Ergonomics – design way

What do you think of see-saw T-Table, a broom that fits easier while stowed away, a square rolling pin may be?


Architect Katerina Kamprani has created many such beautiful deigns which is named “The uncomfortable”(link is in the reference section). While Katerina’s design flaws are too obvious let’s see how ergonomics and human factors influence a design process.

Now, let’s talk about our workplace. We all prefer working in a space that offers more functionality- where the design is made in such a fashion that it accommodates the users’ need optimally.

Most of us who happen to drive or rent a new model car can relate to this easily. Although it takes a while to familiarize with the new settings, the design of the cars allow us to adjust the interior and other equipment according to user’s need.

The emphasis on users need is paramount to the design of such products. It is not only crucial to general safety and comfort; one simple error due to usability issue can lead to life threatening accidents. However, the possibility of errors and accidents at a workplace is usually not taken as seriously as in driving a car. As a result, at times it costs us more than expected with respect to manpower, operations cost and productivity loss.

Ergonomics considerations since the beginning of the design project not only make the space more usable and optimize for the users but also it saves money.

The original aim of ergonomics is to reduce the mismatch between human – product – systems to make it more productive.

 Until recently, ergonomics was considered as a reactive discipline – when industries worldwide responded only after an injury or mishap (like MSD etc.) occurred due to a faulty design in the workplace. The problem is that ergonomics was always projected as a cost. Which is not exactly the aim of ergonomics! The main approach of ergonomics is always being very proactive which works at the system level. Always it focused on how to control the problems at the beginning not reacting after the problem happened.

Most exciting development happened in the field of Ergonomics very recently in US with the inclusion of ergonomics within the green building frame work under the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED).  

Why it is important to think about ergonomics in relation to Green design? Phenomenal changes had happened during past decades in green design. 10-15 years back people did not even think about it but today its implementation is becoming vital all over the world. Policy makers realize that to optimize health, wellness, performance and productivity of an effective work-space you have to consider human need within that space.

From an economic perspective if we consider a life cycle cost analysis of a building, it is shown that most of the cost (92%) of total cost for a cycle of 30 years’ period goes towards the personnel/occupants of that building. Economic studies shown that if the productivity is increased by 1% it can cover the total energy cost of that building over 30 years!

Instead of fixing the problems resulting from the poor design choices of others conventionally practiced in ergonomics, it is high time we should rethink into the matter & rebrand our design with inclusion of ergonomics in design process.

With the recent green building practices where a LEED point now can be earned for good ergonomics at the design stage of a project means that the ergonomic products, the ergonomics training and an ergonomics process all must be in place prior to the space ever being occupied. Through this proactive approach ergonomics is actively playing a very significant role in the design process rather than responding to the problems reported by the organizations translating to directly into economic incentives.It contributes in the building design through optimizing task analysis, environmental requirement like lighting, temperature, selection of the furniture and space design.

Therefore we can comfortably say that considering ergonomics as a strategy and including it at the early stage of design process not only a smart choice; it has a long term economic benefit for the organizations as well. 

Do you think Ergonomics should be included in the design process? Drop us a message with your thoughts.


  •, Apr 8, 2014
  • Alan Hedge et al., Green” Ergonomics: Advocating for the Human Element in Buildings, Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 54th Annual Meeting – 2010


Acknowledgement: Mr.Ramji Thiagrajan