Anthropometrics and the Home Design
Anthropometrics is the scientific study of the measurements of the human body. The human sciences of physiology, anatomy and psychology provide essential information for designers of all products intended for human use. Data concerning ‘typical bodies’ includes physical dimensions and performance such as head height, foot size, arm reach, strength and mobility, sensory acuity in areas of eye sight, hearing, cognition and breathing, and experiential information about behaviour, culture and emotions. Statistical average figures are used as guidance for the design of many elements within the building, which will suit most people, but thought should also be given to the fact that maximum and minimum ranges may not be so convenient to some special user groups. For example, making the mug of coffee depends on human dimensions and faculties including the following:
- The height and depth of the worktop
The height of the worktop is selected to provide comfortable working conditions when standing in front of it, and the depth restricted by the ability to reach to the back against the wall.
- The height of cupboard door handles and the depth of high-level shelves
The ability to reach up to open doors and lift out stored items, and the ability to see into the back of the wall cupboard.
- The shape of the tap handle
How the handle is gripped by the fingers and the amount of force needed to turn it on and off.
- The position of the socket outlet
So that it can be reached comfortably to insert the plug top and switch on.
- The level of illumination
Which should be at least the minimum required to be able to pour out the boiling water in safety.
At the risk of being ‘politically incorrect’, it should be mentioned that for some of these issues there is a statistical variation between men and women which should not be ignored. On average, men are taller than women, can reach higher and further, and can lift heavier weights.
Obviously, wall cupboards and shelving in the kitchen designed for a six foot tall young man would not suit a five foot tall elderly woman. There is a need for sensitivity and consideration for the needs of likely occupants if the design is to be successful.
Elsewhere in the building there are other elements dependent on human dimensions such as the size, shape and strength of furniture, the dimensions of stair treads and risers, the height of door openings and the positioning of light switches and hand rails. The shape and depth of baths and shower trays are governed by ability to step up or climb in comfortably and safely. The height of window cills or the position of transomes may be related to eye level so as not to interfere with views, and the position of handles and locks are placed to be within easy reach of adults, but out of the reach of small children.
Some of these issues are subject to mandatory controls. For example, all the dimensions associated with stairs are defined in the current Building Regulations including widths, head heights, tread and riser dimensions, and handrail and balustrading requirements. Others are matters of good practice for which there are many printed reference sources of data already available.