Pile Driving

A red pile driver is parked in a large open dirt field.
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What is Pile Driving?

Pile driving is a construction method used to embed vertical columns made of various materials (wood, concrete, steel, or a combination) by driving them into soil. Essentially, the “piles” create a deep foundation for the structure being built and are used to hold the large structure in place.  

Pile driving is a popular construction and engineering practice that ensures stability and durability of large structures. It is the most advanced engineering solution to ensure structures are more resilient following an earthquakes or to ensure the structures are better protected from erosion.  

What is the City’s Noise Code? 

The City of Portland Noise Office recently received multiple concerns and questions regarding pile driving. While pile driving noise can be disruptive, it is a safe and reliable method used to ensure that construction is structurally sound and seismically resilient. It is also permitted in the City of Portland, and the City's Noise Code, Title 18.10.060. The code specifically exempts pile driving from the 85 decibel limit set for construction activities and equipment.  

Due to this exception, the code allows construction companies to perform this work 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the added requirement that residents within 500 feet of the site be provided no less than 30 days notice of the pile driving activity. Pile driving is not allowed on federal holidays.  

There are other types of equipment, such as concrete saws and jack hammers, that are exempt from decibel limits such as machines that are used for planned construction projects, as well as emergency use such as trying to locate a major pipeline to prevent further damage or inconvenience. 

The Noise Review Board 

The Noise team understands how noise can impact our community which is why the City supports a community-led advisory body that reviews applications for noise variances that may impact nearby neighbors or take place over a significant period of time. The Noise Review Board is also responsible for working with the Noise Office to advise and make recommendations to the Portland City Council on sound-related code and policy decisions. 

The City and Noise Review Board continually re-evaluate the best ways to balance noise impacts while allowing construction activities needed to build or rebuild structures, particularly those vulnerable to earthquakes.   

The Noise Code has placed limitations on the type of noisemaking equipment that can be used for construction. However, there are exceptions that are examined on a case-by-case basis, including: 

  • when it is not practical or possible to install or engineer sound abatement methods for a project, or 

  • there are no alternative types of equipment or methods available. 

The Noise Review Board regularly reexamines and reviews new noise abatement methodologies and technologies to ensure that structures are sound and safe while considering the short-term noise-related impacts to nearby neighbors. 

How Can You Participate? 

In 2014, a group of citizens who were experiencing multiple pile-driving construction projects in their neighborhood brought their concerns to the Noise Review Board and City Council. This action resulted in an amendment to Title 18 restricting the use of pile driver machinery to the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. The update to Title 18 added a new requirement that residents within 500 feet of the site be provided no less than 30 days' notice of the pile driving activity. Prior to that amendment, Title 18 allowed pile driving from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. 

If you have concerns about noise and would like to contribute input about the Noise Code or provide comment to the Noise Review Board, you can email noise@portlandoregon.gov. Please put, “Attention: Noise Review Board” in the subject line of your email message. 

If pile driving occurs outside of the allowed hours, please submit a noise complaint online

All Noise Review Board meetings are public meetings and currently held over Zoom. The Noise Review Board currently meets on the second Wednesday of the month. Each meeting starts at 6 p.m. Please check its web page for the exact schedule as dates can change.  

At each meeting, the Board allows members of the public to provide up to five minutes of testimony per person.