Putting the people back in operations and maintenance facilities
August 17, 2022
August 17, 2022
Using the human experience to advance OMSF design that puts a focus on wellness and efficiency
Today’s operation, maintenance, and storage facilities (OMSF) are often immense. They commonly appear to have abandoned the human scale that helps define the architectural language of successfully built environments. Oversized garage doors. Expansive and uninterrupted facades. Large parking lots. And enormous sites. The buildings seem made for giants, not people. In truth, they’re made for trucks, for automation and efficiency. But that’s not enough.
Behind these expansive walls and extra-large doors is an enterprise that relies on the safety, wellness, and efficiency of its occupants. Optimal operational efficiencies are critical to designing a successful maintenance and storage facility. It requires a deep understanding of both the automation and flow of equipment as well as the human interactions that operate the building. More importantly, these buildings must be designed to enrich the human experience, ensuring the safety and the overall well-being of their occupants. This is a unique challenge within large-scale maintenance facilities. Too often, the human scale is overlooked during critical stages of design in favor of technology, equipment, and infrastructure.
Through thoughtful and empathetic design, we can design facilities that host complex, large-scale industrial processes and connect to the needs of the human experience. We have examples in workplace and similar sectors of how thoughtful human-centric design can improve overall operation efficiencies, promote employee health and well-being, and increase retention.
Here are some key thoughts we can apply to ensure the human experience guides the overall design and function of an OMSF.
Data shows that human-centric and empathetic design is linked to the happiness, health, and wellness of those who use the building. We also know that wellness can make a positive impact on productivity and operational efficiency.
Wellness is connected to various elements that impact the quality of space. We should consider these in our design for OMSF:
Oversized garage doors. Expansive and uninterrupted facades. Large parking lots. And enormous sites. The buildings seem made for giants, not people.
Human figures are a forgotten key in most architectural drawings. They help to provide simple and clear indications of scale or a proper sense of depth. As Marco Frascari observed in On the Human Figure in Architectural Representation, human figures in architectural drawings can help to show how projected buildings might be perceived and inhabited. By using figures in our models and drawings we are reminded of the human scale in buildings. This is critical in OMSFs as they are defined by the dimensions and movements of vehicles and are often oversized. This practice can help ensure that the end users’ interaction with the building and its equipment, including proper ergonomics, is carefully considered throughout the evolution of design. Following are three key thoughts:
For the first time in decades, employers across North America are facing a severe labor crisis. It is difficult for businesses to attract talent and critical for them to retain it. Ensuring a workplace that is thoughtful about the health and wellness of the workers is key to attracting and retaining high-performing mechanics, operators, and administrators. Differentiating a workplace through thoughtful and measured design—where the health and well-being of its occupants drive critical design decisions—can has significant impacts on the business. It affects human resources, job satisfaction, employee retention, employee engagement, and efficiency.
Collaboration with our workplace experts helps us understand how to focus on a design for users. This is an investment in the employees. The strategies of the designer must meet the changing and diverse needs of all the roles at the OMSF. This holistic understanding of an organization ensures we meet the goals of the entire organization within a building type that traditionally did not consider the movement, efficiencies, health, and well-being of its occupants.
Design for the human scale is important in industrial buildings as it is in any workplace. Designers need to advocate for placing people at the center of our OMSF designs. That’s how we will make better industrial spaces that enhance life, wellness, and community.