Anthropometrics in architectural design
Anthropometrics is the comparative study of the measurements and capabilities of the human body. It derives from the Greek words 'anthropos' (meaning human), and 'metron' (meaning measure).
Human dimensions and capabilities are paramount in determining a building's dimensions and overall design. The underlying principle of anthropometrics is that building designs should adapt to suit the human body, rather than people having to adapt to suit the buildings.
There are two basic areas of anthropometry:
- Static anthropometry is the measurement of body sizes at rest and when using devices such as chairs, tables, beds, mobility devices, and so on.
- Functional anthropometry is the measurement of abilities related to the completion of tasks, such as reaching, maneuvering and motion, and other aspects of space and equipment use.
The use of anthropometrics in building design aims to ensure that every person is as comfortable as possible. In practical terms, this means that the dimensions must be appropriate, ceilings high enough, doorways and hallways wide enough, and so on. In recent times, it has come to have particular significance for workplace design, and the relationship between desk, chair, keyboard and computer display.
The building regulations provide a range of standard requirements and approved solutions for designers to help develop suitable designs. However, it is important to consider the specific purpose and requirements of end users. Attempts to apply standardised dimensions may not reflect the true need of the space requirements.
Older people, children, people with mobility issues, wheelchair users and so on may have specific requirements. In particular, good accessibility and easy maneuverability around the building must be considered when designing stairs, lifts, ramps and other features. See Accessibility in the built environment for more information.
Anthropometry may also impact on space requirements for furniture and fittings. For example, a bathroom must have enough space to comfortably fit a bath and sink; a bedroom must have enough space to comfortably fit an average-sized bed; an office building must have enough space to fit desks, air-conditioning units, communal areas, meeting rooms, and so on.
Anthropometric data is regularly updated to reflect changes in the population.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Accessibility in the built environment.
- Building spaces definition.
- Changing lifestyles.
- Concept architectural design checklist.
- Design intent.
- Design management for construction projects.
- Design responsibility matrix.
- Ergonomics in construction.
- Facilities management.
- Inclusive design.
- People with disabilities.
Featured articles and news
Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners win RIBA National Award for their British Museum extension.
The story so far.
Here is our list of the top 25 buildings in London. Do you agree with our selection?
A blueprint for the construction industry from Canada's west coast.
China's elaborate idea for a mass-transport system has been abandoned.
Read this article about the theories that characterise life in the hyperreal post-modern city.
Polyisocyanurate (PIR) insulation and how it was tested.
"We can’t sustain low density suburbs, density isn't a choice, it's a necessity." - Read our interview with the award-winning social housing architect Peter Barber.
Conservation area designation can be crucial, but treatment of individual parks varies considerably.
ICE publish new NEC4 Design, Build and Operate contract.
Report states $2 trillion is needed over the next 10 years to fix American roads.
What is the client's strategic brief for construction projects?
Read the story behind the world's most iconic festival stage, Glastonbury's Pyramid Stage.
Read the story of Ronan Point, another disastrous event which had profound consequences for the construction industry.