DIY: Noise Mapping of Study Areas around CMU

Made by adobriya

Created: September 22nd, 2017



Carnegie Mellon University is a centralized hub in Oakland, Pittsburgh. As such, students have an array of communal spaces for studying that range from on-campus facilities, local libraries, coffee shops and even surrounding university facilities that are open to the public. Many of the students live in adjacent neighborhoods such as: Squirrel Hill and Shadyside. Their active commercial districts provide additional gathering spaces for studying and group discussions off campus, making it convenient to do work off campus after school hours and during weekends.

This noise analysis will help to determine the best location to study or work during your free time. Whether you prefer working on or near campus, or off campus closer to your home. Additionally it could map the best locations for the type of work you are seeking: solo quiet reading, versus creative work, based on the median standards established for maximum productivity.

The Poll:

A poll was conducted among Architecture students to see what preferences they have with respect to places to study. We received 15 responses with 60% of the people wanting to study on campus locations listed by us and the rest 40% at other locations.

Of the people who chose to study on other locations, three mentioned Margaret Morrison labs, two like lobby areas on campus an one preferred studying at home.

The below picture gives a brief account of the responses that we got:


Survey Areas:

The study locations were suggested based on proximity relative to the campus location and ease of access.

The Aim – To survey and find areas in proximity to CMU campus which students can utilize to work in outside of their studios. Both on weekdays and weekends.

Survey Locations:
Campus: Hunt Library, Sorrels Library, GHC & Danforth Lounge UC
Squirrel Hill: Commonplace Coffee, Coffee Tree Roasters, Crazy Mocha, Dobra Tea
Shady Side: Starbucks, Coffee Tree Roasters, Arriveste, Jitters
Craig & Forbes: Starbucks, Heinz Lounge, Carnegie Library
Oakland: Hillman Library, Fuku Tea, Frick Gallery, Panera Bread

Before walking out to sample sites, the different devices have to be calibrated together to set controls. These controls should be used to accordingly amend the recorded values.



  1. Choose a centralized area in the space to survey from
  2. Hold phone away from you or keep it down
  3. Start the app and Capture readings over a 2 minute period
  4. Note Conditions for the space/ anomalies
  5. Walk to other locations in your survey area. Repeat the previous 4 steps.
  6. Export Data through email & explain descriptive condition Upload to google drive
  7. Gather the data from different locations and make sure it is cohesive
  8. Use data proofer to check if any duplications or other errors
  9. Analyze data and create simple graphics/Illustrations
  10. Use the data to plot a visualization in Carto by importing .csv files.

Below is an example of how the data looks.


Simple Data Analysis and Outcomes



  1. Places outside of CMU campus seemed to have a higher noise levels in general with the exception of Dobra Tea, SH.
  2. Only Dobra Tea and Crazy mocha were under optimum levels suggested for studying/individual working environment. (
  3. However, things changed when it came to creativity with a lot of places having a near optimum sound level to promote creativity. (, NO WONDER CMU students are creative!!
  4. Places such as Hunt Library, Sorrels, Danforth Lounge and Crazy Mocha show the least amount of variations on both weekdays and weekends.

Personal Reflection:

  1. For me, the least amount of variation is the most important criteria and therefore, Hunt library is the preferred choice for studying followed by Danforth Lounge, UC . Sudden increase in noise levels or eerie silence is quite distracting for me and that would surely affect concentration.
  2. CMU campus locations look quieter than off campus but this could just be reflecting on the choice of places on campus. These places were chosen based on a prior knowledge base and mostly the places known to be quiet were chosen as a group.
  3. CMU is surrounded by places which have near optimum levels of noise that promotes creativity. That surely tells something!
  4. Off campus places with secluded seating spots such as Dobra Teas and Crazy Mocha have less noise levels and these places are almost always occupied.
  5. Most places on an average have lower noise levels on weekends than weekdays which points to the underlying fact that on weekends, people prefer staying at home and that leaves less people in these locations.


  1. As the devices used were considerably differing in quality of sound receptor hardware, even setting up a control system was just an approximation of the actual noise levels.
  2. More data points could have been helpful, multiple times during the weekday/weekend, different times of the semester/year. It is still unclear as to what the correct size of the data set would be.
  3. Unfamiliarity with data collection of this type greatly contributed to the initial confusion in setting up the right process to collect all the information that was needed as per the narrative.

Carto Illustration:

Below is a simple visualization of the data at hand on Carto.