Sense and the City: Noxious Odor in Residential Areas
Maria B. Yabur
School of Architecture, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Last modified: June 1, 2007
Presentation date: 06/12/2007 10:00 AM in ISCTE-II C201
Until recently urban research and theory have treated daily life and experience in the city in largely abstract terms, giving attention to sight but largely ignoring the other senses. However, people gain information about their environment and are affected by attributes of it through various senses, not just sight, and the resulting experiences and their effects often play an important role in the quality of urban life. This is particularly true for the sense of smell.
Odor, which is endemic to many human activities, can be exceeding troublesome in urban settings. In many metropolitan areas, with the decrease in available land for housing, residential areas overlap with industrial areas, forcing people to experience noxious odors on a regular basis. Research has shown that exposure to such odors -- created by slaughter houses, sewage treatment plants and industrial facilities -- can affect mood, constrain people’s outdoor activities, and lead to stress, headaches, nausea and other physical discomfort. And yet few municipalities in the U.S. consider such odors more than a “nuisance.” Only 17 states have odor nuisance regulation, New Jersey is one of those states.
This research examines people’s experiences with and reactions to noxious odor in two residential areas in New Jersey adjacent to Caldwell Waste Water Treatment Plant and Custom Drying, and where residents have reported the odor to Essex Regional Health Commission. The proposed paper will briefly summarize the recent sensorial trend in urban research, review previous research on noxious odor in residential settings and present the two case study sites and conceptual framework for this study.