Transurban: Acoustic Design Innovations

Managing motorway noise using active noise cancellation and transformation

Transurban: Acoustic Design Innovations was a project based in, and supported by SIAL Sound Studios, led by Dr. Jordan Lacey.


Transurban awarded an Innovation Grant to RMIT University (RMIT) in 2016 to undertake research into managing motorway noise using active noise cancellation and transformation. The research, completed by RMIT was the first international example of applying ‘noise transformation’ using live electroacoustic technology in noise-affected environments to improve community perception of urban noise.


Urban environments are increasingly saturated with noise from a wide range of sources, including motorways. Improving the liveability of densely populated areas directly adjacent to motorways is a key part of our sustainability commitment to be good neighbours and deliver long lasting benefits to the environment and communities we serve.
Current methods of reducing motorway noise involve engineering approaches to reduce the noise emitted from vehicles and pavements or the installation of physical barriers or acoustic treatment to buildings to reduce noise propagation. The RMIT research explored a new approach to managing propagated motorway noise.


Through noise transformation, motorway noise is turned into a musical or aesthetic experience that is pleasing to the human ear. Rather than adopting a traditional engineering approach to quieten motorway noise, the transformation aspect of the research used noise as a source in musical composition, and recorded the response of neighbouring communities. The research findings demonstrate the effective application of these alternative noise mitigation techniques can reduce the impact of motorway noise. Positive community response to demonstration sites established along Transurban’s CityLink (Victoria) and Hills M2 (New South Wales) motorways highlight the potential for such technologies to play a role in managing motorway noise. Used in existing or new motorway environments, such technologies could be applied to relieve noise impacts on sensitive receivers or in conjunction with urban design principles to activate public spaces.


The introduction of additional sound, albeit subtle, into the listening environment is contrary to current noise management policy, which historically has centred solely on sound reduction. The positive community response to the environments created during the trial however, shows the potential for renewed policy discussion and reform into how noise impacts and mitigation initiatives are measured.


The report can be found here.

2016 – 2017

Research Team:

Project design and management: Dr Jordan Lacey


Transformation Team:

Dr. Stephan Moore, Assoc. Professor Lawrence Harvey, Dr. Jordan Lacey


Cancellation Team:

Prof Xiaojun Qui, Sepei Zhao


Ethnography Team:

Distinguished Prof Sarah Pink, Dr Shanti Sumartojo, Melissa Duque


Studio Team:

Dr Ross McLeod, Assoc Prof Lawrence Harvey, Dr. Jordan Lacey


Technical Team: Simon Maisch, Ari Sharp, Timothy Percy