09/07/2001

Easy Chairs

Get in the comfort zone with these tips on seating

 

Leo Welter, Seating Project Manager, KI, Chicago. KI, headquartered in High Point NC, is a leader in the healthcare, office, and institutional fields.

Kimberley Chrisman, President, AGI, Chicago. High Point, NC-based AGI, a division of KI, has a wide range of products, including waiting area and healthcare seating.

Suzanne Lovell, Principal, Lovell Fridstein Limited, Chicago, and creator of CH-1, a reconfigurable seating system by AGI. Architect Lovell launched an interior design firm to create unique and elegant solutions for her clients.

Alan Hedge, Director, Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Hedge has 25 years of experience in ergonomic research.

Niels Diffrient, Industrial Designer, Ridgefield, CT, and creator of Freedom chair manufactured by New York City-based Humanscale. Winner of numerous design honors, Diffrient wrote the book - literally - on the field of design and human factors, as the co-author of the three-volume compendium Humanscale.

When discussing how seating choices change with age, Alan Hedge, an ergonomics specialist at Cornell University, says jokingly, "A healthy 20-year-old could sit on a block of concrete and be fine." Concrete blocks, however, are not appropriate for the majority of end-users. To help facilities professionals choose proper seating, BI interviewed ergonomic research experts and design professionals to develop a list of criteria questions. Their practical advice will help you get the perfect fit for your workplace needs.

Expert Advice

"The word ergonomics is used to describe a multitude of chairs, some of which are patently not ergonomically designed," says Alan Hedge, director of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Laboratory, Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. Sometimes distinguishing between health and hype is challenging. Niels Diffrient, a Ridgefield, CT-based industrial designer, encourages facilities professionals to rely on advice from ergonomic experts.

What are the two most common pitfalls for facilities professionals in seating selection? According to Diffrient, they are:

• Choosing chairs after testing them for a few minutes.
• Being too swayed by appearance.

"That's not to say there aren't well-functioning products that look good. It's just that aesthetics shouldn't be the sole criterion," says Diffrient.

Looks aside, education is key. Hedge believes a chair's chief requirements are:

• Dynamic movement, allowing the sitter to recline slightly.
• Adequate support from the lower back to at least the shoulder blades.
• Whether end-users can adjust a chair's back height while seated.

Other important considerations are avoiding any compression of the back of the knees, and comfortable support for the pelvis.
To achieve these ergonomic aims and others, a chair must be well-designed and its controls must be intuitive and accessible. "My objective is that a person should use a chair; it should do a good job for them; and they should never have to think about it," says Different.

Designers' Angle

In recent years, chairs have taken center stage with bold design. "Aesthetically, seating … is not embarrassed to be stronger visually, to be more extreme," says Leo Welter, seating project manager in the Chicago office of KI. Another design trend is that the feature set from most seating manufacturers is comparable. Seating has also become easier to move and manipulate to suit the needs of facilities professionals.

But what ranks as the No. 1 concern of facilities managers? "Price does not rank near the top. What comes across consistently is durability and comfort," says Welter. Increasingly, facilities professionals want a single type of chair to fit a wide variety of end-users. He adds, "Basically, to have one chair be everything to everybody has been the challenge of the industry for the last five years."

The two defining trends of the next five years, according to Suzanne Lovell, principal of Chicago-based Lovell Fridstein Limited, will be timeless design and the importance of privacy. "The concept of having one's own space is becoming increasingly important. It's the way we live with our laptops: Whether we're on an airplane or in a conference room, we are in our own little world," she says. Lovell states that sensitivity to privacy will be especially prevalent in healthcare facilities.

In healthcare and hospitality spaces, Kimberley Christman, president at AGI, Chicago, sees a move towards more residential-inspired interior products. "I see healthcare pieces you could take to your home. It represents the humanization of the business environment," she says. More lounge seating will have modem and electric outlets so that waiting rooms can be working rooms.

Educational seating has generally not been very dynamic in terms of seating. Those hard little grammar school chairs may be here to stay; however, the future of corporate and government training areas is flexible mini-workstation chairs. "Facilities managers want the training environment to be more multi-purpose, more fluid," says Welter.

Regina Raiford (regina-raiford@buildings.com) is senior editor at Buildings and BI magazines.

 


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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

 


 
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