Ergonomics and Workplace Design

August 17th, 2012

Author:  Jiji Thomas

By |  Via: Workplace Design Magazine

What first impressions does your workplace design project? Is it high on aesthetics? Does the furniture around your office intimidate you, or do you find it inviting?

Your office could boast of a highly creative and modern workspace, but is it able to harmonize impressions with positive cues for visitors and employees?

The fact is that most people often overlook the importance of designing the workplace to suit the needs of employees, who will eventually be spending the chunk of their time at the place.

Portrait of four professionals sitting at the table and discussing a business idea in the office

A study of the interaction of the human body with the surrounding environment will be able to achieve a balance between the workplace design and the human physical demands. Ergonomics aims to achieve this and more.

Ergonomics is a science related to the suitability of an office design to people. By taking into account people’s capabilities and limitations, an ergonomically designed workplace design strives to be effective in fulfilling the functional requirements of users.

The workplace design should aim to propagate intuition, teamwork, and more importantly, provide a safe and comfortable environment.

Workplace design has a profound impact on the productivity of workers. Making the best use of space through optimum placement of equipment, integrating the human factor into workplace design, and effectively aligning the workplace into the surrounding environment are important aspects of ergonomics.

The integration of principles of human well-being into workplace design has become critical for ensuring the workers perform to their best abilities. Although a man sitting at his desk doesn’t apparently give an impression of performing a toiling task, it is known to cause disorders that can have adverse effects on health.

 

Portrait of busy woman sitting at the computer table and touching computer mouse on the background of businesspeople

One of the disorders associated with the workplace is Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs). A wrong kind of chair or desk, or a wrong posture, could prove fatal in the long run. It could strain your eyes, cause head-aches, back aches, neck pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome due to the repetitive nature of work.

There are also chances of developing musculoskeletal problems. The risk of injury due to an awkward posture or the repetitive nature of work, can make you uncomfortable and induce work-related stress.

Ergonomics helps provide the tools necessary to see that there is no undue strain on the body parts of an individual. With increasing rates of injury and illnesses caused as a result of workplace design, the cost to the company can add up in the long run.

Cluttered office workstations are one of the major reasons why organizations have high absenteeism and low morale at workplace. Workplace design should aim at designing to fit the human need rather than forcing people to fit into the design. The arrangements of chairs and desks in an office should aim at creating an ambiance that is worker-friendly. This allows a worker to produce the best results while maintaining good health.

Office ergonomics entails adopting designs that suits your workstation, your job requirement and your position. It focuses on the placement of the chair, desk, keyboard, monitor and the telephone.

An evaluation in course of making an office ergonomically compliant involves:

  • Recognizing the physical, physiological and psychological demands of a job
  • Recognizing the physical, physiological and psychological capabilities of a worker
  • Recognizing the mismatches between the demands and capabilities
  • Training and educating the worker to work optimally around the office space

 

The study that helps understand the physical, physiological, and psychological demands of a job should encompass a holistic view. It should consist of:

  • The setup of workstation in reference to the posture, the time taken to complete certain activity, the movement and repetitions required to complete an activity
  • The surroundings of your workplace, including the kind of workplace, the lightings used, the levels of noise, and the humidity and temperature
  • The job tools used for performing the job, like the mouse, the keyboard, the printer and the scanner.

 

The amount of time that we spent in an office, will determine the extent to which ergonomics impact our well being. An ergonomically compliant office should satisfy these questions:

  • Is the position of your keyboard and mouse right?
  • Are you able to use your Notebook in the most optimum way?
  • Do you have an adjustable monitor to reduce eyestrain?
  • Is there a presence of noise control mechanisms in your office?
  • Is your office temperature right?
  • Are you able to maintain the recommended distance while at your workstation; height and distance for seated and upright workstations?

 

The use of good ergonomics is considered as critical in modern-day office designs. The best workplaces are designed for people and around people. An ideal office design avoids having closed spaces like cubicles and encourages a more open and dynamic work area. Involving the employees in the design process is also a good idea. Studies show that employees who are involved in the design process of their workstations show a higher level of commitment and are more productive.

The importance of ergonomics cannot be over-emphasized. Organizations that use specialized services, such as CAD Services to have a better understanding of office interiors are able to integrate ergonomics into workplace design more effectively.

An ergonomically designed workplace will go a long way in creating a positive difference in the attitudes of workers while maintaining an atmosphere that is conducive to meet organizational goals.

Color As A Communication Tool for Coworking Spaces

August 3rd, 2012

Article by Anna Cashman via DeskMag

Color is a communication tool which also works for coworking spaces. It can stimulate, calm, appetize or depress. Color and decor play important functions in creating an environment conducive to work, but also conducive to communication, creativity and positive thinking. Investing time and energy into the design a workspace that inspires these qualities – whether space operators go it alone or enlist the help of their members – is time well spent.

The research into the effects of color on psychology is not extensive or indeed conclusive, though there are many theories that have infiltrated common design practice according to their emotional properties and symbolism. Naturally, depending on the tint or shade – and indeed the personality – these psychological responses are heightened or muted. But here are the most common associations of the primary and secondary colors, and where and why you should use them.

Red is associated with energy and intensity. It is the color the eye notices first in the color wheel: it seems to jump out at us. For this reason, red makes time appear to pass slower since we are highly aware of our environment. It is also physical stimulant, increasing pulse rate and adrenaline. Moreover, some studies suggest that red impairs performance. For these reasons, avoid overusing primary reds in work areas, as it can be oppressive and disquieting.

Red can however help add warmth to a room and give it depth, for example with a feature wall or soft furnishings. When using red as a highlight, however, ensure that attention to detail is paid: since it the the color the eye is drawn to first, any flaws in paintwork or upholstery will stick out like a sore thumb.

When using red, it should be reserved it for large open areas only, and used sparingly. Aim for burgundies or muted reds, like the color of brick. Red is a suitable color for kitchens and dining areas, as it is an appetite stimulant – consider fast food logos, most of which include red.

While still promoting excitement and vibrancy,orangeis less shocking than red, and can be used more liberally in a workspace without overbearing the senses. Orange is a good color to use if your space is feeling lackluster, as it uplifts and energizes.

Blue is at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum than red. People are said to be more productive in blue rooms, though it is not a color that inspires excitement or creativity, and can make a room feel cold and uninviting.

In addition, blues, along with grays, are common hues used to decorate traditional offices. Typically, this is the image coworking spaces try to avoid. If using blue in a workspace, consider using a complementary color scheme and break it up with warmer tones. Avoid using blue in the kitchen and dining areas because it is an appetite suppressant; the rarity of blue-colored foods in nature reflects this.

Green is the color of nature and is said to calm and relax. It also relieves tired eyes, and a pale tint especially improves reading ability, so is a good choice for all sized workspaces. Green is associated with eco-friendly products.

Brown is the second color associated with nature. It inspires feelings of trust and fidelity, and makes a space feel comfortable and inviting. For this reason, having brown upholstery, a chocolate colored wall, or wooden furniture can be a good addition to a meeting room. Using raw wood in a large, open workspace is an easy way to create a feeling of comfort.

White invokes a sense of spaciousness. It is neutral, so goes with most things, though if not broken up with other colors, can be sterile and bland. Apart from walls, using white to furnish requires time and money, since it dirties quickly, especially in a high-traffic environment like a coworking space. In some cultures white is the color of mourning.

There is often a compulsion to try to make small, darker spaces appear larger by painting them white. An alternative is to embrace their qualities, and use these rooms to create cozy, warm and inviting atmospheres. Use browns, burgundies and bronzes to create a sophisticated and comfortable spaces, perfect for informal meeting rooms or chill-out areas.

While the color yellow in the western world is considered happy, it actually increases impatience and irrationality. Yellow is also the most difficult color to look at and causes strain to the eyes. Avoid overusing yellow in a workspace for this reason. Golds, on the other hand, are easier on the eye, and are a good way to add an element of finesse and luxury to a workspace without spending big. Think cornices and skirting boards.

Black absorbs all light in the color spectrum, so avoid using blocks of black which can be oppressive. It is also used for mourning in Western cultures, so can drain positivity from a space. On the other hand, black is considered a technical color, and so can be a good choice for hackerspaces and tech-oriented coworking spaces. It also denotes power and control. A few black cushions can give your space a strong and empowered feeling.

Pale purples, like lavenders and lilacs, are calming and relaxing, and do not promote enthusiasm or creativity, so should be avoided in areas dedicated to work. Royal purple, however, symbolises royalty (no surprises there) and wealth. As it is rarely found in nature and can appear artificial.

Despite the fact that up until the mid-20th century pink – as it is a tint of red – was a masculine color, modern associations link it to femininity. Pink is believed to have a calming effect, and many refer to the instance of pink-painted prison cells reducing aggression of inmates. This belief is contested, but given its association with femininity, it does not lend itself to a coworking space’s décor.

 

Whatever colors you choose

Decorate your space from light to dark, vertically – like in nature. A ceiling that is darker than the floor creates uneasiness and is inharmonious.

If you have a statement piece of furniture or a sizeable work of art that you know will adorn your space, consider these when picking color schemes and soft furnishings. Take our colors from the piece, or use complementary colors to accentuate it.

Existing interior features

Work with the existing interior, and highlight interesting features. Much like artwork, columns, external gas and water pipes and stucco are interesting to look at and give a room texture. Use contrasting colors to highlight them, or paint them to help pick up other features in the room. These features are good ways to add warm hues – reds, oranges, and yellows – to a room without being over the top.

Temperature control

If your space has an abundance of natural afternoon sunlight, including orange in your color scheme is probably not a good move. Likewise, a dark room shouldn’t be painted blue. Colors change the perception of temperature, and so to  help reduce the amount spent on air conditioning and heating, use certain color schemes to create a feeling of warmth or coolness.

Restrooms

Put thought into your WCs. Coworkers will appreciate a well-kept and attractive bathroom, both for themselves and any clients they receive. Feature walls in patterned wallpaper or bold colors can work well in these areas.

Façade

Decorating doesn’t stop inside – don’t forget about your building’s façade: it’s the first impression that anyone has of your space. A bright cobalt blue building like 654 Work Cottage in Grand Rapids, Michigan may be just what the doctor ordered to draw attention to your space and encourage people to find out more about coworking.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean a paint job. There are many creative ways to create a block of color on a façade, like MIDORI.so in Tokyo.

Paying attention to décor is of the utmost importance for a coworking space. The more comfortable and relaxed, yet motivated and enthusiastic they feel, the more likely they are to spend time in a space.

THE POWER OF COLLABORATION

July 28th, 2011

 

With a few simple ground rules, collaboration between designers and other professionals can produce remarkable results.

If there is one word that clearly defines the future of the interiors profession, it might be “collaboration.” Boundaries that once compartmentalized all design professionals in neat boxes of disciplines are being systematically erased by technology, integration and globalization. 

With ever-increasing complexities in design projects and higher performance expectations from owners and clients, the future is clear: No man or woman can be an island in the design profession. Most designers will acknowledge that acting together in teams can increase the success of problem solving, whether by reducing project costs or increasing building efficiencies. But collaboration is the next rung up the ladder, and such deeper thinking can give birth to unique approaches and concepts.

Collaboration is much more than the intersection of shared goals and objectives. If approached with mutual intent, it can be a process that creates a communal mind, bringing a group together to develop solutions in spite of diverse points of view, ranges of professional experiences and the promotion of individual advocacies. At the highest levels of the collaborative process, design teams may even consider untested possibilities that foster unexpected, innovative and novel outcomes.

Achieving a high level of successful collaboration requires a few key steps, and it starts with a clear agenda and an articulation of the desired outcomes. Taking the time to fully define client criteria, outline the project requirements and assess any circumstances is essential to achieving objectives. But avoid being too prescriptive in the first conversations with the team so participants feel open to freely contribute.

In his book, Collaboration, Morten T. Hansen, a management professor at the UC Berkley School of Information, expresses the importance of determining what is ultimately desired in the collaborative process, writing, “In their eagerness to get people to tear down silos and work in cross-unit teams, leaders often forget that the goal of collaboration is not collaboration itself, but results.”

The makeup of the team is also vital to achieving success at higher levels. The more difficult or complex the design problem, the more diverse in skills, expertise and disciplines the team should be. Having a facilitator with authority can also get the team focused on desired outcomes and keep everyone from getting bogged down in trying to solve every small detail. Leave the minute detailing to others or consider tasking small breakout groups with solving one part or component.

Whether the collaboration is in person with the use of white board and markers or as a virtual group over the Internet, there needs to be a high level of trust. Nothing will deter collaboration more than a lack of trust and accountability, so it is important to establish an atmosphere of goodwill, honesty and transparency.

Another step to creating successful collaborative outcomes is to agree in advance what the primary decision-making process will be. Will it be by majority, unanimous, recommendations that are then delegated to others or by group consensus? And what should occur when the team reaches an impasse? Establishing rules will be easier if all agree up front how roadblocks are to be handled.

If there is a deadline for certain important or critical decisions, make sure that it is near the top of the agenda. Have ample and sufficient time set aside to allow everyone to contribute their concepts freely and openly. The vetting of collaborative ideas permits a concept to grow and evolve into appropriate solutions, so be realistic about the amount of time and effort that may be needed.

Finally, ensure there is a methodology for evaluating the collaborative process. This helps the participants to know how well they did, whether some or all of the strategies will be implemented and who is to be responsible for the implementation.

Andrew Carnegie defined collaboration exceedingly well when he said, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision; the ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows uncommon results.”

The collaborative design process can be used for projects of varying shapes and sizes. It can even be applied to address social and environmental challenges. Imagine the opportunity to collaborate with interdisciplinary groups to raise the quality of lives around the planet. Whether designing affordable housing, creating retreats for at-risk youths or working with the disadvantaged to ensure safe, secure environments, the process of collaborative design can lead to solutions to such complex global problems. Remarkable things can and do happen when we collaborate.

Source:  Interiors and Sources – April 2011

LET THERE BE (DAY) LIGHT

April 21st, 2011

Proper daylight harvesting can reduce the need for electrically-supplied lighting during daytime periods 

 Many design professionals have adopted daylight integration strategies within existing buildings and new construction projects, thanks to the acceptance in recent years of sustainable building principles and the recognized benefits to occupants.

Design teams are now creating and retrofitting facilities that effectively introduce daylight where the occupants need it most. But while bringing more natural light in is encouraging, there is such a thing as too much daylight, and the best way to achieve daylight integration is through a balanced approach.

 A Balanced Approach
You can introduce natural daylight into a building through a variety of means—each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The most common daylight delivery strategies include side-lighting (vertical glazing), top-lighting (skylights, roof monitors and tubular daylight delivery systems) and directional daylight systems (prismatic or sunlight concentrating systems). Developing a balanced day lighting design will most likely include more than one (or all) of these common delivery strategies.

 Balanced daylight design is a selective and methodical approach that delivers more light consistently throughout a space with lower lighting level fluctuations during the day and the seasons. Good daylight design can achieve lighting power reduction from 30 to 65 percent. To know which strategies will best serve your project, examine how well your space has access to unobstructed exposure to the sky. While daylight levels change constantly, the sky—excluding direct exposure to the sun—provides the most consistent indirect daylight, which is easier to design for.

Gain a better understanding of how daylight may be introduced within your project by performing an assessment of the surrounding built environment. Study how the sun moves across the sky during the day. Evaluate seasonal weather and local climate patterns (cloudiness in winter, etc.). If your region is cloudy a majority of the time, your space will receive a lower amount of overall daylight, so your strategies may need to be more aggressive.

 Surface Finishes
Daylight quality is a direct product of how light is reflected off surfaces. That’s why both interior and exterior surfaces play such a big role in how we interpret if a space is well-lit. Surface color and texture greatly influence how light is distributed throughout a space. Higher reflective surfaces reflect light so the space appears brighter, while darker surfaces absorb more light and may make a space seem poorly lit.

 Strategically locate higher reflective surfaces within a room to best enhance daylight distribution. For example, vertical surfaces adjacent to a window typically should be lighter in color so the eye is capable of adjusting between the lighting levels coming through the window and other surfaces. Typically the first 15 feet of the wall surfaces perpendicular to the side lighting or top lighting glazing surface should be light colored. Be mindful that lighter colored flooring or polished surfaces, such as marble, may cause unwanted glare problems due to the mirror-like surface. Try to find wall finishes with reflectance values of 55 percent or higher. Keep in mind that wood surfaces, even ash and pine, will have reflectance below 50 percent and will get darker as the wood patinas over time.

 HVAC Systems
Proper daylight harvesting can reduce the need for electrically-supplied lighting during daytime periods, which will also reduce a space’s cooling demand. However, you need to select the right strategy to realize those interactive savings. For instance, a new skylight may bring in more light, but if the location and size are not chosen properly the skylight may be a source of unwanted heat gain in summer and heat loss in winter. Factor in all of the effects your daylight strategy will have on the performance of the space’s HVAC system when determining the overall savings of that strategy. In existing facilities, the introduction of additional day lighting strategies may put unwanted burdens on existing HVAC systems, causing higher energy and maintenance costs.

 When installing a daylight system, consider how the strategy can satisfy multiple purposes and positively influence building performance. Leverage your client’s capital investment so that the daylight system will also accomplish another energy or comfort-related measure. One example is to design the skylight or roof monitor with operable windows to encourage passive exhausting and/or the introduction of natural ventilation.

 Daylight Controls
Allowing daylight into your building is just one part of the solution. Another aspect is controlling and managing the daylight so it doesn’t cause glare or visual discomfort. You can incorporate fixed controls, such as an exterior shading device or an interior lighting shelf, to shade unwanted direct sunlight penetration from entering through vertical glazed fenestrations. Other controls, like retractable blinds and shade clothes, electro-chromatic glazing, etc., can be activated automatically or through occupant input. Due to human nature, however, occupants that lower shades or close blinds to block out glare often forget to raise them again, which essentially undermines your daylight strategy and negates any electrical lighting savings.

 Effective day lighting can enhance a building’s spatial qualities, reduce the load on electrically-supplied lighting and provide significant occupant benefits, such as increased productivity, better employee retention and increased retail sales. As you retrofit your next project or are designing a new one, seek out opportunities to incorporate daylight and gain the benefits in energy reduction and occupant satisfaction

 By Eric McDaniel

Eric McDaniel, Associate AIA, LEED AP, is a technical consultant at Green Building Services Inc

KNOLL REFF PROFILES & AUTOSTRADA AWARDED LEVEL 3 BIFMA CERTIFICATION

March 23rd, 2011

 October 19, 2010 — Knoll, Inc. (NYSE: KNL) today announced that the Company’s Reff Profiles™ and AustoStrada™ furniture for open plan workspaces and private offices have achieved BIFMA level™ 3 certification from Scientific Certification Systems (SCS). level™ 3 is the highest rating that a product can achieve under the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association’s (BIFMA) furniture sustainability standard. Reff Profiles and AutoStrada are also GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality Certified®.Designed by Brian Graham, Reff Profiles™ is a functional and aesthetic evolution of the popular Reff System, which is known for its breadth of easily reconfigured open and private office solutions and wood excellence. Reff Profiles extends this heritage with a more progressive, efficient architectural presence. Conceived with the private office in mind, Reff Profiles underscores the longstanding Reff benefits of refined wood detailing, planning flexibility and breadth of options. Reff Profiles, introduced at NeoCon 2010, is available for order entry.AutoStrada epitomizes modern architectural thinking, offering a distinct, singular aesthetic for collaborative, open plan and private office applications. Manufactured using clean technology, including water-based adhesives, powder coating on metal, powder coating on wood and UV-cured wood coating, all of which are virtually VOC-free, AutoStrada is available in FSC-certified composite wood, GREENGUARD Certified, and can help meet the U.S. Green Building Council LEED® requirements.

BIFMA has established level™ as a common framework against which to evaluate the environmental and social responsibility of a variety of products. level™ is part of BIFMA’s ongoing development of voluntary product and industry standards that support safe, healthy and sustainable workplaces. To achieve level™ certification, Knoll partners with Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), known for its integrity and scientific rigor.

In the BIFMA level certification process, a product, the organization and facilities that produced it are scored according to sustainability criteria in four areas: Materials; Energy and Atmosphere; Human and Ecosystem Health; and Social Responsibility.

“Knoll continues to take leadership steps toward sustainability,” said Stowe Hartridge-Beam, level program manager at Scientific Certification Systems. “Once again, Knoll’s level 3 certification reflects their achievements in waste and greenhouse gas emissions reduction, human and ecosystem health, and social responsibility.”

Antenna Workspaces™, Generation by Knoll® and Dividends Horizon® have previously achieved level™ 3 BIFMA Certification from the Scientific Certification Systems.

“Level certification highlights our long-standing commitment to third-party programs that provide independent verification of environmental standards. The BIFMA sustainability program reinforces our efforts to pioneer clean manufacturing policies that protect the biosphere and conserve natural resources,” said Lou Newett, Knoll Health and Safety Manager, who leads the Company’s environmental sustainability efforts.

Knoll focuses on three key environmental areas: climate change, third party certification and environmentally-friendly products and manufacturing processes. The Company has also certified products under the SMaRT© Consensus Sustainable Product Standard, achieving SMaRT certification for Generation by Knoll (Platinum); Life (Gold); Chadwick (Gold); Calibre (Gold); Moment (Gold); and Template (Gold). In addition, Knoll recently established FSC® (Forest Stewardship Council) certified wood as the standard for general open plan office systems, casegoods and tables, recognizing that sustainable wood harvesting can contribute to reversing environmental and social trends. (FSC is the international standard setting body for defining and measuring a well managed forest and providing traceability through chain-of-custody certification.)

Knoll operates 10 LEED® certified showrooms in North America, including its Platinum certified facility in Toronto. The Knoll East Greenville, PA Lubin manufacturing facility is LEED Gold certified under the Existing Building pilot program; it is also an OSHA VPP Star site.