Berkeley Living Sound Wall

Berkeley, California

SGA played a key role in turning an "eyes vs. ears" battle into a constructive search for a mutually agreeable solution to noise reduction for a multi-use trail in a 100-acre park adjacent to the I-880 freeway. Stringent seismic requirements, federal noise mitigation standards, major utilities conflicts, and a limited budget added great complexity to an already difficult and controversial design 
problem. The design process was largely successful because SGA was able to fully analyze and clearly present options beyond Caltrans' offer of either a chain link fence or a standard masonry block wall.

Through clear graphic and aural representations of acoustical phenomena, detailed structural 
calculations, and realistic physical models, SGA was able to show both Caltrans and the community that an alternative Living Wall concept would not only improve views by replacing the sight of traffic with terraced greenery, but also provide better noise protection at a lower height. 

The design solution also required negotiations of easement relocation with EBMUD, an impacted 
property owner. What appeared initially to be an insurmountable obstacle was transformed into a "win-win" opportunity. SGA's careful research showed that a realignment of EBMUD's easement would actually improve maintenance access to a major pipeline and allow for a more elegant and 
economically feasible foundation solution for the noise barrier.


Year: 1997
Scope of Work: Architectural and Engineering Design; Public Process
Client:  City of Berkeley
Agencies Involved: City of Berkeley Office of Capital Projects