How, when and where your operators interact affects safety and productivity.

Control room layout design is a specific area of human factors engineering (HFE) that seeks to optimize the work area layout of the control room. No matter how optimized other HFE elements are, if the room configuration is at odds with the demands of the operators, safety and performance will suffer.


The control room layout must support interactions that need to happen between operators, while avoiding noise interference.

Let’s assume for a moment we have designed our consoles, and are turning our attention to the wider context of the room (although in reality these are designed in tandem). For that, we need to understand the different tasks and roles of control room personnel, and the importance and frequency of interactions with each other and with other personnel. For this we interview and observe the operators to properly understand and document their interactions. Techniques such as role analysis, task analysis and link analysis are key tools used to understand the tasks and interactions for different operational scenarios. Normal steady state scenarios are quite different from, say, abnormal situations or plant upsets and emergencies. Indeed, there are typically variations in the roles and numbers of people involved in these different scenarios and these need to be well understood and analyzed.

Conclusions can be drawn from these analyses on the priorities for the control room layout. For example, operators will be placed together where there is a high demand for interaction, whereas those that do not need to interact will be separated. In reality this is often a trade-off situation for control rooms with multiple operators as not everyone can be next to everyone. Indeed, different operational scenarios will offer different priorities and decisions may need to be made about the relative importance of the requirements of each scenario.

The analyses provide a justifiable route to the conceptual layout and can guide the evolution of different options. They also provide a basis for checking if the conceptual arrangement does meet the functional needs of the control room users.

The control room layout does not occur in isolation as the building layout is also taken into account to ensure desirable traffic and circulation routes, while enabling operators to have good access to the facilities that they need.

The console design and orientation will also affect the control room layout.


The detailed analyses of operator interactions will also be used to inform the console orientation, such as:

  • Outward Facing
  • Inward Facing
  • Theater


To decide on which of these three console orientation strategies best suits the unique needs of each control room, we refer to the communication interactions and line of sight requirements. Determining the layout strategy that is right for your organization is the last piece of a multifaceted HFE puzzle that informs all of our designs.

BAW Architecture has been at the forefront of HFE principles in control rooms for decades, pioneering best practices in control room layout before these ergonomic principles were codified by ISO 11064. Our HFE experience includes 10 years at the ASM® Consortium, and the design principles that we developed decades ago eventually transformed control room design practices industry-wide. An operator-centric approach to control room design has been at the core of our company’s approach from the beginning. Contact BAW to learn more.

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