London pupils find novel way to beat aircraft noise

Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:35pm EDT
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By Dasha Afanasieva

LONDON (Reuters) - Pupils at a London school so close to Heathrow airport that it sometimes seems descending planes might land in the playground have found a novel way to fight the roar of jet engines.

Hounslow Heath infants' school has erected four igloo-like adobe domes in its grounds, of a type normally used in earthquakes and emergency zones, to muffle the noise.

The playground is directly under the flight path of Heathrow's southern runway and outside play for the children is interrupted every two minutes or so by landing aircraft passing over their heads.

"When children were playing outside, they had nowhere to go - they were subjected to that noise," said the school's principal Kathryn Harper-Quinn.

The domes, an invention of Iranian architect Nader Khalili, were originally meant for lunar settlements and were first employed in a refugee crisis after the 1990-91 Gulf war, but they work just fine for kids in west London too.

"For play time it's fantastic that they have somewhere to withdraw - even the ones that are too young to articulate that they're feeling concerned about the noise," Harper-Quinn said.

The domes have no doors so are an open space but with a "strong psychological and physical barrier" against the noise, she told Reuters.

She estimates that when outside, teachers are inaudible to pupils for 25 seconds in every 90 because of the jets.   Continued...

Students from Hounslow Heath infants school play around one of four adobe huts designed to help minimise the noise of aircraft landing at Heathrow airport in Hounslow, west London April 24, 2013. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth