Wednesday, 31 March 2010

CERN LHC produces record breaking collisions

We're delighted to see the success yesterday of the LHC to take a great leap forwards in its experimental programme.

What is even nicer for us is to see the video of this ground breaking event taking place in the control room we designed!



Friday, 26 March 2010

It's the small details that count as well in good station design

To work, stations must provide key elements such as a layout that allows passenger flow and facilities to an appropriate standard.  However, to deliver passenger satisfaction it is also the small details that count. 

King’s Cross Station is currently being redeveloped and CCD are involved in providing the human factors support to the programme.  When going to the King's Cross project offices on site we have to walk past Platform 9¾ as made famous by the Harry Potter series of stories and films.  Fans of the series will know that Platform 9¾ at King's Cross is the point where Harry Potter and his friends can board the Hogwart’s Express to attend Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizadry.

While the series and platform are fictional, a real life sign and trolley has been installed in the station close to the entrance to the real Platform 9.

Providing this, and ensuring that it remains in place during the development (it has been moved and there are signs directing visitors to its new location), is a small detail but one which will enhance the use of King's Cross for thousands of tourists and visitors to the station.  

Stand near it for any length of time and you'll see just how many fans come to have their photograph taken as they too run through the wall.

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Is this a good ergonomic solution for infrequent laptop use?

We spotted this product from IKEA as a neat solution for infrequent use of laptops in the home.  It probably does work OK for domestic situations but the ergonomics of it would need some work for a commercial application.

The main problem is that there is no height adjustability which you'd need to account for the variety of people who might use the facility.

But we could see the benefits of something that took up little space when not in use and allowed walk-up use. It provoked some interesting discussions in our office on solutions for drop-in hotdesking.


Tuesday, 16 March 2010

How will HS2 impact on station design?

The announcement by the Government to proceed with High Speed 2 and place its main station at Euston raises some interesting questions about how the station will be redesigned to accommodate this.

The masterplan being developed by Terry Farrell / Arup will be looking at how to deal with the huge trains coming and going but one of the main issues will be how will the station manages the numbers of passengers moving through the station.  It is said that HS2 will deliver the equivalent of a 747 jumbo jet's worth of passengers into and out of Euston every 90 seconds!

This will require a radically different approach to wayfinding and moving passengers - possibly separating arrivals and departures as happens as airports.

The design will also have to consider how to move this volume of people to and from the station in this central location - something no railway station in this country has had to manage to date.  This will include the Euston & Euston Square Underground stations and the surrounding street network. 

It's going to be fascinating to see how this massive project can deliver an inspiring station that is still easy to use and welcoming for passengers.


Thursday, 11 March 2010

Buggies on buses & the impact on wheelchair users

It was widely reported in the press yesterday that the DfT are consulting on a proposal to "crackdown" on parents with buggies on buses (see the BBC News for example).  The actual wording of the DfT consultation is slightly milder identifying concern with buggies taking spaces for wheelchairs and detering wheelchair users from using the bus.

This was an issue CCD looked at for Transport for London in a research study into the use of buggies on buses.  We looked specifically some of these attitudinal and emotional issues for parents and other bus users including those in wheelchairs.  The case study of the work can be found on our website.

We concluded that there were a number of issues around the design of the interior of the bus, the lack of available help from staff, issues with buses moving off and communication with/from the driver that made the use of the wheelchair/buggy space more problematic. It seemed that these make the options open to buggy users to make the space available are limited especially on crowded buses.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Green Design & Ergonomics Benefits

In all aspects of design there is an increasing need to consider the environmental impact of the design.  As with most other design consultancies we are more and more using products and solutions that deliver environmental benefit to our clients.

However, what is often underestimated is the ergonomic benefit that some of these interventions can provide to the people who use or work in a building or space.

For example, we are often designing control facilities which may be underground or in a window-less environment.  The use of light pipes to transmit natural daylight into these environments gives an eco-benefit to the client in terms of reduced electricity usage...but critically it delivers a real psychological value to the staff working in the room but getting natural light to the working environment.

We are also finding more uses of natural, living roofing materials.  These provide a clear environmental benefit both in terms of insulation to the building but also the plant-life on the roof. However they also provide a real psychological benefit to people working in the building through a sense of connection to the natural world and a more attractive working environment.

Eco-design can help us to save the planet but also to deliver day-to-day benefits to the people using our designs.

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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Is it safe to manage a station with less staff?

The recent claims in the news that LUL are planning to reduce the numbers of staff on station platforms ( highlights the issue of the role of staff in stations and how information and control systems are used to manage them.

We know that passenger satisfaction is strongly linked to the visible presence of staff in stations - they provide a source of live information and a sense of security.  This is not easily replaced by information systems or operators in a central control room.

Technology can have a role. We are frequently asked to look at new technology and determine if its use gives an operation that can be as safe as a human being on the front-line. For example, our recent work looking at the use of CCTV in driver only operated trains provided evidence that it was a safe process. 

However, people have qualities that are not easily replicated or replaced by technology.  So caution must always be taken to use technology where it is appropriate and not where people are better.

The final issue is can stations be effectively managed from a control room?  Can operators have a full awareness of situations through using IT systems and CCTV images or do they need people on the ground to support them? Do staff on the platforms enable a better quality of commnunication to passengers or management of a crowd?  

Situations such as evacuation or crowding are complex and dynamic and the role of station staff is important although it is difficult to demonstrate that operation without them is inherently unsafe or impractical.

The balance in these areas is difficult to achieve but it needs consideration of the operational situation and a careful allocation of the role of the human and of technology.

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