control room design

Control Room Design Planning

From local television stations to NASA, control rooms serve vital and versatile purposes in our modern society. At its most basic level, a control room is a room serving as a central operations center through which a larger network or facility can be monitored and controlled. Many such conveniences—and necessities–got their start in the later days of the Industrial Revolution as factories became larger and less wieldy to govern, especially during the 1920s. The idea would continue to expand to other areas of society, such as commerce, medical care and communications, with the full impact of the revolution in technology and the total embrace of computer and internet networking.

With the placement of so much control into one central location, security does become an essential part of a control room. As most control rooms are established to run with no public access already, simply adding full time monitoring to the room and surrounding areas through video surveillance may suffice, depending on the type and scope of the facility. Larger installations with more activity and personnel may require additional layers of security such as security guards whom can provide a level of interaction with the staff and anyone trying to attain unwarranted access.

As a result of the added layer of security and the general nature of providing centralized operations, a control room may also serve a purpose as an area of refuge during hazardous events. Fire suppression, for example, is a common application to protect both the network and its operators to continue to function through emergencies, unimpeded and safe. These may also offer guaranteed life support to deal with the adversities of the site or situation.

Some control rooms may be set up to work as mobile command centers for extra provisions of safety by enabling the whole facility to be moved should it be endangered in its original position. This can be especially helpful when dealing with high-risk facilities such as nuclear power stations or petrochemical facilities. A mobile control room can also be beneficial by providing on-site administration, such as in cases of combating forest fires.

There are some fundamental drawbacks to control rooms that should be considered for their design. One such element is the size of the room and the space required for all of the equipment, operations furniture and personnel necessary. Control rooms are typically crowded with devices and cables and will need some sort of mounting to keep them organized, often by using multi-function rack mount cabinets. The rack design allows for the maximum use of vertical space as well as a system for the easy updating of equipment.

Another concern is the power supplies and other external necessities needed to operate all of the equipment, including air conditioning to keep the devices cool during operation. The extent of the equipment being used will likely require a special electrical uninterruptible power supply (UPS) feeds and these will both require penetrations in the control room to be accommodated. These represent an added challenge for fire resistance by providing access from outside the room and will likely require vigilant fire-stop maintenance. With proper fire-stop considerations, the cables involved should be thick enough to provide heat transmission resistance, protecting the control room itself as well.

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