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The Quad: Digging up construction noise’s consequences for students

Westwood is a community under construction. Whether it’s from Metro construction or building new housing spaces, adverse noise can lead to negative impacts. (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin staff)

By Kimia Azad

Feb. 9, 2022 9:19 p.m.

Westwood is a bustling neighborhood frequented by UCLA students and Los Angeles residents alike, but a closer look at the beloved college town reveals one thing in particular: Westwood is a city under construction.

It may be easy to get used to seeing bright orange “road work” signs and towering crawler cranes on city strolls, but there is one aspect of construction that is hard to tune out – the noise. Especially with many students at home studying online and working remotely, construction disturbances can add on to the already distracting environment of virtual learning.

Fourth-year communication student Dulce Lucero said early morning construction has hindered her daily meditation routine and sleep schedule. She added that waking up to the noise of drilling and jackhammering has created a negative start to her days.

“It’s definitely challenging to wake up in a peaceful mindset,” Lucero said.

Ongoing plans to build dormitories around UCLA are in the works. Pictured is the construction taking place on Strathmore Drive near UCLA.   (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin staff)
Construction takes place on Strathmore Drive near UCLA. Ongoing plans to build dormitories around UCLA are in the works. (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin staff)

Fourth-year theater student Carley Gilbert lives next door to the newly constructed university apartment building at the intersection of Le Conte and Gayley avenues. Gilbert said the construction is what gets her out of bed in the morning.

“You get the construction sounds at 7 a.m., but you also get the workers talking and listening to music on weekends and on weekdays,” Gilbert said.

Due to the nature of online school, Gilbert said that she had to take many of her remote classes from unusual locations, such as taking ballet from her unit’s balcony and taking jazz from the apartment’s roof.

“The balcony and the roof are right next to the building … that was being built all of last year. So I was performing for the construction workers, which was an experience on its own,” Gilbert said.

Westwood boasts a myriad of buildings new and old. Pictured is the new apartment building across from Westwood's Chevron gas station. (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin staff)
The new UCLA apartment building sits across from Westwood's Chevron gas station. Westwood boasts a myriad of buildings new and old. (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin staff)

Bruins living around Westwood can expect more construction in the upcoming years. A unanimous vote by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission has given a Georgia-based developer the go-ahead to build a seven-story, 37-unit apartment complex where a church once stood on Strathmore Drive, according to Urbanize Los Angeles.

UCLA itself is spending $870 million on constructing new dormitories and apartments to add 5,400 beds to its housing portfolio. The University of California also purchased five buildings in the Sawtelle neighborhood to use as UCLA dormitories, according to Urbanize Los Angeles.

But students will not be the only ones with more housing options. In 2018, UCLA acquired the site of the 28th Church of Christ, Scientist, on Hilgard Avenue and Lindbrook Drive, which could be redeveloped into faculty housing by November.

With the addition of more beds for Bruins also comes the addition of noise. Adverse noise is more than just a nuisance – its implications are tied to overall health.

Scientists who studied people living near seven major airports in Europe found that a 10-decibel increase in aircraft noise was correlated with a 28% increase in anxiety medication use in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine.

Similar studies have been explored in the educational domain. According to an experiment published in Frontiers, students studying for an exam in a quiet setting were more likely to perform better on logical reasoning, reading comprehension and mental arithmetic tasks than students studying with background noise and speech.

Construction noise is not the only disturbance interfering with Bruins’ routines. Lucero said she has experienced Wi-Fi issues from heavy construction, forcing her to leave her apartment to avoid such disturbances.

“It really is just chaos,” Lucero said. “And this noise doesn’t help at all.”

Pictured is the ongoing construction across from Westwood's Chevron gas stations. While new construction helps expand campus, the noise that comes with it can pose its own set of problems. (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin staff)
Construction continues across from Westwood's Chevron gas station. While new construction helps expand campus, the noise that comes with it can pose its own set of problems. (Ariana Fadel/Daily Bruin staff)

However, not all students have the option to leave their apartments because of obstacles like these.

Fourth-year psychology student Julia Donnelly said it has been difficult to escape the disturbances of construction without a car. She added that she has been doubling up on earbuds and noise canceling headphones to study and take exams.

“I wish UCLA had been more understanding of the needs of students in Westwood,” Donnelly said.

With UCLA gradually shifting back to an in-person model, it will hopefully be easier to pay attention in class without the sound of construction.

Until then, keep your headphones on and windows shut, because Bruins will be dealing with construction for the long haul.

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Kimia Azad | Senior Staff
Azad is a part of the Daily Bruin’s senior staff. She previously served as a contributor, then as the 2020-2021 assistant editor for the Quad. She is a fourth-year student studying psychology and communication.
Azad is a part of the Daily Bruin’s senior staff. She previously served as a contributor, then as the 2020-2021 assistant editor for the Quad. She is a fourth-year student studying psychology and communication.
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