As part of our series on human-centred design, Horizon Consoles explores what you need to create a long-lasting control room space that can adapt to future situations.
Working in partnership with end-users, technology integrators, and ergonomists across a broad range of industries, we create control room consoles in accordance with ISO 11064 standards.
As designers of safe and dependable ergonomic workstations, we see the trends that create the perfect control room.
Here are a few things you need to know to take your control centre to the next level:
1. Understand what you need – write a brief:
No single Control Room is the same.
The needs of a Network Operations Centre will be different compared to a Security Operation Centre. Even considering sites with the same remit, one 911 emergency dispatch centre will have different requirements compared to emergency services in a different location.
Understanding your operational environment.
What you are designing for now and for the next ten years will put you ahead, especially when project tasks and workflow may be unpredictable.
Take time to research and find out what you need to accomplish at an early stage, keeping the project on track and adaptable.
Do not forget to engage with suppliers and stakeholders for feedback, helping you overcome potential limitations and discover unique possibilities.
Having well-thought specifications will bring the best out of your brief.
Do not be afraid to think visually as well, creating designs or consulting with engineers to create wireframe layouts of your space.
2. Know what they need – identify user factors:
Think carefully about the users and their intimate tasks, will they move between training/simulator spaces and live stations during a working day?
To ensure that you get the best out of your users, you need to consider what would affect their ability to do the work, adapting the space for the users more than the users to the space.
Ergonomics has become a crucial factor in the modern workplace:
According to Linak, a global study showed that 65% of 6,000 staff found their wellbeing had improved by using an adjustable office desk.
From work surfaces, video walls to communicating to colleagues, knowing how users will use the space will encourage effective working practice. No one likes cramped spaces, but the right cluster console design could make an impractical space a good one.
Wouldn’t you want your design to have a demonstrable impact?
Trends are showing that workplace musculoskeletal issues are on a year-on-year decline when user interfaces and ergonomics are a top priority, eliminating staff absences and improving productivity.
In the same way that retail design encourages a customer to buy a product, your control room design should be tailored to help users accomplish their roles.
3. Know what environment you are creating – adapt the space:
How will environmental factors influence an operators’ role, and how can you create a better space to work?
The WELL Building Standard® is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind. Here are a few to consider:
Air temperature can affect concentration levels and the quality of work of your users.
From air conditioning units to heaters, several HVAC systems are becoming increasingly more effective and easier to control. Some systems are also powered in more increasingly sustainable ways, using the likes of geothermal energy or solar.
From controls specific to the user’s position, time-sensitive thermostats, or occupancy sensor tech (useful for light as well), some solutions can aid and create a safe environment for the users.
Do not forget that monitors, laptops, and PC units need to remain cool and functional as well.
Solutions can be built into the space or into furniture (such as the Monocool system that we use in our range of consoles), and how your design can protect your equipment.
You will want to control the volume.
If you are designing the room from scratch or have the budget for remodelling, you can change the shape of the room to mask or adapt noise acoustically, especially with office partitions, noise-friendly flooring, and acoustic panels.
If you have a more limited budget:
Consider furniture that can absorb noise, such as desks with built-in compartments that dampen or remove sound completely from PC processors.
It may be impossible to create a completely silent environment where constant verbal communication is crucial, however…
You can decrease the amount of ambient noise by putting in screen protectors and bench partitions, or more quirky changes such as buying plants specifically for noise cancelling. If you can, consider what technology such as noise-blocking headsets could be procured.
Always be sure that users have the right balance between direct and indirect light.
For control rooms in buildings with no windows, it is easier to evaluate your light set-up. Consider if individual consoles can have customisable options, such as an articulating and dimmable task light. It is also a bonus if you use energy-efficient lighting, as it will be both sustainable and cost-effective in the long run.
Consider the effect that light has.
If your control room space has windows or needs windows, particularly if the control room needs 360-degree view and visual control as much as digital controls, you need to consider how light can change the temperature of the room as well as the risks of glare or processes that can be harmful to human sight.
You should make it easy for the staff to be able to control the environment as much as possible.
Seeing the value of simple blackout blinds or investing in tinted glass, or you could even leave it to photoelectric light controls that dim and brighten when the quality of natural light is affected.
4. Know what is on the horizon – keep up with trends (or business direction):
Thinking over the earlier points, remember that a control room should be designed with longevity in mind, promoting productivity.
Control rooms should look to the future.
If you do not create contingencies now, the costs may rise to be bigger than any initial investment.
For example, plan for your control room to either expand or decrease in personnel and make it easy for the space to adapt to the changing circumstances and technology.
Make sure your design can adapt to modifications
In every industry, technology is disrupting the status quo as systems become more decentralised and more connected. While some control rooms are closed systems, you need to consider how the wider industry you are in may change or if there are standards already adopted widely.
Trends to look out for:
Industrial Internet of Things
Processes such as monitoring, quality assurance, manufacturing, sensors, instruments et al can be combined and controlled more centrally for better LEAN processes. Useful design allows for form and function to work together. Software used is just as important as hardware.
Remote processing of data
Where previously closed systems can now host different processes across various locations and use LTE/5G signals as well as LPWANs (low-power wide-area networks). Let the design aid the process.
Built-in security will be paramount to allow for protection from the outside will prove crucial from the design phase right through to procurement. Do not let your design be the failing point.
From curved monitors to larger LED screens, control rooms should use the technology available to help with clarity and actionability for the user. Who wouldn’t want to have a better view of their work?
What can you put into place or buy to make a better more effective environment? What can help to make a space more comfortable?
5. Know what you need to furnish your control room – Horizon Consoles
We may be biased, but we are right to be.
Control rooms are not just any workspace, but the foundation of businesses, governments, and emergency services.
With expertise across countless industries, our workstations can help users and teams go above and beyond.
Our team of designers not only bring experience, but the expertise to help find the best solution. All our products have over a ten-year shelf-life, modifiable, and parts are easily replaceable.