How to Design the Perfect Surveillance Control Room

how to design a control surveillance room
Learn how to design a Control Surveillance Room that's fit for your business.

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For enterprise customers, using a surveillance control room seems to be a more viable option than ever before. New technology is now allowing operators to oversee larger areas and also supervise multiple systems for their business. This includes CCTV, access control, and vehicle tracking all from one workspace. These rooms can be fast paced environments, often used for long shifts at both day and night and it’s highly important that design choices are carefully considered before being implemented. Ensuring that your surveillance control room is a comfortable place for employees to work in is essential to its success and functionality.

The exact specifications of your control room will be naturally quite specific and individual – depending on the purposes you want to use it for. Those who only require a surveillance control room as a way of reviewing basic CCTV will require significantly less operators and equipment than a surveillance control room overseeing a city wide network of CCTV and access control technology.

Though as a company with over a decade of experience in installing surveillance control rooms for a number of businesses, we’ve compiled together some general points that should be considered when designing and building your surveillance control room. Ensuring that these factors are properly thought out during the design and creation phrases of your surveillance control room will help you ensure that your CCTV surveillance control room system is fit for purpose.

size matters

One of the biggest problems we notice with our clients, is that they greatly underestimate how much space is needed for the kind of surveillance control room they are specifying. The room or area you have targeted to be your surveillance control room may seem large and spacious right now, but if it’s overpacked with workstations, huge monitors and people, it may quickly turn into a cluttered mess. Low roofs, office pillars and poorly placed walls may become a hindrance to your control room and cause a complete redesign if not considered.

We recommend creating initial markings on the floor and on walls to show where objects like monitors and desks will fit. This may serve as a good indicator as to the kind of free space you can expect once everything is into place. In particular, try and consider how much room you’d want for chairs and ensure that there is space to walk behind them and move around freely. Get an idea of the sight lines for any video walls and make sure you can comfortably see them without straining or leaning around objects or desk furniture. From here you can see if you need to either downsize the equipment you’re ordering in, or select a new space entirely to host your control room.

control_room_size_comparisonThe size and layout of your surveillance control room will greatly depend on the specific purposes that it needs to be used for.

the right kind of light

Though underestimated, light can be a factor which can make or break the effectiveness of a surveillance control room. Although big open windows and bright overhead lighting work great for open office spaces, they can be a nightmare in control rooms. Sunlight can reflect off monitors, and bright strip lights can cause eye fatigue at night. Lighting levels in general should be much lower than typical office lighting. If possible, having some controlled natural light available is also useful as its typically a more subtle and less irritating light source for operators. Any windows should have easy to control blinds, with frosting considered depending which direction they face.

lighting for control surveillance roomDepending on the exact purpose of your surveillance control room, your lighting should fall into the region of 200-300 lux.

ensuring line of sights are clear

Surveillance control rooms don’t just rely on high end network controlling technology, they rely on reliable, quick-reacting personnel, who should be able to seamlessly work together and see what they need to see at all times. Personnel in surveillance control rooms may find themselves looking up at large monitors regularly, so it’s essential that important line of sights are clear. Legally, employers have a duty to ensure that employees are not under strain to do their day to day work and so it’s important to ensure that they can do so. For larger rooms, or ones where employees are there for long periods of time – we would suggest drawing up some initial design ideas and testing these ideas with an external ergonomic study. This will prove you have fulfilled your legal duty and also potentially make suggestions on improvements that could be made.

line of sight control surveillance roomAn example of a drawn design for control surveillance room, to be ergonomically tested.

Modern control rooms don’t just watch from afar, they interact with staff, personnel and the public; and so it’s important that noise levels are low enough to allow clear communication when it’s needed. It also allows them to concentrate on what can be the taxing job of juggling multiple systems and tasks at the same time. When designing your control room, think carefully about where your positioning it in your business facility- is it next to a busy office? Or a busy train line?

If you do detect any surrounding noise sources, ensure that you can provide a good level of insulation from them, as noise entering the control room from these areas can be distracting and interrupt communications, which can be detrimental to operations that require quick communications between employees. A good way of identifying if there will be any severe noise pollution that could effect your businesses control room, is to have a sit down in the area you plan to have it built and work there for a full working day. This will help you identify any sources of noise pollution that should be considered.

noise controlNearby roads, rail lines, busy areas and facilities should be taken into account when designing your surveillance control room as they will affect it’s design and setup.

usable work interfaces

Very often businesses bring in comprehensive amounts of equipment to control their vast networks, without proper consideration for how to set up this equipment to create usable work spaces. If desks are too cluttered with joy sticks, keyboards and monitors, you may find personnel aren’t able to perform as efficiently as they could with an organised set up. Usable desk space is also highly important, as personnel in control rooms will have to frequently make notes in logbooks and other documentation while observing monitors in front of them. When implementing double or triple monitor set ups on personnel desks, ensure that they are comfortably in the personnels vision.

As for wall mounted monitor displays, ensure that they are positioned and angled correctly so that the risk of glare and reflection can be reduced. Once again, this comes back to designing for purpose and considering what the control rooms uses will be, and designing around that. A good way of testing your work space efficiency is to simply test out different interfaces with employees. This will help them find out what fits them and the functions of your surveillance control room the best.

EN ISO 11064 usable work interfacesReading material such as EN ISO 11064 documentation will help inform you about basic principles for the design of control rooms, as they will provide you with useful diagrams such as the above one.

Invest for the future

Control rooms are expensive rooms to build, but they are also very difficult to modify or change once in place, especially without disruption. Therefore it is key to spend the time and money at the start making sure that it’s fit for purpose. A lot of items specified for control room use may seem unnecessarily expensive. Ergonomic chairs with adjustable back support, desk mounts for monitors and height adjustable desks definitely aren’t cheap, but they may be necessary. Your workers are going to be expected to perform comfortably on 12 hour shifts, 24 hours a day, for years at a time and your investment into equipment will determine how well they can carry out their work. The disruption and expense to rectify any issues will often cost many times more than ensuring things are done properly from the start.

design perfect surveillance roomHere is Karla, one of our dedicated engineers, carrying out a user interface test with some monitors we’d installed at a Nottingham Express Transit’s surveillance control room.

Hopefully we’ve given you some good points to consider for the design of your own surveillance control room. Don’t forget that if you require assistance, or even need the whole process taking care of, we can design and build your surveillance control room to whatever specifications you require, as we have done with many of our trusted clients over the past decade.


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