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Social Distancing… is it a new Ergonomics?

Ar. Aditee Hegde-Damle

“Ergonomics is the science of refining the design of products to optimize them for human use. Ergonomics is sometimes known as human factors engineering. Ergonomics is the identification of knowledge, of understanding it and perceiving it. According to the International Ergonomics Association, there are three broad domains of ergonomics: physical, cognitive, and organizational. Physical ergonomics focus on the ways in which people’s bodies interact with the objects they use on a daily basis. The most common references of cognition that one would find would be in psychology and philosophy. Physical ergonomics tends to focus on individual comfort, whereas organizational ergonomics examines ways to optimize entire space (area of design).”


Dimensions: In metres and millimetres in the respective images.

“Social Distancing also called “physical distancing,” means maintaining space between yourself and other people outside of your home. Social distancing is a non-pharmaceutical infection prevention and control intervention implemented to avoid/decrease contact between those who are infected with a disease-causing pathogen and those who are not, so as to stop or slow down the rate and extent of disease transmission in a community. This eventually leads to decrease in spread, morbidity and mortality due to the disease.”

“Always a technology-based solution may not be economically viable, in such cases the design needs to be self-sufficient to accommodate in such crisis. The structures need to be design with the flexibility to accommodate such events like pandemics. The distance of 6feet (eg. in case of Covid-19) between the two individuals may vary in case of another virus. So, one can term it as a temporary phase in design. What could be the architectural design ergonomics? In any city planning, the plots and the FSI are determined and the respective structures are designed as per the local regulations. Redesigning the structures for pandemic situation; seeing the population influx seems non-practical solution in case of existing buildings. But for new developments within the city some adaptive design mutation policy could be incorporated and executed in time of need.”
Adaptive design mutation; a social distancing policy in architectural design:
“1. Reduced occupancy: Occupancy is the act of using a room, building, or area of land, usually for a fixed period of time. In case of existing structures or areas, the occupancy could be changed phase-wise from 0% (no occupancy), 25%, 50%, 75% to 100%. The number of people occupying common areas within the building could be monitored and restricted temporarily. In residential buildings, other public and common areas; time, days could be allotted for varied users depending upon the intensity of pandemic.”
“2. Furniture/Area flexibility: The same furniture/area could have a multi-utility to accommodate people during social distancing (E.g. Cafeterias, open terraces could be temporarily converted into informal work spaces.) Temporary partitions could be introduced if required and feasible.”

3. Signage: Signage in common areas; marking the distance between two individuals could be marked out temporary or permanent (case specific). Boards and Hoarding for awareness could also be part of common area design.
4. Selection of materials: The use of anti-bacterial surfaces where ever possible in existing and new design. These surfaces could be a temporary or permanent design feature to maintain social distancing. Use of green walls or buffers.

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