People choose where to live based on all sorts of data: Price, public transit, proximity to pizza chains. But noise is tougher to measure. And since sound is pretty much invisible, you might not know about the nightly clanking from the local concrete recycling plant until you’re all moved in. A new mapping app can tell you just how loud your potential home might be.

HowLoud was created by Caltech mathematician Brendan Farrell to assign properties something he calls a Soundscore—a rating which takes into consideration all the factors that can create urban noise. Some of the information collected includes traffic patterns of nearby streets, flight paths of airports, and even certain types of businesses, as well as the time of day and intensity of the sound they create.

That might be enough information to make a pretty good guess about loudness—I mean, just looking at how close a house is to a freeway can tell you a lot—but Farrell then builds a 3D digital model of the city and models all of these factors in real time, taking into special consideration how sound ricochets through all those hard urban surfaces. All of this data is ranked to come up with a final score for how loud a property might be: a low number/red on the map is loud, a high number/green on the map is quiet.


So far, Farrell has mapped Los Angeles County and Orange County, but he’s launched a Kickstarter to help map all of North America. I will say it was intriguing to take a spin around LA and see some of the surprisingly noisy spots I might not have expected, or hidden oases of silence. While we’ve seen similar noise maps of states and cities, Farrell says his rankings are so specific he could give you ratings on a particular side and floor of a building.

There’s also some serious marketability to this idea. Just as the walkability rating app WalkScore was purchased by the real estate company Redfin last year, HowLoud totally has the potential to be something that’s used to sell property: “It has an 85 Soundscore rating! Quiet to Peaceful!”

[HowLoud via Curbed LA]