Ergonomics of Space
Considering human behavior in design
The design of a space is relative to our movements. We don’t go into design selfishly – by considering human factors and ergonomics, we ensure that the systems and structure fits the people who use any given space, not the other way around.
Consider the kitchen: the sink, fridge and oven typically make a triangle shape. Developed in the early 20th Century, architects and designers keep the “triangle rule” in mind based on natural human behaviors.
There’s a story of a world famous architect who designs a building for the blind that’s completely round. The problem is that visually impaired and blind individuals think in a grid-linear way. The building wins awards for its design, but the blind, not able to see the beauty of the design, are not supported by the function. As an architect, it’s my responsibility to create a space ergonomically that suits the individuals who utilize the space.
As a team, we cannot be “blind” to the needs of the community we’re working with. By understanding movement and natural patterns, we can not only create a harmonious experience, but bring about efficiency that saves money over time.
We are working with the Prince of Peace Lutheran group, just east of Calgary. Their current facility is designed in a U-shape with a central entrance and two courtyards. The registered nurses they’ve hired to care for their community are forced to move with the flow of the building, taking long journeys to arrive at their desired destination. around the building inefficiently, expending energy unnecessarily and unable to reach patients quickly.
The ability to have a registered nurse to get from one patient to another more efficiently will determine how many nurses they need. People are the greatest expense—and the most valuable asset—in any business, and we’ve considered that designing the space both intuitively based on movement and intelligently based on need will help reduce costs drastically, and improve the quality of life for all those who work and dwell there.
Through a more intuitive design, we can accommodate the needs of the organization, which in this particular scenario, has adapted to require more modern solutions. For Prince of Peace Lutheran Group, we understand that relying on donors to augment income and expenses is challenging. If we eliminate the need for multiple registered nurses, they can funnel their budget into other elements of their community, if they so desire to.
The difference between good and bad buildings comes down to the architect. Inspired by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, from private homes to the Guggenheim Museum, we understand that an architect has the unique ability to efficiently move through a space while also directing one’s attention. By working collaboratively with owners and inhabitants, we come to comprehensive conclusions and manage complex situations to promote efficiency in design. As technology expands in this area, including computer and phone tracking, we will continue to expand our understanding of how human behavior affects the ergonomics of space.