When we think about ergonomics, we often think about working postures and physical ergonomics. However, our environment has many sensory factors that can affect work negatively just the same as a poor working posture.
Excessive negative loads interfere with our concentration and our behavior. People are the subject of continuous sensory overload, and many of the stress-causing sensations go unnoticed. However, space planning often fails to include the senses and development history of our brains.
Sensory friendly design is at the heart of the Stress Free Area concept is. Both known and unconscious negative sensory stimuli, which can cause stress, are removed from the designed spaces.
Everything begins with sensitive and thoughtful design. Facilities can be designed to support alertness and activities with colors, shapes, plant elements, and by acoustics. Taking many senses into account has a cumulative effect: it is better to consider all aspects rather than just one in its entirety.
The end result is a sensory friendly environment that, like the ideal learning environment, enables focusing and communication, and builds a framework for creativity. When teaching facilities, or, for instance, a teachers’ room, are designed to support the intended function, the well-being of the entire school community is improved.
Sensory friendly design won’t need more resources than the usual design and implementation of learning environments - it only costs the effort. The solutions can usually be made with, for instance, color and furniture choices, and the renovation does not have to be expensive.
Sensory friendly design goes hand in hand with ecology, as sensory friendly spaces pass the test of time. In addition, when people feel better, they will have the motivation to maintain the facilities and make environmentally friendly solutions.
Margit Sjöroos has developed sensory friendly design and the Stress Free Area concept since 1996. The concept has been applied in offices, premises, major sporting events, as well as physical and digital learning environments.