Sound Mapping Study Areas around Carnegie Mellon's Campus

Made by Tamara Cartwright

Analyze and compare noise samples on and near Carnegie Mellon University's campus to help determine the optimum place for studying both on and off campus.

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 someone could use this map to help inform the best locations for the type of working environment they prefer: solo quiet reading, versus group discussions, by using the optimum median standards established for maximum productivity (50Db) and the optimum creativity (70Db) one could analyze the map in more depth to determine their idea working environment. 



To begin the process we determined a selection of our favourite study areas and where we often saw other students studying. We then conducted a survey among Graduate School of Architecture Students at Carnegie Mellon to corroborate our thoughts:


As expected, many students preferred working from home when they could, what shocked us though was the lack of interest to work off campus in a remote location.

Moving forward with the study we decided to still analyze near-by off-campus and neighborhood gathering spots. Maybe you will find your ideal study area via this survey! 




- Heinz Lounge

- Danforth Lounge (UC)

- Gates Hillman Centre

- Sorrels Library

- Hunt Library


- Carnegie Library

- Starbucks

- Fuku Tea

- Panera Bread

- Hillman Library

- Frick Gallery


- Crazy Mocha

- Dobra Tea

- Coffee Tree Roasters

- Common Place Coffee


- Arriveste

- Jitters

- Coffee Tree Roasters

- Starbucks

Each study area had a 2 minute data sample captured using Decibel10 throughout both Thursday and Saturday to allow a comparison between a weekday and weekend. 



Interestingly enough, although all samples were taken at different times throughout the day, the noise levels were relatively the same/ comparable between the weekday and weekend. Slight changes are noted but it could to be due to slight anomalies within the sample. Since a lot of our external study areas were coffee shops this could be a blender, or in a library it could be a brief conversation starting up. 


As noted previously, the optimum study noise level is 50Db. From this we can see that the highlighted study areas are best. Additionally Hunt Library could be characterized among this group; although about the optimum level, it’s noise level has the least variation, which would allow for constant focus rather than moments of silence disrupted periodically.


On the weekends less places meet the optimum level, but the study areas are overall quieter (disregarding the popular coffee shops.)



Because of the busy schedules of a Graduate student we were unable to survey each location at the same time so one may argue that the data can’t be as accurately compared. However, we also saw this as a plus to our narrative; this allowed us to see determine the best place overall to study during all of our inconsistent schedules.

Additionally, as 5 unique students we each have our preference of smart phone. 2 of the team members have an iphone and 3 others have an android, because of this we each took ownership of a particular site for both weekday and weekend analysis. We also conducted a control study and calculated the average differences between out phones to help calibrate all of our answers.


Although we only sampled 2 minutes of data, we spent a longer period of time within the spaces to ensure that we were not sampling a significantly louder or quieter time period. 



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Analyze and compare noise samples on and near Carnegie Mellon University's campus to help determine the optimum place for studying both on and off campus.