Creating a control room is a complex process. These spaces are essential to the most vital operations of an organization, responsible for preventing and responding to critical events. When planning a mission critical environment, there are several elements that require careful consideration. Here are several key elements to take into consideration when creating your control room.
By this point, the term “operator-centric” is well-known in the world of command and control. Creating a control room that is operator-centric means that you design with the operator in mind first. Cultivating a thorough understanding of workflows, business processes, and other daily interactions with the actual control room is important to make a 24/7 space that works as intended. User input is key to designing a control room that facilitates the operator’s critical and daily tasks.
Additionally, operator comfort is a consideration that shouldn’t be overlooked. These rooms are staffed for long shifts; operators need to be there, and comfortably, for hours at a time in potentially stressful situations. Without conscientious design, the elements of your control room – or the people who staff it – will be worn down in months.
Here are some operator-centric considerations to take into account for your design:
Line of sight
Operators in a control room need to maintain situational awareness at all times. Having workstation monitors and the central video wall within easy viewing distance is critical to establishing and maintaining it. Viewing angles are also important, not just for ease of use but also for ergonomic considerations. When planning out your control room, it’s important to conduct a sight line analysis that examines operator placement in relation to displays to reduce strain on the eyes and neck.
Lighting and temperature
It’s important to create an environment that is comfortable for the operators, who work long shifts and sometimes deal with stressful situations. The control room should maintain a comfortable temperature and lighting that facilitates a healthy circadian rhythm. Room temperature and air quality can enhance or detract from the work environment, so make sure to include climate zones and air filtration in the overall design plan. Having a dedicated and separate server room for the A/V equipment helps compensate for the heat they produce as well as keeping the noise level down. When it comes to control room lighting, it’s important to strike a balance – light that’s too low can contribute to operator burnout, but too much can wash out the visuals. As a best practice, control room design should include indirect lighting that can be easily controlled by operators in the space. Thankfully, advances in technology mean that the overall room can be much brighter than the operations centers of the past without rendering the video wall unusable, so operators can adjust based on their comfort levels without worrying about the integrity of the display technology.
When it comes to operator comfort and ergonomics, the furniture is also critical. Sitting at a desk for hours on end can have a negative impact on the body and mind. It’s important that the consoles where operators sit are designed to keep them comfortable and alert. This includes optimizing consoles to present information at eye level, adequate equipment, and cable management, and can also include variability in worksurface height so operators can adjust to their comfort levels. Sit-stand desks are a popular option that allows operators to adjust their desks to various positions throughout the shift.
The technology in a control room is the centerpiece of the space. From the video wall that forms the common operating picture to the setup at each operator workstation, each element contributes to the overall performance of the control room and needs to function flawlessly. Here are some important considerations for your control room technology.
Ease of use
Control rooms are complex environments with constantly shifting priorities. The technology in a mission critical space needs to simplify the operations process, not further complicate it. From tangled cords to disconnected systems, there are a number of potential stumbling blocks. An experienced integrator can ensure that your technology is easy for operators to use, which in turn ensures a streamlined response during critical events.
The control system for your mission critical space should include an intuitive graphical user interface. With an intuitive interface, operators will need little additional training to understand how to quickly direct sources to where viewers need them. Programming for the control system can include preset configurations, allowing operators to complete a series of actions with a single command. This can especially be beneficial when operators need to quickly reconfigure the display wall during an escalation of events.
In addition, the AV racks should be well-dressed – meaning the cables should be neat and organized rather than overlapping and tangled. An organized rack means it will be easy to identify sources and cables anytime a user needs to add or switch sources. A messy AV rack makes it harder for users to identify exactly what they are looking at. Having a well-organized rack decreases the chances of accidentally disconnecting the wrong source, which is critical in a demanding operation center.
In a control room, unreliable technology is simply not an option. In these environments, the technology needs to run continually without downtime, so choosing reliable tech is vital. Even a brief failure could lead to major issues in mission critical, where your organization’s most vital assets are on the line. Control rooms, therefore, require video walls designed for 24/7 use, a level of reliability that not all displays are designed to provide. An integrator can choose the most reliable video wall components from the vast display technology market and guide you toward the solution that will be best suited for your use case. Additionally, the video wall system design can have built-in redundancies and fail-safe measures to ensure uptime as well as a design that allows for quick and easy servicing.
Proper planning is essential
Control rooms are vital and complex environments that require proper planning to function as needed. Taking shortcuts in this process is not wise, and could prove costly in the future. If you don’t take the time to plan carefully, potential issues could include:
- A congested space that doesn’t adequately accommodate workflow
- No room for future changes such as the addition of people or equipment
- A poorly optimized space that is uncomfortable for operators, leading to drops in satisfaction and performance
- Technology that needs frequent replacement or servicing
It can be expensive to try and fix a control room you’ve just invested in. It’s better to do it right the first time around, with trusted partners and thorough planning.
It’s important to consider the details of your planned space at the beginning of the project process to ensure that design and construction fit your ultimate objectives. Considerations include:
- The size of the room
- How many operators the room will need to accommodate
- The equipment needed in your operations center
- Ergonomics and operator comfort
- Whether you will include a collaboration space, and where
- Video wall system requirements including sources
- Any potential additional use cases such as tours
- Potential future growth
There are a lot of elements that affect the ideal design for your space, and the most successful projects take them all into account before finalizing plans.
Getting all important partners involved in the project before construction begins is also key to getting it right the first time. At Constant, we interface with your architects and interior designers before we ever step foot on site to make sure that our work flows seamlessly with theirs. The earlier you get us involved in your project, the better. By having thorough conversations at the outset about your wants and needs, we can determine an informed route forward for sourcing, cabling, and everything else for the integration of your video wall system.
There are a lot of details to plan for when designing your control room, and it can seem overwhelming – especially when the outcome is so critical. That’s why Constant works with you all the way from concept through completion. Our experienced designers, project managers, installers, and service technicians will guide you through each step with expertise honed through installations all over the world.
If you’re planning a control room project, working with us is the key to ensuring your project’s success. To learn more about our services and to receive a free design consultation, contact us today.
Constant Technologies, Inc. provides AV integration for 24/7 video walls and custom operation center furniture. With 30+ years of experience, we can work with sensitive environments in the public and private sectors. Constant designs and installs projects of all scopes and sizes around the world. We also offer long-term service and support. We create solutions with the highest levels of security, aesthetics and functionality in mind.