Grid with images of four different control rooms. A text overlay says, "Control Room Design is Not One Size Fits All"

Control Room Design is Not One Size Fits All

While all control rooms share some common traits — consistent data monitoring, a dedicated team of analysts — the truth is that every control room is different, with unique needs and pain points. Control room design is not one size fits all. There is not one single solution that will meet the needs of all projects equally.

Customized design

For a successful control room design, you need a design partner who will give your project the individual attention it deserves, working with you to conduct an analysis of your needs to produce a customized solution. Choosing custom design rather than attempting to force something “right out of the box” to fit will ultimately result in a more successful control room that’s a better investment of your time and money.

Operator considerations

One key part of customizing control room design is considering the operators who will work in the space day in and day out. While principles of ergonomics are fairly standard, how they’re best applied is unique to each environment.

Technical furniture/consoles

Control rooms often require long shifts, which can be taxing on both mind and body. Selecting the right furniture makes a difference in operator comfort and performance.

Adjustable height consoles are a popular ergonomic furniture choice for operations centers. The ability to switch between sitting and standing positions results in less stress and fatigue. Mental health studies show links between extended periods of sedentary time and an increased risk of depression and anxiety. Being able to switch between sitting and standing can help to alleviate these stressors for your operators. Additionally, the chance to stand during the workday promotes increased energy.

Sit/stand desks for control rooms must not just be ergonomic, however. The needs of mission critical are more demanding than your standard office environment, and the furniture needs to be built for considerations of cable management, equipment access, and power and data requirements in addition to operator comfort.

Monitor placement

Each control room application has their own preferences and requirements about the number of monitors at each operator position. This will determine the optimal design for layout in relation to the video wall as well as console requirements.

Also, monitor position plays an important role in ergonomics for each analyst. Monitor placement affects the position of an operator’s shoulders and back. Articulating monitor arms allow each operator to place their monitors where they are most comfortable. A typical viewing distance for monitors should be about 30” from the operator, but adjustable monitor arms allow analysts to tailor to their individual preferences. Monitor distance affects more than eye strain; a monitor that is placed too far forward or back can cause operators to unconsciously lean or overextend their arms.

Sight line analysis 

Line of sight is important for both information sharing and ergonomics. The large video wall, integral to control room design, is the key tool for collaboration for all operators in the space. Ensuring each operator has optimal line of sight to the video wall is crucial in their performance. Being able to see all information as it becomes available is vital in a mission critical environment.

Conducting a sight line analysis is a crucial part of control room design that affects the layout of the entire space. Operators must be able to see the information on the video wall with minimal head or neck movement or interruption to their work.

display wall line of sight with sightline analysisTypically, a video wall should be placed at about average seated eye level, just above the top of  the monitor displays at a console. The goal when conducting a sight line analysis is to make sure that operators will have no more than 25 degrees maximum eye rotation. That way, they don’t have to bend their heads back to look at the data displayed on the wall. The analysis also takes into account what would be in the field of vision to the right and left for someone sitting at a desk. With a sight line analysis, control room designers try to maximize what they can see with just eye rotation before they have to turn their heads.

It’s not always exact however, and  the design engineers at Constant take all elements into account to create the best possible setup for each unique project. For example, the size of monitors and console desks affects video wall placement; if there are very large display monitors operators will need to see over, the display wall has to be higher. The architecture of the control room is also a determining factor. Ceiling height is often a fixed element that can add complications to the ideal design of a video wall. For instance, if a display should ideally start at 5 feet off the floor in a particular room but the ceiling height would not accommodate it, it may need to be shifted down.

The sight line analysis can become even more complicated once multiple rows of operator consoles are considered, especially if there are adjustable height consoles in the mix. Often, a tiered floor can help counteract this, allowing operators in the back to see over the heads of operators in front of them. At Constant, we will work with your architects and contractors to create the best solution for the specific needs of your space. All of this detailed optimization is a delicate balancing act that requires the expertise of an experienced mission critical designer.

Lighting

An unexpectedly impactful element of control room design is lighting. While light performs the basic function of illuminating the command center environment, it can also serve other purposes. Lighting in a control room space can emphasize particular elements, directionality, and direct line of sight. Furthermore, lighting can dictate the energy and atmosphere of a room. High contrast lighting in a darker space creates a sense of drama well-suited to control rooms used for tours. Subdued lighting creates an atmosphere of calm focus, while bright ambient lighting promotes an energetic space and promotes wakefulness.

From a design psychology standpoint, lighting is a powerful component of a project. The lighting in a space can influence the behaviors of its occupants, so the intended behavior in a command center should play a part in lighting plan considerations. Because most control rooms don’t have windows, the lighting that you choose plays an even more important role in contributing to operator comfort. One option is to design the lighting to follow circadian rhythms, adjusting throughout each shift to reduce tiredness and increase alertness.

Lighting also adds an opportunity to add customization to a space, especially if it will be a branded space used for site tours. As part of our console customization options, Constant can add colored LED downlighting to consoles. This color of the lighting can be changed depending on the context

view into a command center with dramatic blue lightSpatial design

The spatial design and layout of a control room is a key element to how the space functions as well as operator comfort and safety.  When done well, space design takes into account more than just simply the number of users. Ergonomic, human-centric design takes into account the working relationship between users, workstations, offices, common spaces, the video wall, and more.

Coming up with a layout for your control room design is a foundational step that affects everything else in the room. The ideal spatial layout includes a number of factors: how many operators will be in the room? What equipment is required at each position? Will collaboration spaces be located within or adjacent to the control room?

The Constant Technologies team helps you review all these requirements and develops multiple design options to find how best to configure your space. It’s important to do this in the early phases of your project to be sure that you have allocated enough space for the operations center. Figuring out if you’ve planned for enough space early on, when floor plans can still be adjusted, is vital.

Consider the acoustics of the space

Ergonomics is not just about eye strain and neck pain; it includes other ways of creating an optimal working environment including how sound behaves within the space. Concentration is crucial to optimal performance in mission critical environments, and too much ambient noise can hinder your operators’ ability to concentrate on difficult tasks.

As you begin room design, consider factors such as how the layout may affect the acoustics of the room. Who needs to hear what? Is there anywhere that you should avoid placing operators to ensure they are not distracted by noise?

Also discuss with architects and contractors your options for muffling sound in the room to ensure optimal concentration. Consider acoustic paneling.

As a provider of AV integration, console furniture, and overall spatial design, Constant does not specialize in acoustic design, but we work closely with all your vendors to ensure a cohesive room design that covers all your bases. And even AV technology choices have some bearings on the ambient noise in a control room. An important element of control center design is knowing which equipment can operate silently and which components will need to be located in another space so the noise from cooling systems cannot be heard. Improper planning or installation can lead to distracting noise levels from the fans necessary to cool equipment racks. Constant’s experts know which components should be located in a separate rack room versus at operator desks.

Project management tailored to your installation  

No two control rooms are exactly the same. Creating a control room is a highly complex project that requires personalized attention. When you begin your process with Constant Technologies, we conduct a detailed needs analysis to begin crafting a solution that meets your specific requirements. Everything from the video wall technology to the layout to the furniture selected depends on your specific use case and particular needs.

After discussing your requirements, we begin crafting conceptual layouts. We create multiple detailed views and revisions until your exact needs and wants are met. We also make sure to use this time to confirm important components of the architectural drawing design set such as wall blocking, conduit locations, and floor tile cutouts. For the design to be finalized, it must meet internal design standards as well. Multiple design engineers will review the concepts and details to ensure quality and share insights.

Once a layout has been determined, we also create AV design diagrams. The AV drawings Constant produces give a precisely detailed view of exactly how your video wall system will be set up. AV design engineers determine drop locations and make a cable pull schedule. This occurs early in the design process to ensure that cables are pulled to the appropriate locations ahead of time, saving any future headache. Constant’s audiovisual design also includes details for equipment racks and AV schematics.

Our thorough design and project management process sets up your control room design for success. The detailed documentation we create ensures seamless, efficient installation so that your customized design is brought to life exactly as planned.

From sales to design to installation, each department at Constant works together as a team to provide a solution that best serves you, tailoring each step to the unique requirements of your project. The care that Constant puts into each and every project is evident in the finished product and the high level of service and support available after installation is completed.

To learn more about our control room design services, contact us today. Our design and budget consultation is free.

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About Constant:

Constant Technologies, Inc. provides AV integration for 24/7 video walls and custom operation center furniture. With 30+years experience we can work with sensitive environments in the public and private sectors. Constant designs and installs projects of all scopes and sizes around in the world. We also offer long-term service and support. We create solutions with the highest levels of security, aesthetics and functionality in mind.