suggesting noise control measures for each of the sources. Concentrate on the receiver with the loudest infringement of the limit and then look at the highest contributions. After all noise mitigation measures are specified, an optimization run creates a price versus performance ratio showing which sources and source modification are favorable.

SoundPLAN Hotline

SoundPLAN has a multi level hotline. If you have questions how the program is working, you can contact your local distributor for help. If the local distributor has further questions, he contacts SoundPLAN International LLC and we and Braunstein + Berndt GmbH will take it from there.

Sometimes we find the same or similar questions recur. We outline below some of these questions. If you have a topic you would like discussed here, please send us an e-mail:

CoRTN emission definitions for SoundPLAN Essentials

The emission definitions for SoundPLAN Essentials 3.0 have changed to work better with the different time slots used to fulfill the various job types in the UK. If you have questions about the changes, please contact David Winterbottom (, the SoundPLAN distributor for the UK.

Definitions for Buildings

SoundPLAN is capable of calculating the noise for receivers with a common XY coordinate for multiple floors all in the same calculation. This requires nomenclature for the building. In the picture you see a building with 5 floors. The left side has the coordinates and the right side has the definition for the buildings parameters.

Coordinates: X, Y, Z. Z is not the bottom of the building. Z is what SoundPLAN calls the building reference plane. Most of the time this will be the top of the floor slab at ground floor, but you can use a different definition if you want.

In the parameters, (the right side of the picture) some of the heights are defined in relationship to the building reference plane.

Height of building is defined as the height of the structure above the building reference plane.

Height of 1. receiver above GF tells the program how high the first receiver is above the building reference plane. Usually this is the most exposed position of the room, the top of the window.

Height of floors is the added height that subsequent receivers in a multiple floor building are higher than the previous one. The number of floors sets the number of floors calculated for the building.

Air Absorption

As can be seen to the left, air absorption depends on the frequency and the air pressure, temperature and relative humidity.

For each standard where air absorption is not explicitly defined in the formulas, the user can choose which air pollution standard to follow. ANSI 126 and ISO 3891 are historical, tabulated standards, whereas the ISO 9613 explicitly calculates the air absorption with all influencing parameters.

If you calculate frequency dependent sources with third octave band resolution, SoundPLAN calculates the air absorption for the middle frequency of each of the third octaves. When a source is entered as an octave band, we assume that the source has a continuous frequency distribution. As the air absorption increases with the frequency, we overestimate the air absorption if we take the middle of the octave band.

SoundPLAN uses the middle of the lowest third octave of each octave to calculate the air absorption. This convention for octave band calculations means that the air absorption is using the worst case for octave band calculations. So if you need more precise data, use third octave spectra for your sources.  


Noise is customarily described in terms of dB(A) as the Leq. Sometimes we deal with statistical descriptors such as the L10 but it is always a decibel scale.

With the END Noise Mapping, the original question was, "How many residents are exposed to noise levels greater than x dB(A)?" Another concept was added later with the annoyance. Here the quest is for the number of people annoyed by the noise, or the number highly annoyed.

The characteristics of noise are different for noise from aircraft, road vehicles and trains. Psychoacoustics studies show the reaction to noise depends on the individual and on duration, magnitude, incline and decline of the signal and how often it occurs. To calculate the annoyance, use these formulas:

Formulas to calculate Annoyance:

%A = Percentage of Annoyed People

%HA=Percentage of Highly Annoyed People


% A = 8.588 * 10 – 6 (Lden – 37)3 + 1.777 * 10 – 2 (Lden – 37)2 + 1.221 (Lden – 37)

% HA = – 9.199 * 10 – 5 (Lden – 42)3 + 3.932 * 10 – 2 (Lden – 42)2 + 0.2939 (Lden – 42)

Road traffic

% A = 1.795 * 10 – 4 (Lden – 37)3 + 2.110 * 10 – 2 (Lden – 37)2 + 0.5353 (Lden – 37)

% HA = 9.868 * 10 – 4 (Lden – 42)3 – 1.436 * 10 – 2 (Lden – 42)2 + 0.5118 (Lden – 42)


% A = 4.538 * 10 – 4 (Lden – 37)3 + 9.482 * 10 – 3 (Lden – 37)2 + 0.2129 (Lden – 37)

% HA = 7.239 * 10 – 4 (Lden – 42)3 – 7.851 * 10 – 3 (Lden – 42)2 + 0.1695 (Lden – 42)

Calculation of sleep disturbance (self reported sleep disturbance)

%_SD = Percentage of Sleep Disturbed People                                    %_HSD =Percentage of Highly Sleep Disturbed People


%_HSD = 18.147 – 0.956 Lnight + 0.01482 (Lnight)²                           % SD = 13.714 – 0.807 Lnight + 0.01555 (Lnight)²

Road traffic

% HSD = 20.8 – 1.05 Lnight + 0.01486 Lnight²                                     % SD = 13.8 – 0.85 Lnight + 0.01670 Lnight²

Railway noise:

% HSD = 11.3 – 0.55 Lnight + 0.00759 Lnight²                                     % SD = 12.5 – 0.66 Lnight + 0.01121 Lnight²

In SoundPLAN it is possible to evaluate annoyance and sleep disturbance with data from Facade Noise Map calculations. Open a receiver table in the Spreadsheet, insert numerical columns for annoyed and highly annoyed and write in the above formulas. Table statistics provide the answers on the total annoyance. As a next step, it is possible to generate a Facade Noise Map not with dB but with the number of annoyed people in the building. The last step is to check for the location with the highest concentration of annoyed people. Use the Hot Spot Calculation to generate a grid of annoyance. For each grid cell the program scans all building in a given radius for annoyed people. Contouring this grid file then will yield a Grid Annoyance Map.

So far there is an unsolved question about annoyance: How can we cope with annoyance if it is not caused by just a single noise type?

TNM 2.5©  status

The US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has a long history of releasing road noise models.  In 1970 it published RD-77-108 which was in use through 1998.  In 1998, FHWA published the Traffic Noise Model (TNM).  Since 1998 FHWA released several software versions of TNM software v1.0 (1999), v2.0 (2002) and v2.5 (2004).   From the start FHWA required that Federal funded projects had to be computed with the “official” TNM software.  SoundPLAN is seeking approval from the Federal Highway Administration so SoundPLAN can be used as an alternative to the official software.

Some of the systematic test cases adopted from the test procedures used to test the German Road Noise Standard RLS 90 are shown below.


TNM 2.5 is a registered trademark of the US Government

FHWA Traffic Noise Model TNM ©

What is the current status of SoundPLAN and TNM ©?

In 2005, SoundPLAN implemented TNM v2.5© propagation algorithms and the traffic noise emission database. The noise prediction methodology used in SoundPLAN has been designed to be consistent with the FHWA TNM. However, SoundPLAN has not been tested, evaluated, or approved for use by the Agency of the US government.

SoundPLAN imports TNM v2.5© models and then exports a SoundPLAN generated model back to TNM v2.5©.  In order to use the import or export functions, the TNM v2.5© software has to be installed on the computer. As TNM is a 32 bit program, interfacing with TNM is restricted to the 32 bit version of SoundPLAN.

SoundPLAN does not impose the restrictions found in TNM 2.5© software.  SoundPLAN allows elevation lines to cross roads, noise barriers and buildings.  Buildings are entered into the model and considered as shields and reflective surfaces.  If the user wants to export the SoundPLAN model back to TNM 2.5©, a SoundPLAN pre-processing module will modify objects to fit the more restrictive TNM 2.5© software. Elevation lines are clipped so they do not cross roads, buildings and noise barriers. The SoundPLAN object “Building” is converted into vertical barriers so TNM 2.5© can process the data. 

TNM 2.5© predictions are very time consuming because the predictions are based on 1/3 octave band propagation. It also considers the phase relationship between the line of sight transmission and the wave reflected on the ground. The ground and barrier models also use time consuming algorithms.  If you compare the processing speed of road standards implemented in SoundPLAN you will find that the TNM algorithms are the most time consuming.

SoundPLAN's calculation core is 40 to 60 times faster than TNM calculations (based on single computer core and depending on the input data).  By adding multi-core processing and distributed computing, SoundPLAN users can compute large scale noise models in a reasonable time. SoundPLAN also has built in facilities to generate noise contours (horizontal and vertical) for TNM calculations.

SoundPLAN's implementation of TNM v2.5© has two calculation options, Option 1 (default) - compute strictly according to TNM 2.5©, and Option 2, compute with modifications such as the 3 dimensional distance calculation and other fixes that have been discussed with Volpe / FHWA.  SoundPLAN thinks that Option 2 will be very close to the upcoming TNM v3.0 algorithms.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is working on a test suite to verify commercial noise prediction software. SoundPLAN will run the test suite as soon as it is available to show consistency.

SoundPLAN has conducted in-house verification of its TNM implementation.  Readers interested in the technical reports (TNM v2.5 validation, Test 94, etc.) can contact Hans Forschner at Navcon Engineering Network, North American SoundPLAN distributor (, to receive a copy of the technical reports.  The TNM v2.5 validation was a test verification of 17 test sites.  Test-94 is a more systematical process comparing TNM v2.5 with SoundPLAN software.

SoundPLAN recently found a critical issue with TNM 2.5© software that is currently under investigation by FHWA.  For each roadway input, the user defined the width of the roadway.  TNM 2.5© software automatically generates elevation lines on each side of the road for the acoustic model.  The idea of this automatic process is to save time in regards to the input for road condition with embankments or cuts. For single lane roads, the procedure is adequate, but for multi lane highways, the extra elevation lines on the pavement cause problems in the selection of the reflection planes between source and receiver. SoundPLAN conducted tests with TNM v2.5© software to find the problem of overlapping lanes.  The tests are based on a multi-lane highway.  The road emission was kept in the center of the highway.  The road width was kept the same, but alternatively defined with one and with three overlapping lanes.  The predictions with the TNM 2.5© for receivers at 50’, 100’ and 200’ showed differences between the single and multi-lane input of up to 5 dB.  The same test cases were predicted with SoundPLAN software (TNM 2.5 implementation) and did not show any differences for the same test cases. For more information please contact:

FHWA continues the development of TNM v3.0.  It is our understanding that TNM v3.0 model implementation will have most of the corrections we have already implemented in our Option 2.  SoundPLAN is in contact with FWHA to keep up-to-date on their code changes.  The current schedule for TNM v3.0 release is before the end of 2014.


Like many other software products, developments continue and additional features and methods become available. Being aware of the making use of these developments is highly recommended. Keep licenses up to date with Update & Maintenance, where not only hot line support is available, but also regular updates via the website. Knowledge also needs updating once in a while, available via training sessions. SoundPLAN and our trading partners offer regular training sessions for beginners as well as for seasoned users. David Winterbottom in the UK, John Klinkby in Denmark and Hans Forschner in the US offer regular training sessions. If you are interested in learning more, use the links to the right to learn dates and locations and to ask for further details. SoundPLAN also offers training sessions in  Backnang, Germany. Click here to download the SoundPLAN training schedule for 2014.

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