There are two forms of noise emission verification, one performed at the manufacturer’s shop before shipment and one performed in the field after installation. NASA field centers have the autonomy to waive either test and to accept a product that fails one or both tests, but a higher level of management authorization is required in order to do so. “We’re trying to provide a process with informed and responsible decision making but not tie anyone’s hands,” Cooper explained.

Adapting the Buy-Quiet Program

Although the Buy-Quiet program was designed to meet NASA’s needs, it is applicable to private industry and to other government programs. Two versions of NASA’s cost-of-noise model are online, one intended for general Buy-Quiet program advocacy uses and a simplified version for comparing candidate items. The Buy-Quiet Roadmap links to many other resources, such as cost-benefit analyses done by the Navy and other hearing loss calculators. Related resources, such as papers from NASA and presentations on the Buy-Quiet program, are available for download. Hyperlinks direct users to forms and other tools.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has adapted elements of NASA’s Buy-Quiet program for the construction industry using a three-tiered approach. Companies can authorize the lowest-noise purchase independent of cost, decide to purchase nothing louder than what already exists, or purchase on a decibel-per-dollar range decided by the manager. Another common approach, sometimes used by municipalities to manage construction-associated noise, is to prequalify a list of equipment that meets a predetermined noise emission goal (Thalheimer 2011). Finally, companies buying major pieces of expensive custom-designed equipment may collaborate with the manufacturer to meet stringent requirements. The bottom line, Cooper said, is that programs differ based on operations, culture, size, and the number and diversity of purchases as well as the number of potential vendors.

Cooper pointed out that not all aspects of the NASA Buy-Quiet program may be relevant for Park Service purposes. “When it comes to noise in parks, we first need to be able to find a way to quantify the value of the visitor experience and the value of the impact on wildlife. That’s still the fundamental challenge—to quantify the cost of noise.”

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