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Human scale in infra construction

Human scale in infra construction


As we go vertical and create increasingly more structures like bridges, roads and apartment complexes that service thousands of people and vehicles in constant motion, we need to keep the human body, its nature and movement at the center of all design 

Throughout history man has created things to be of service to him using measurements relating to his body. Until recent times, the limbs of human were the basis for all the units of measurement.       

Even today many people would have a better understanding of the size of an object if they were told that it was so many men high, so many paces long, so many feet wider or so many heads bigger. These concepts we have from the birth, the size of which can be said to be in our nature.

The introduction of metric dimensions put an end to that way of depicting the world.    

Shashi Prabhu, is the founder & MD of, Shashi Prabhu & Associates.

Human scale of proportion

We immediately have accurate idea of the size of an object when we see a man (real or imaginary) next to it. It is a sign of our times that pictures of buildings and rooms presented in Architecture and also in professional journals are too often shown without people present in them. From picture alone, we often obtain a false idea of the size of these rooms and buildings and are surprised how different they appear in reality, frequently, sometimes they seen smaller than expected.               

One of the main reason for the failure of buildings to have cohesive relationship with one another is because the designers have based their work on different arbitrary scale and not on the only true scale, namely that of human being.


If this is ever to be changed, the architects, and designers, must be shown how these thoughtless accepted measurements have developed and how they can be avoided. They have to understand the relationship between the sizes of human limbs and what space a person requires in various postures and whilst moving around. They must also know the size of the object, utensils, clothing etc in everyday use to be able to determine suitable dimensions for containers and furniture.

In addition, architects and designers have to know what space human need between furniture, both in home and in the workspace as well as how the furniture can best be positioned. Without this knowledge, they will be unable to create an environment in which no space is wasted, and people can comfortably perform their duties or enjoy relaxation time.   

Architects and designer must know the dimensions for minimum space requirement for people moving around in, for example, railways and vehicles. These minimum space requirement produce strongly fixed impressions from which often unconsciously, other dimensions of spaces are desired.               

Man is not simply a physical being, who needs room. Emotional response is no less important the way people feel about any space depends crucially on how it is divided up, painted, lit, entered, and furnished.              

The theory of planning is based upon the human being and provided a framework for assessing the dimensions of building and their constituent part. By and large each project is different and must be studied, approached, and designed a fresh by the architect

Dimensional relationship

The oldest known code of dimensional relationship of man was found in burial chamber of the pyramids and since then the quest for refinement of human proportional relationship is not over. The details given by legendary designers like Alberti, Leonards da Vinci, Michelangelo in their works, the calculation for a man body were based on the length and of head, faces or fact. There were further subdivided into relationship with each other so that they were applicable throughout the life.

The legendary artist Durer started with the height of man and expressed sub division as fraction like ½ h, ¼ h, 1/12 h etc. Lately in 1945, architect La Corbusier used for his all projects sectional relationship which he called La-Modular.

Space for various functions

Architects by past experience of human scale have decided space requirement for various functions. It also consider various postures of and person between a wall.               

For example space requirement of a person seen from the front is 635 mms and in relaxed posture is 675 mm. Even for a people in movement a multiplying factor of 1.30 times is applied for normal space requirement. Similarly space requirement for a group of people for various densities like, closely packed, normal spacing, waiting queue and with back pack movement space.

Similarly space consideration for step measurements for walking, marching, strolling, and space requirements for various body posture is also estimated.

The details like space requirement of a person with luggage in two hands, person with umbrella or two persons with umbrella has been identified.

The need for air

Man breathes in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide and vapour when he exhales average human being produce 0.020 m3 / Hr. of carbon dioxide and 40 grm/Hr of vapour. It means that one air change per hour the requirement of air space is 32 m3 per adult and 15m3 for a child. In other words, with room height of 2.5M or more room floor area of 7 to 9 M2 is sufficient for an Adult.

Architects lately have given thought to various subjects related to human scale in terms of room climate, geological effects, building biology, eye perception and man and colour perception, geometry of building etc.

In conclusion one must say that human scale relationship in architecture is very important in planning and designing of building infrastructure. The other forms of architecture with arbitrary scale are likely to be ambiguous and detrimental to the harmony of various component of infrastructure.                         

The author
Shashi Prabhu
is the founder & MD of
Shashi Prabhu & Associates


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