UKVMA recently took the opportunity to question members of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF) about how ergonomics can apply to venue design and operation.
The interview was with:
David Scott C.ErgHF MIEHF (top), Senior Consultant. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Lock C.ErgHF MIEHF, Department Manager & Principal Consultant. email@example.com
Lloyd’s Register Consulting, 71 Fenchurch Street, London EC3M 4BS
Tel: 0207 423 2320
Both Dan and David are members of the www.ergonomics.org.uk – a professional body representing over 1700 members from across the profession.
What are the main areas in which ergonomics is applicable when designing a public assembly facility like a stadium or arena?
Ergonomics involves taking our understanding of people, e.g. what is known about their physical requirements, cognitive abilities, biases and social behaviour, and incorporating it into the design of a technology, process or environment, e.g. a stadium.
For any project we undertake, the main tasks are to understand the groups of people (stakeholders) that will use or pass through a system and establish their requirements, which are considered along with the objectives of the system itself.
The primary ergonomic concerns for a stadium relate to efficiency of movement, crowd safety, the quality of the experience (viewing angle, queues at toilets, catering facilities, and comfort), and especially for users with special requirements with regard to accessibility. It is also important to consider the secondary users such as maintainers, cleaning crew, caterers, vendors, advertisers, etc. who are all instrumental in making sure that the stadium is successful.
How can applying ergonomics save money for the owner of a stadium or arena?
The bottom line is that customers will not wish to return to a stadium if they have an unpleasant experience. In addition to this, time spent getting lost on the way from the nearest station, or queuing for loos, security checks, access to seating and so on will impact on time available to spend money at concessions.
Increased revenue can be achieved by streamlining the systems with which customers interact. Consider the customer journey from the moment that they arrive at the station. If we make this as easy and simple as possible, they have more time to enjoy the stadium’s facilities and spend money if they wish. Efficient security settings, smart queuing systems and intuitive way-finding, all enable the customer to have an improved experience and help them to enjoy the services available.
Money can also be saved by applying ergonomic principles to the design of maintenance systems and procedures. For example, ensuring simple tasks like changing light bulbs can be done at ground level (e.g. by lowering lighting arrays) so that specialist devices don’t need to be bought or hired; or, ensuring that there is sufficient storage for key equipment when not in use so that it doesn’t have to be stored off-site. These kinds of ergonomic improvements can help to reduce the time and cost required for maintenance and therefore can help to reduce the long-term costs dramatically.
Should the owner/developer approach an ergonomics consultancy or is this part of the role of the architect?
We have worked with many experienced architects who understand the importance of Ergonomics and bring us in to advise on that aspect. However, for many projects the owners/developers have to include the Ergonomics requirement explicitly in the contract in order for this to happen. A less experienced architect may feel that Ergonomics is “common sense” and something they can deal with without assistance.
However, architects are subject to many competing demands when designing stadia and may easily overlook small details that can make a large difference. It is therefore important to approach Ergonomics systematically using the proper tools and methods.
During operation, can ergonomics help operators keep guests safe and comfortable while reducing risks of e.g. falls, overcrowding?
This is one of the primary aims of Ergonomics in stadia design. There are specific safety standards that must be met and ergonomic activities can be undertaken to support these.
By understanding end-user behaviour you can attempt to mitigate the safety risks by reducing pinch points, using barriers and guides appropriately to guide crowd movement, optimising the number and location of entry gates, optimising the size of holding areas, making sure that materials (consumables) do not need transporting at busy times, and paying attention to way-finding (especially with regard to other sources of visual noise), etc.
With regards to comfort, ergonomists can advise on appropriate seat width, depth, height and leg-room and also on the minimum widths of vomitories and walkways.
Is it possible to apply ergonomics to old venues to improve their operation?
Applying Ergonomics to a new design can often be cheaper and easier, especially at early design phases, as it is far simpler to remove a line from a drawing than removing an existing wall. With older venues improvements can be made, although there is likely to be a trade-off with stadium capacity where existing seating, facilities and passageways are inadequate.
One advantage of applying Ergonomics to old venues is that you usually have a great set of feedback on the existing ergonomic problems. This makes it easier to identify the highest priority concerns, understand how the stadium is being used currently and where improvements may provide the biggest pay-off. At a basic level, this could mean reallocating rooms to ensure that equipment is closer to the required area of use, improving way-finding or re-purposing rooms so they are fit for purpose.
Olympic hockey venue
What work have you done at the Queen Elizabeth Park hockey venue? Who was your client and what was the brief?
Our client was the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games & Paralympic Games Ltd. (LOCOG). We did a preliminary assessment of alternative designs for the stadium focusing on crowd modelling; looking at aspects such as entry gates, turnstiles, holding area capacities and concourses.
This is one venue on a campus of venues. How does it interact with the rest of the site? Is this an advantage or not?
With a campus, the placement of venues and facilities needs to be based on a study of typical crowd flows throughout the day (journeys that will commonly be made between pairs of locations, e.g. from the entrance to the toilets, from the big screen to the food concessions). It would have been a concern if the stadia within the campus were all sited very closely together or the most commonly visited areas could only be accessed through a bottleneck. We did not work on the common areas of the Olympic Park but the designers of the campus clearly put a lot of thought into handling the movement of crowds, especially in managing the journey from the transport links to the park.
There are temporary elements to the hockey venue. How does this complicate applying ergonomics e.g. different capacities depending on the event?
For the most part, we would perform an analysis based on a worst case scenario (maximum capacity, which in the case of the Hockey Stadium is 14,500 spectators). The main complication would be in deciding on the appropriate manning levels and how to effectively cordon off unused seating areas and passageways when operating under reduced capacity.
During the game itself, the capacity was not changed on a day-to-day basis although I believe in its current guise as Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre it has a variable capacity. The key principle of Ergonomics would still stand: so understanding the types of users and their requirements, understanding the tasks they will want to achieve (for all scenarios e.g. normal, emergency), and seeking to make their achievement effective, efficient, satisfying and safe.