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The influence of a 'quiet side' on health and wellbeing : Literature and recommendations for policy

De invloed van een stille zijde bij woningen op gezondheid en welbevinden : Literatuur en aanbevelingen voor beleid


Annoyance caused by traffic, can be reduced by incorporating a 'quiet side' into the design of residential property. Doing so also reduces the risk of severe sleep disturbance. Annoyance is a collective term for several negative reactions such as irritation, dissatisfaction, or anger which appear when noise disturbs someone's daily activities. Noise can also cause adverse health effects in the form of sleep disturbance, hypertension (high blood pressure) and cardiovascular disease. A policy to promote the inclusion of a quiet side in residential property can mitigate the risk of adverse effects. These are the main conclusions and recommendations of a literature review conducted by the Netherlands Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), examining the influence on health and wellbeing of the quiet side concept in residential property. There has been relatively little research into this topic to date, but all available literature concludes that a quiet side does have a positive effect in terms of reducing severe annoyance and sleep disturbance. Research examining other health outcomes is too limited to allow any firm conclusions to be drawn. Overall, the effect of the quiet side is equivalent to a noise reduction of 2 to 8 decibels on the exposed side (usually the roadside frontage of a house or apartment building). In the Netherlands, spatial and economic considerations often prompt residential development in locations that are subject to excess environmental noise. Although national legislation imposes norms, it also establishes situations in which those norms may be exceeded, usually at the discretion of the relevant local authority. The most effective way in which to preclude negative health impact would be to reduce noise at the street side at the source or by other means. A policy which promotes the quiet side concept will be a useful adjunct. It is important to look beyond legal norms, which can do no more than guarantee a minimum level of quality. By providing adequate information about the positive effects of the quiet side concept to local authorities and developers, it becomes possible to aim for a significantly higher level of acoustic quality in the residential environment. RIVM recommends the adoption of specific terminology to express the quality differences offered within a quiet side concept. At present, local authorities tend to use various terms indiscriminately.

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