Control Room Design criteria

April 24, 2015

The design criteria for control rooms are as dynamic as the speed of change in the associated technology. Needless to say, the technology is only one part of the design criteria, but the ergonomics will always be the same. The reason for the latter is merely that the human factor and external body influences will always be the same, as the body does not change much over time.


The reader immediately recognised that there are two parts to this chapter, in the design criteria for the control room. The first one will be, what design criteria do you need to follow due to technology enhancements? The second criteria stays more or less the same at all times, ergonomics, i.e. chair type, back support, arm support, operational time, etc. Having mentioned the above, we will exclude the policies and procedures for now.

The technology used in a control room today, could be divided into hardware and software.  These items change and develop at a rapid pace, and the outcome is very favourable for control room operations. Just some of the items which are changing monthly are for example flat screen, powerful switching, IP signals, smart search, screen switching etc.


The ergonomics will always be a standard, where you have to calculate the time frame which the operator will be able to view the screen effectively and the physical strain on a human body. There are definitely factors which put strain on the neck, the eyes, the hands and the back. These are the major aspects to the design and it needs to be investigated thoroughly.


The neck is influenced by the distance from the screen, the elevation and height of the screen on top, the lower section, and the horizontal position.


The back is influenced by the type of chair used and the duration sitting in the chair during the shift.  The eyes are influenced by the quality of light within the control during daytime and night time, as well as the quality of the monitor used, minimal flickering and contrast levels.


There are other, smaller type “strains”, which must be considered as well, in ensuring effective control room staff. The individual needs to be screened in assuring that the customer does get the most effective operator for the task, at hand. The policies and procedures need to be drafted to ensure that all the operations, technical support and output are well managed, and obviously the customer receives value for money.


The hardware used today is very different to that used a year ago, due to the rapid speed of technological advances. Time Tech is always on top of the latest trends and developments on a continuous basis, and the influence of these developments contributes vastly to the design changes. Some of the technological advances are the, ”flickering” of the screen, quality of the image, illumination and contrast of the display, the refresh rate of the pixels, the angle of view, the anti-burn-in of the image, just to mention a few. 


The software considerations are valid as well. The latest black screen technology is being used more and more. The trend towards decision making has moved towards the electronics as well, away from the human factor. We have come across various types or versions of software, where the intelligence is built into the controller, or PC software for that matter. Due to various reasons, which I will not discuss now, the decision making of what to happen, who to report to and what to switch to where, etc. is more and more left to the rules as set up.


Therefore, the design criteria used in designing a control room, has many aspects, and all of these must be considered in ensuring an outcome as determined by the customer. The question is always asked, “did your control room design team consider all the aspects?”


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