Noise Pollution, Barriers, Health, Equity and the City

2018 Faculty Research Award

Award Period: 2018-2020

Sigrid Adriaenssens, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and M. Christine Boyer, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Architecture, are working to establish the relationship between the health effects of noise pollution and socioeconomic status by studying areas of Trenton, New Jersey. They will then design and test adaptive lightweight origami-based noise barriers that effectively create quieter regions. Increasing urban populations worldwide are driving heightened levels of health problems associated with pollution, overcrowding, poor housing and a lack of sanitation, all of which are experienced more severely by those of lower socioeconomic status. Noise pollution is associated with increased levels of blood pressure and stress hormones, as well as sleep disturbance.

The researchers’ vision and initial work for an adaptive noise barrier based on curved-crease origami patterns (Images: Sigrid Adriaenssens and Loyola)

Adriaenssens and Boyer will carry out noise measurements in Trenton to identify the areas — with the help of the Trenton-based non-profit organization Isles Inc. — that are most in need for noise-pollution remediation. They will then use mathematics, physical prototyping and numerical acoustic models to develop origami barriers that can be shaped to block specific frequencies and feature curved creases that absorb sound. The researchers will work with origami artists and mathematicians to identify deployment principles and parameters for crease patterns, then build physical models using a laser cutter. Experimental prototypes will be deployed in Trenton to evaluate the extent to which the barriers block different noise levels. The researchers hope to expand their project to other cities.

Educational Impacts

This project will provide a basis for PEI Summer Internships offered in Adriaenssens and Boyer’s labs. Students will develop expertise in data collection, organizing literature reviews, geometric parametric modeling, acoustic analysis, and physical prototyping, as well as have the results of their internships published — with the student as the first author — in a journal or at a conference. Insights gained from this project into the relationship between noise, equity and the city also will be used to enhance Boyer’s course URB 201 “Introduction to Urban Studies,” which examines different crises confronting cities in the 21st century and is the gateway course to the Certificate in Urban Studies. Adriaenssens mentors sophomores enrolled in Princeton’s Service Focus program and will present this endeavor as a possible topic for students’ final research project. Adriaenssens and Boyer also plan to advise one Princeton sophomore in pursuing this project for their junior and/or senior independent research.

Participating Department

Collaborating Institutions


Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Architecture

Graduate Students

  • Jessica Flores, CEE
  • Mauricio Loyola, ARC

Undergraduate Students

  • Angel Fan ’19