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Denver Proposes Change to Definition of Noise

The Denver skyline at sunset.

Since 1973, the city of Denver, Colorado has had strict rules enshrined in the city’s Municipal Code that aim to protect, preserve and promote the health, safety, welfare, peace and quiet for the citizens of the city through the reduction, control, and prevention of noise. Those ordinances have served the city for the past 50 years in managing and enforcing nuisance noise effectively. However, they’re no longer enough – and now the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) are reassessing the very definition of what noise is. Let’s take a look at what’s changing and how it could come to affect other cities in the future.

What is Denver’s New Definition of Noise?

Previously, Denver City had a very solid and logical definition of noise: sound that is unwanted and that causes or tends to cause adverse psychological or physiological effects on human beings. 

This definition allows for a few things. First, it lends credence to complainants who are submitting grievances to the city, as adverse effects can be claimed through the complaint itself. Second, it allows for leeway where an assessor may be able to identify ulterior motives within a noise dispute and adjust their verdict accordingly. But this kind of definition has a few downsides too. It requires heavy investments in mediation and paperwork to resolve a dispute. It places all the burden of proof on the complainant, who is most likely already in a distressed state. Lastly, it allows defendants to skirt ordinances and submit defences that rely on subjective opinions rather than hard facts.

In order to streamline the process of resolving noise issues, the DDPHE has changed their definition of noise to this: sound that is unwanted and exceeds the sound pressure levels permitted in this chapter or in rules adopted by the board or is otherwise prohibited by this chapter or by rules adopted by the board.

With this new definition, the DDPHE no longer needs to rely on subjective opinion and hearsay in order to enforce their noise ordinances. Now, they are able to define their own noise limits, receive a complaint, and if their defendant is above the limit, issue a fine. Otherwise, the noise is not an offence, and no one will be prosecuted. Nothing needs to be proved by a complainant, no disputes need to be mediated, and remote measurement technology like NoiseNet can allow for fewer field hours and better work-life balance for enforcement officers.

What Does This Mean for Other Cities?

With Denver’s proposal still in the revisions stage, it’s hard to say whether other cities will adopt these changes to streamline the noise complaint process. However, the proposed ordinance gives a lot more power to the city’s enforcement team in addressing noise complaints, allows complaints to be processed faster AND cheaper, allows for smart city tech like NoiseNet to be implemented more effectively, and shows a firmer hand to anyone who may think it’s okay to breach the rules. With this in mind, it would not be surprising to see other cities around the world begin to adopt stronger approaches to noise reduction in the near future.

We’re strong believers in the value of a peaceful life – especially when it comes to nuisance noise. Working alongside noise enforcement teams has shown us the harm that can come from severe noise pollution, and we know that we can help those who aim to stop it. With NoiseNet’s remote noise monitoring technology, it becomes easy to measure and analyse nuisance noise, no matter when or where it occurs – and get the hard data to backup your enforcement. If that sounds like it would benefit your city, reach out now at

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