When thinking about the structure of a control room, it is normal to think about the tangible components that will allow the activities to be carried out in that environment; from the components of infrastructure, electronics, communications or software, to the most sophisticated analytical components typical of the operation of the control center.
But, what about the functional needs that each user of this room requires? Who attends them? And even more, how are they solved?
How many times have we not come across at GESAB that we have provided computer equipment users with the best monitor to work with, but it has not been placed at the correct height or distance; or that they are provided with tools, such as a Joystick for greater usability, but the operators do not have space in their control console to place it, much less to use it correctly; or we provide them with the best visualization system, but they cannot see it correctly because there are reflections; or a workstation has been implemented without a prior usability analysis resulting in loose, disorganized and disconnected cables or, in the worst case, key buttons pressed due to lack of maneuverability in the space.
The cases mentioned are just some examples that users sometimes report and how small inconsistencies can generate major incidents, errors in operation and failures in the control room.
Where to begin?
The first thing to understand is that a control room is a space destined to be critical at all times, so the high demand for the activities carried out there must be subject to a correct analysis of all tangible and intangible components that make it up. In this way, the level of analysis and attention to detail will be proportional to the criticality of the room.
It is important to mention that there are many sources of information where the best practices and recommendations made by the ISO11064 standard on the ergonomic design of control centers are exposed. This standard mentions seven sections that pave the way for the aspects to consider when developing the design of a control room and provide some rules for deciding within the building which space to choose to implement it.
Next, a brief guide has been prepared on the design process of a control center, taking into account from the choice of physical space to the components that will comprise it.
Harmony in design
To achieve a harmonious design in the control center, the following elements must be perfectly integrated:
- Space. The first point is to define the number of operators that will be incorporated into the room, respecting the space necessary for a correct ergonomics of each one of them. Once the total required space has been defined, the external elements that could generate a problem in the execution of the activity must be consider, for example, having the site on one floor and the control center on several levels of difference. Within this point, future extensions and technological updates should also be considered.
- Environmental factors. Here come various environmental requirements such as lighting, temperature, vibrations, aesthetics, air quality and acoustic environment, applicable for control centers of all kinds of activities, from spaces for process control to emergency services; and, although they are oriented to conventional centers, they can be scaled to other environments such as containers, ships and even airplanes. It is essential to ensure that the control center has the minimum standards for uninterrupted operation.
- Materials and design. Due to the infinity of materials with which we can build a control center, it is appropriate to mention the physical characteristics that they must meet: sound absorbency, light reflection and the ability to maximize the optimization of a space. For this, a material such as topakustik, the use of matte vinyl paints and the construction system of the raised floor to hide all types of cables and ductwork would be taken into account.
Once the structure of the control center has been decided, the search for a physical space in the facilities must be started in which to be able to implement all the previous elements according to the number of positions necessary for the operation of the room. In addition, the chosen location must be in a strategic position to be able to solve operational needs during an emergency, whether it has an adjacent room to make critical decisions or several exit doors designed for a quick arrival at the scene of the emergency itself.
Once the ideal space for the room has been selected, the various areas that will make up the control center will begin to be designed. These are internal spaces for different functionalities, which can be found the circulation area, operation, waiting for visits, rest areas and toilets, among others.
Then, after having defined the physical space and its division, it will be time to begin to identify the external and internal environmental factors, as important as the aspects mentioned so far.
On the one hand, if the objective is the implementation of a 24/7 operations center, the external factors are composed of the natural light inputs and the temperature of the space during the day and the night. On the other hand, the internal factors would be made up of the space where the site is located and the space where the VideoWall would be placed, capable of meeting the isoptic requirements necessary for all operators. For the large screen to be adequate for the space, construction systems will be used, for example, staggering the area so that all users have a clear view of the information displayed on the VideoWall.
The control center already has adequate space and the internal areas are defined, so the best distribution will begin to be designed for the operators, putting as basic exes the space, visual orientation, ergonomics, the technology that will be implemented and the budget allocated for the project. It is essential to have specialized technical furniture that covers all the needs for ergonomics, comfort and connectivity to obtain the best optimization and efficiency of space.
Following correctly the steps indicated, the end result will be a comprehensive control space, where operations will flow naturally and without distractions; with operators always prepared, since elements such as ergonomics and the architecture of the space, will make their task easier by optimizing the response time and resolution of alerts.