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Tips – Kitchen design

Ergonomics and functionality

WORK ERGONOMICS

An increasing number of the population is suffering from backache caused by bad habits, non-ergonomic adaptation of workplaces or activities performed in an inappropriate position which result in an unfavourable load of muscles or spinal discs. Considering the above information, the relevant issues to be determined are:

  • The kitchen user's heights – in order to adapt the height of working surfaces
  • The user's way of working – whether the user is right- or left-handed, to adjust the kitchen area arrangement
  • Surfaces with adjustable height – in addition to the main working surface, other surfaces, including those suitable for sitting positions, should be designed

 

ERGONOMICS AND FUNCTIONALITY

How to acquire more storage space?

  • By using higher and deeper cabinets
  • By using one wide cabinet instead of two narrow ones
  • By using internal drawers
  • By using higher side walls of drawers
  • By using inserts and drawer equipment

The 3 basic principles of working in the kitchen from the ergonomic point of view, based on researches conducted by the German Institute of Ergonomics (IAD) of the Darmstadt University of Technology:

  1. When planning the kitchen arrangement, the attention should be paid to how often it is used. When determining the height of working countertop, it should be matched with the requirements of a person who frequently uses the kitchen.
  2. To prevent diseases or damages to the spine, becoming more and more common among young people, frequent and prolonged bending positions should be avoided.
  3. To relieve the spine by changing the position, apart from the countertops which allow for standing, one should have countertops with adjustable height or lower countertops, suitable for a sitting positions.

 

THE ERGONOMIC HEIGHTS OF WORK

The starting point for the study of working heights in 1991 was the height of a human. Since the first measurements, it has changed considerably over the last years. What is interesting, this height change does not affect proportionally the entire body.

The body height has not changed proportionally to the elbow height which is a kind of reference point when determining the working height.

The proper working height was determined on the basis of the research which utilised a modern digital human model in 3D which is based on the most current databases and allows for performing measurement estimates until 2034.

On the basis of the studies carried out, it has been determined that:

  • The working height (countertop height) from 10 to 15 cm below the elbow height is the optimal height,
  • Bending of the body by >20° towards the front part of the countertop, preferred for work, with a depth of 30 cm is within acceptable limits,
  • The inclination angle of the arm of >75° (i.e. lowering the arms by 15 degrees from the horizontal position of arms pointing towards the front) has been considered as an acceptable limit.

Furthermore:

  • Recommended height of kitchen countertops:
    • 89-91 cm for standing while working
    • 70-75 cm for dining
    • 110-115 cm for a bar
  • It should be noted that different activities require different height of the worktop. In terms of ergonomics of work, the best solution is when the hob is placed below the worktop.

There is an individual working height for every human which allows for working properly in the kitchen. The aforesaid working height at a distance of 10-15 cm below the elbow level constitutes the most optimal solution. In view of the fact that the kitchen space is often used by more than one person, the Institute has extended the ideal value mentioned above by the tolerance up to 10 cm upwards and up to 5 cm downwards. This height is recommended when one needs to adjust the working height for several people.

Sink and hob:

From the ergonomic point of view, lowering is reasonable in the case of the hob, as the edge of the pot constitutes the proper working height. Contrary to this, in the case of the sink, the work is done on the bottom of the sink, so it may be embedded on a higher level. The IAD Institute recommends lowering the cooking area by​25 cm below the elbow height, and in the case of the sink – by 10 cm.

WORKING SURFACE

The working surface in the preparation area occupies the main position. This area should not only be large enough, but also have proper lighting.

The main working surface between the sink and the hob must be at least 90 cm wide and 60 cm deep, so that all the necessary kitchen work would be performed efficiently and conveniently. Greater depth of the working surface respectively provides more space.

Researches on the width and depth of the work surface have been carried out on human testers. The aim of the test was to determine the widest possible range of typical kitchen work requiring more or less space, consisting of coordinated actions, visual control, the dynamic movements of the arms and the works demanding the use of strength.

And yes: the work on the surface with a width of 90 cm has been assessed as very convenient, while the work on the surface with a width of 50 cm required constant changes in the arrangement of tools or components, or taking most of the items used to a different location.

ORGANISATION OF WORK PROCESSES

Thoughtful, well adapted to the purposes as well as the kitchen arrangement placement of appliances and furniture significantly contributes to the improvement of work in the kitchen, thus ensuring a high standard of functionality. Above all, the reasonable connection of the work steps with the storage area and organising the arrangement of food products, household appliances and devices so as to save time and shorten the distances is the most important factor. Another vital element which needs to be considered is the habits of kitchen users in terms of cooking, eating or shopping.

During work, each position should provide a view of the working centre and incorrect placement of hands should not obliterate it – this is crucial e.g. when mounting a slicer, kitchen sink, etc. The light source should also be adjusted to the user's handedness – right-handed persons should have lighting on the upper left side, while left-handed on the upper right side.

Lighting

Lighting in the kitchen not only affects the working conditions, but also creates the proper atmosphere, indicating the style of the kitchen and emphasising its elements. The lighting points should be arranged as a central lighting e.g. over the table or in the middle of the room and as, an auxiliary light – above the worktop and near areas where kitchen activities often take place – next to the sink, above the worktop and hob.

The lighting should also be highly efficient. The LED technology meets these requirements, not only in terms of energy efficiency but also economy.

     

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