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Control Room Design & Building Design

User Centered Control Building Detailed Design

The Situation:

You want to build a new control building. You have an idea of how many people and what rooms are required, but you don’t have any idea of adjacencies, actual room sizes and details of what functions the rooms need to support. If you call in an architect they will provide a questionnaire to address these issues, however, the question are designed to get an answer, not ensure that the design meets the needs of the people. An architect may ask a client if he needs a training room and the client says, “yes.” The architect then designs a room based on how many people were in the control room. However, the Architect did not ask how training was to be done; or how the room would be used during different situations; or if the room would be used for other activities; or what is the vision for training in the future, such as cross-training; or how it will address console and field operator collaboration, procedure development and testing. You made mistakes with your existing building and don’t want to have to live with the results of a poorly implemented project for the next 30 years.

The Solution:

UCDS has been involved in over a hundred control room projects ranging from small refits of existing facilities to construction of state of the art consolidated control rooms. We work with multiple industries in multiple countries and have captured what works well and how to share learning events which is of benefit to our customers.

Front-end loading the project has been identified as a best practice by 1st quartile companies. This will involve production of a Functional Specification to ISO 11064 standards for Ergonomic Design of Control Buildings.

User Centered Design Services can help you through the process of making sure the Architect considers how the building will function, as well as how it looks. The Detailed Design phase includes a site visit to review preliminary plans with facility personnel and gathering information for a Functional Design Specification Document. The Detailed Design document provides specifications that allow any Architect to design a control room that will include Best Practices in layout and design. Further, our Detailed Design contracts terms require User Centered Design Services to be involved for the entire design phase of the project, typically an 18 month process. UCDS will be available for consultation with the Client, Architect, or other contractors involved in the design phase of the control room project for one fixed fee.

The Detailed Design service includes specifications on the following areas:

  • Primary and secondary user requirements
  • Room types, sizing and functions
  • Building and room adjacencies
  • Console arrangements and adjacencies based on process interactions and good communication and collaboration strategies
  • Ergonomic Console Design and work process requirements
  • Shared equipment arrangements
  • Fatigue countermeasures

Recommendations in collaboration with your Architect and their design contractors on:

  • Flooring
  • Finishes
  • Lighting
  • HVAC system
  • Noise
  • Use of interior glazing
  • Traffic flow
  • And many more…

It also includes an Operating Philosophy document. This is a template document that records the How, Why and When decisions made during the control building project. This covers topics such as plant startup strategy and functional relationships between new and old control rooms and backup control strategies in case of outages or common mode failures. This document should be used to remind the organization why things were done the way they were, and ensure future changes do not work against the original intent of the project.

The Process:

Our detailed design service typically picks up after completion of the Control Building Conceptual Design, although it is not a requirement. If the conceptual Design phase is not done in conjunction with UCDS, a preliminary meeting most likely will be required to allow UCDS to get up to speed with the project goals.

After the Conceptual Design the Client can begin the process of choosing an Architect while UCDS generates a Detailed Design report based on interviews with a wide cross-section of the buildings primary and secondary users. Our report will provide the Architect with details and specifications critical to designing a building that encompasses all Best Practices and provides a +/-30% budget figure. These details will also allow an architect to develop 90% construction drawings to provide a +/- 10% estimate.

This visit typically lasts for a week, and one or two representatives from UCDS will visit the site. During this process UCDS will perform interviews with all stakeholders in the control building project including: Senior Management, Department Management, Instrument Engineers, Instrument Supervisors and Technicians, Process Engineers, Training Supervisors, Trainers, Procedure Writers, Control System Engineers and Technicians, Operations Supervision (all levels), Field and Console Operators, Health and Safety, Process Safety Management, and Business Planning. These interviews are typically an hour long. We prefer to interview Operators at their duty stations during morning and evening shifts. This puts the operators more at ease, and minimizes scheduling issues and overtime costs for the Client. The Client should plan on a significant number of personnel being interviewed during the visit, and budget the internal cost appropriately.

UCDS also provides adjacency requirements for rooms and consoles and will develop a functional layout diagrams for review by the stakeholders. We then provide this information in the form of a Detailed Specification, to your Architect who will turn the sketches into code compliant drawings

After the Architect has developed a few options for the building layout, UCDS will make a site visit to review the plans with all levels of facility personnel, especially all those interviewed in the first phase. This allows the gathering of feedback, ensures the concerns of all stakeholders are addressed, and helps to educate, sooth fears and increase overall project buy-in. A 3D video walkthrough can be provided.

As the Client goes through the iterative process of finalizing the building design, User Centered Design Services will be available for consultation and meeting as required.


This process provides for any client a cost effective method to incorporate Best Practices in control room design into their new facility. This can be done for new building or retrofits of existing facilities. User Centered Design Services brings state of the art learnings from throughout industry to bear on your facility.

A badly designed project can incur costly changes, re-designs, scope creep, time delays, construction nightmares, and could have implications on the effectiveness of the plant for the next 30 years. A properly designed facility can increase operator performance, reduce work-related stress, reduce human error, improve safety, reduce upsets, slowdowns and shut downs, and contribute significantly to the bottom line of the plant.

Related Services:

User Centered Design Services can also help Clients in selecting an Architect for their project. Our extensive background in these types of projects makes us extremely well qualified to help select the most cost effective Architect while still providing a Best Practice solution. Please see the Engineering Service Briefs for more information on this service.

Please contact us via our contact page if you would like to schedule an evaluation.