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Response to an Interior Designer's Question about Open Office Design versus "traditional"

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HI Kathy – you have posed a question which falls right into the prevue and expertise of Ergonomics/Human Factors design at a number of levels and one our firm has been involved in for over 22 years. Ergonomics and Human Factors Design is all about;

  1. Workflow & process efficiencies
  2. Human factors in terms of cognitive abilities of employees associated with the visual, noise, physical (sensory) distractions that can occur in open offices
  3. Size and shape of workstations and work areas relative to the Ministry of Labour for Ontario’s Ergonomic Standards (which few people in Ontario realize is mandatory under the OH&S Act and can result in the M of L Inspectors writing orders and ordering financial penalties for non-compliance). 
  4. Size and shape and design of workstations, seating, furniture, workflow relative to the proposed and future technological changes and how the human factor will interact with this technology
  5. The impact of BOMA and LEED programs on Ergonomics and the human factor which in many cases can be detrimental to the human factor/end user unless addressed at the blue print phase of these projects
  6. Last but no longer least there is now the Ontario Build Code with Accessible Addendum which will be released and mandatory commencing January 2014.  Our firm was hired by BOMA Toronto to review the Proposed Build Code with Accessibility Addenda and to make a formal submission to the Ministry in March 2013. We have a roster of AODA Built Environment Auditors in place. We are aware thru this process of how the Open Office Concept will have a direct and real collision with accessible design and accommodation of employees both current and future in  the workplace.


Our firm has no affiliation whatsoever with any design, furniture, or other firm and therefore has no financial vested reason to bias the decision making process about Open space planning versus closed.  I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further Kathy as we have years of excellent hard data about companies of various types who have moved from “closed or traditional” to open in each of the 6 categories above.



OPC finds most designers do not rely on the expertise of human factors/ergonomic specialists to the loss of evidence based design.

Hope this helps in the meantime as I would like to see these discussion become more evidence based while still balancing the need for companies to save on real estate and maintenance costs on a per sq foot/metre basis/timeline. You can also see from this information the critical importance of hiring experienced Ergonomic/Human Factors firms early on in this process to ensure whatever the design ends up being, that factors in the #1 cost for businesses; the Human Factor

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