Human Engineering

In the field of human engineering, which is the application of knowledge about human beings to design, Henry Dreyfuss and Associates are pioneers. This group was perhaps the first to take an­thropometric measurements gathered through military and civilian studies and transform them into a form that could be used by designers. The first documents presenting these ideas were the in­novative work of Alvin Tilley, Measures of Man (1960) and Humanscale (1974 and 1981); these were followed by a more recent book, The Measure of Man and Woman: Human Factors in Design, published in 1993.

This most recent book presents human body dimensions from birth to adulthood. For adult dimen­sions, it applies the concept of the percentile person to provide not only average body dimensions, but also the extremes. Sections of the book address the needs of the elderly and people with mobility aids, as well as space requirements for the home and other locations.

The Human Body and interior spaces

The next major work that impacted bathroom design was assembled by Julius Panero and Martin Zelnik into a sourcebook titled, Human Dimension & Interior Space: A Source Book of Design Reference Standards, published in 1979. The purpose of their book was to focus on the anthro­pometric aspects of ergonomic fit, or ergofitting, and applying the data to the design of interior spaces where people work, play, or live.

Early in their study of the relationships between the user and his or her space, the authors realized that most references for professionals dealt with general planning and design criteria. They found that very little information addressed the physical fit between the human body and the different components of interior space.

In their search for anthropometric data, the measuring of humans and their relationship to objects and spaces, they discovered that most of the previous human engineering had taken place in in­dustry and the military sectors. An enormous boost to the database came during World War II, when the need arose to match human capabilities with new technologically advanced equipment such as airplanes. These sectors continue to generate anthropometric research today. One impor­tant civilian study prepared by the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare contributed to their database as well.

In their sourcebook, the authors presented numerous diagrams for human structural and functional dimensions. Structural dimensions are the static dimensions of the head, torso, and limbs in a stand­ing or seated position. The functional dimension is the measurement of a working position or the movement associated with a task. As they continued their research, the authors found that it con­tinually reinforced the need to use anthropometric data in the design process. This meant bath de­signers would now have a basis for design considerations related to fixture and storage use.

A 1995 version of this work by DeChiara, Panero, and Zelnik titled Time-Saver Standards for Hous­ing and Residential Development, includes much of the same anthropometric measures and infor­mation as the earlier document, with additional planning guidelines, including dimensions for such spaces as exercise areas and hydrotherapy pools. This reference remains perhaps the most com­prehensive and primary reference for anthropometric measures.

Updated: September 22, 2015 — 8:54 pm