Size does matter


ISSN: 0263-2772

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



Finch, E. (2004), "Size does matter", Facilities, Vol. 22 No. 7/8.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Size does matter

It is a fact of life that we are all getting bigger. Compared to our parents’ and grandparents’ generations we are taller, wider and heavier. This is shown by comparing the most recent anthropomorphic data from the US and UK (studies called SizeUK and SizeUS respectively) with that of data collected 50 years ago. The costly nature of such detailed measurements perhaps explains why it has been so long since such a study was undertaken. The hand measurements used in the past were time-consuming, error-prone and costly.

The modern method used to collect anthropomorphic data is dramatically different. Instead of relying on hand measurements, the very latest 3D scanning technology has been used (using light projectors and optical sensors) in the SizeUS and SizeUK studies (see Treleaven, 2004). These studies involved 11,000 subjects, capturing 140 body measurements for each subject in both sitting and standing positions. The surveys were supported by governments, clothing companies and academic institutions, among others. The surveys required each subject to stand in their underwear in an isolated booth for a matter of minutes while 3D scanning was undertaken. The result is a massive database of body shape data that consumes gigabytes of data for each subject. This data is being used by a diverse range of organisations, from aircraft designers seeking to optimise seat design to clothes manufacturers looking for the universal fit.

For facilities managers, human dimensions are important. Whether it be workstation design, the choice of partition height or lift capacity, anthropomorphic data increasingly allows us to design for the full range of facility users. Online data sources such as the two recent US and UK studies will provide a valuable resource. But with developments in 3D scanning, perhaps we might start to routinely measure and fit our workforce and their work environment. The most recent development involving the use of millimetre wave radiation overcomes the need for subjects to remove clothing when being scanned. Is a mass-customised building one of the outcomes of this emerging 3D scanning technology?

Edward Finch


Treleaven, P. (2004), “Sizing us up”, Spectrum, Vol. 41 No. 4, pp. 28–31

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