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Noise protection for sports facilities – Guidelines and implementation

By Jürgen Gesing, Wenker & Gesing Akustik und Immissionsschutz GmbH


Sport is of outstanding socio-political importance and holds a position of great significance. Unfortunately, noise from sporting events is usually caused during the periods when quiet is generally expected and as such, causes conflict with neighbours.


Noise from sports facilities

Among the typical sources of noise emitting from sports facilities are technical infrastructure (e.g. loudspeakers), sports equipment (e.g. starting shots, tennis balls, whistles), athletes and players themselves (e.g. when shouting to each other) and, in particular, spectators and traffic associated with the facilities (cars arriving and departing, parking lots).


Approvals for sports facilities

Basically, sports facilities in Germany are not considered to be establishments which require a permit under the meaning of the German federal legislation governing noise emissions (Bundes-Immissionsschutzgesetzes, BImSchG) which means they have an approval according to construction laws if a building permit was at all necessary at the time of construction. Among the basic obligations for operators of sports facilities as laid down in § 22 BImSchG, is the obligation to prevent damaging effects to the environment as far as this is possible according to the state of the art, and to keep unavoidable damaging effects to the environment to a minimum. According to § 24 BImSchG, the approving authorities also have the possibilities of implementing these requirements with secondary or supplementary legislation.


Evaluation of noise from sports facilities

The protective standards for damaging effects to the environment laid down in emission control legislation are reached when neighbours or the general public are significantly effected in a negative way.

In the case of noise effects from sports facilities, this depends on the volume and kind of noise as well as the time and duration of its effects. In addition, several facilities need to be considered in an accumulative way. Neighbours of sports facilities in solely or generally residential areas enjoy a higher demand for protection than those affected in central or mixed-use areas. Decisive for the allocation of protection requirement is the local neighbourhood or district definition in the zoning plan. The determination and evaluation process to assess the noise from sports facilities is defined in Germany by the sports facility noise protection directive (Sportanlagenlärmschutzverordnung, 18. BImSchV), dating from July 18, 1991 and is based on an averagely sensitive person taking into account the given circumstances. The amended version of the above-mentioned legislation has been valid since September 2017.


Regulations in the sports facility noise protection directive

The regulations given in the sports facility noise protection directive are intended to find a better balance between the requirements of the neighbours for peace and quiet and the interests of athletes and fans. The scope of the directive, according to § 1, covers stationary facilities intended for the purpose of sport, according to § 3 para. 5 no. 1 of the BImSchG. Events such as, for example, concerts, are evaluated from a noise emission point of view, according to regulations governing so-called noise from recreational activities. Motor sport tracks and shooting ranges according to the 4. BImSchV, technical guidelines for protection against noise emissions dated August 26, 1998 (TA Lärm).

In § 2, area-specific emission guidelines and the times when evaluation is to be carried out are defined. Basically, these guidelines correspond to those given in the TA Lärm with only stricter regulations by 5 dB(A) governing noise emissions in the morning quiet periods. In contrast to the TA Lärm guidelines, no average of the evaluation noise levels is made over the whole day, but only related to the actual period of the evaluation. During the night, the loudest hour is always taken for the evaluation which corresponds to the TA Lärm guidelines.

Exceptions exist for (inter)national sports events (§ 6 clause 1) and for traffic noise (§ 6 clause 2). In addition, a so-called "old facility bonus" is given in § 5 para. 4, allowing privileged treatment for older facilities when determining operating times if the noise emission guidelines are not exceeded by more than 5 dB(A). Technical, constructional and organisational measures can however, be defined. In the past, during construction projects and renovation work, loss or continuation of the "old facility bonus" was not always handled in the same way for each location.


Amendment to the directive

The amendment to the sports facility noise protection directive which has currently become valid was necessary, among other reasons, because in many cases, loss of the "old facility bonus" was threatened by building or renovation work and there was a need for clear and uniform regulations to be applied by the approval and noise emission authorities. A further reason for the necessity of this amendment was given by an increase in noise conflict, particularly in urban areas, due to a change in leisure-time and recreational activities (e.g. introduction of day schools in Germany) causing sporting activities to be moved to the evening hours. With the existing regulations, it was practically impossible to resolve this conflict to the satisfaction of all involved.

For this reason, the guideline emission values for midday and evening quiet periods were increased by 5 dB(A) and the required minimum distances between sports facilities and utilisation requiring protection significantly reduced. Furthermore, with the amendment of the building legislation (BauGB) which became valid in May 2017, a newly defined type of building area "Urban Areas" was added to the directive with 3 dB(A) higher guideline values during daylight hours compared to central and mixed-use areas.

The new Appendix 2 contains a positive list of measures which, as a rule, do not require significant changes to the sports facilities in the sense of § 5 para. 4 and therefore, do not represent any grounds for loss of the "old facility bonus". These include replacing the playing surfaces of sports and play areas or renovation and modernisation measures and in particular, the conversion of clay or natural grass pitches into artificial turf pitches, new building of club houses or expansion of sanitary fittings and changing-rooms as well as modification of the sports facilities by construction of play and climbing equipment, fitness machines or boules pitches. Loss of the bonus can however be incurred when spectator areas are extended, as a result of supplementary construction of skate parks, installation of street ball baskets or construction of new sports pitches within the area of existing sports facilities or after extension of the times of use, in particular during emission-sensitive times (e.g. night-time activities).


Picture: Jürgen Gesing, Wenker & Gesing Akustik und Immissionsschutz GmbH



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