Environmental noise is one of the main factors that weaken the quality of life in living environments in Helsinki. Constant exposure to noise is harmful to wellbeing and health.
Environmental noise is the general term used to describe all types of noise pollution occurring in housing and living environments.
Transport is the main source of environmental noise
Close to 40 percent of Helsinki residents live in areas where the average daytime noise from transport exceeds 55 dB. About 10 percent of Helsinki residents are exposed to noise from trams, trains and the metro.
The most challenged places in terms of noise are areas on the main roads and the busiest streets. Residents in these areas are also exposed to high levels of noise at night time. Noise from transport is studied at five-year intervals in Helsinki.
Noise from institutions, temporary operations and events
Noise from various institutions, construction and renovation projects and public events can disturb local residents.
Temporary operations causing particularly disturbing noise or vibration, such as construction work and outdoor concerts, must be notified (notification of noise) to the City of Helsinki Environment Services' Environmental protection unit in writing. In addition, such operations and events must always be notified in advance to the neighbours and others exposed to the noise. The latter requirement also concerns such operations for which no notification of noise is required.
HEPAC and electrical equipment
The City of Helsinki Building Control controls the average noise level (LAeq,T) of the HEPAC and electrical equipment of a building and other buildings serving this building if the average noise level cannot exceed 45 dB outside the windows of the same or an adjacent building, on a balcony, in the yard or in a similar place in the residential area and in other noise-sensitive areas.
Noise inside buildings
Various machinery and equipment in dwellings and properties including elevators, ventilation equipment and plumbing equipment can cause noise in dwellings and other spaces.
Poor sound insulation can result in situations where the sounds of normal life in one residential unit can be heard at disturbing levels in other units. Noise hazards inside residential units are controlled by the Environment Centre.
Noise from catering operations
The most typical noise hazards in dwellings caused by catering operations include music in restaurants and noise related to the transport of goods and technical equipment.
Other sources of noise
Noise caused by human behaviour is a matter of general order. Such noise can be reported to a representative of the housing company or the police.
Ordinary operation of leaf blowers (during daytime, for a few hours, a few times in autumn/spring) does not have an adverse effect on health, so use of leaf blowers is permitted.
If leaf blowers are used at night-time between 22:00 and 7:00, the operation may constitute a public disturbance, so it can be reported to the police. Use of leaf blowers to remove grit is prohibited.
Street musicians do not need a permit from authorities in Helsinki. However, street musicians must pay attention to the City of Helsinki environmental regulations, which provide that public events, the organizers of other temporary happenings and street musicians must ensure that the event or the music does not disturb the neighbours. Street musicians are forbidden to use electrical sound amplification that relies on an external power source.