Category Archives: Home improvement

The Human Factor in Furniture Design and Workstation Development

Develop a Workstation at Home

Diffrient’s design mandate came from Robert B. Cadwallader, SunarHauserman’s vice chairman, after the latter concluded a number of years ago that office system had to be ready for the age of automation. He wanted to develop a system that started with the computer, rather than simply modifying a conventional system to accommodate it after the fact. His only charge was: “Design me a system.” Then, said Diffrient, “I was on my own: When Bobby chooses someone he trusts, he gives him latitude.” Diffrient took his latitude and ran, spending the first year of his five-year conception-to-production plan studying how people used systems and what was then available on the market. He realized that the problem with so many existing office systems is that they are based on structural panels, from which components, such as worksurfaces and storage cabinets, are hung, making it extremely difficult to adjust each workstation to its user. So diffrient decided to “put the system on the floor,” making each workstation a piece of furniture in its own right, with desk, chair, and overhead storage adjusting in unison. The panels, or screens, then become lightweight, flexible elements, since they don’t have to support anything, and simply provide visual and acoustical privacy.

Build a workstation with a powerful computer, beautiful desk, and best recliners for comfortable working
Build a workstation with a powerful computer, beautiful desk, and best recliners for comfortable working

Features required for the workstations

The components of the system break down into five smaller systems. The freestanding, adjustable worksurfaces or table move up or down from the legs, and their wood or laminate tops can tilt for reading or writing, either manually or with an electric motor. Wings, in a variety of shapes, cantilever out from the worksurfaces, creating more flat working area; bridges make corner connections between related worksurfaces. An integral track system supports accessories such as task lights, phone stands, video supports, etc., to clear the worksurface, “a valuable piece of real estate,” in Diffrient’s words, making the workstation more efficient without having to make it bigger. The panel system is used when and where needed, and attaches to storage units and light columns. The storage system consists of freestanding low and high units, as well as drawer and file units mounted under the workstation, and overhead storage mounted on the workstation, you automatically adjust the height of the storage unit accordingly. The lighting system consists of two task lights–one track-mounted, the other attached to the overhead storage–and an ambient light column that also houses wiring. Finally, the seating system–a task chair and an unorthodox reclining chair–are designed on the same principles of variable adjustment as the other pieces. Check tips on repairing or maintaining a house.

freestanding, adjustable worksurfaces or table for a workstation
freestanding, adjustable worksurfaces or table for a workstation

About 75 percent of the design, according to Diffrient, was determined by the sight lines to the video screen (or CRT) and keyboard. This led him to design the video and copy stands so that they could be symmetrical about the center of the worksurface, rather than having the CRT fixed in the middle and the copy stand off to one side. This also produced a video support that adjusts up and down, tilts, and swivels. Usually, the CRT is stuck atop the computer, an arrangement that proves comfortable for only about 50 percent of workers. With this system, the user has a side-by-side option.

The task chair represents an effort, in Cadwallader’s words, to “get rid of the bells and whistles.” Once the initial adjustments have been made, its only operating adjustment is for seat height; the seat automatically tilts forward and back to accommodate the movements of the worker, both at the keyboard and at ease.

Recliner chair and its Benefits

The reclining chair, the most unusual component of the system, is Diffrient’s answer to Cadwallader’s request for “a chair that I can read in,” which also became a chair in which he or anyone else could work at a personal computer. Since the chair didn’t work with a conventional desk, Diffrient designed a veritable workstation’s worth of accessories to go with it: a swivel table, video stand, adjustable light, and, of course, an ottoman. He cites a study made of college students’ study habits, in which those who reclined while working were found to have grades equal to those students who sat up straight. Approaching the recliner as a task chair problem. Diffrient called it a perfect “90 percent project–in which the performance criteria were so well developed that the product designed itself 90 percent.”

A most comfortable recliner is a must-have item for a great workstation
A most comfortable recliner is a must-have item for a great workstation

The look of the Diffrient system is frankly industrial: while the detailing is quite elegant, and its accessories downright snappy, it won’t win any beauty contests. But then, it wasn’t mean to. “Form is not just the way it looks,” insists Diffrient, who cites human factors and the lightest possible performance “weight” as his guides. “The best design is not found in products that scream, ‘Look at me, I’m designed!’ but in products that are just ‘there.’ I won’t go past a certain point of aesthetic elaboration.” Furthermore, making the system any more elaborate than necessary would increase its cost, and this product is designed to compete with the major systems in the industry–to perform just as well, at the same price, but with the crucial advantage of adjustability. The panels will cost half as much as those of other systems. The luxuries of this system are its accessories and “extras,” such as the motor-driven tilt-tops and CRT stands. One of its most important options is its capacity to house disk drives and printers in boxes suspended under the workstation wings, with the keyboard and CRT placed on the adjustable worksurface in the center. While other manufacturers are currently working on integrated electronics and “intelligent furniture” (P/a, May 1984, pp. 161-166), Diffrient emphasizes that electronics are only part of the picture: “You still need a lot of office stuff–lighting, storage, paper, management, etc.–and this system offers all those things.”

Find a good recliner for your workstation based on recliner reviews
Find a good recliner for your workstation based on recliner reviews

Continue reading The Human Factor in Furniture Design and Workstation Development

STORE MANAGER: So, whose responsibility is that?

House releasing
House releasing

A commercial lease is a tricky beast, and tenants need to be clear about the extent of the potential liabilities they are accepting, reports Philippa Aldrich

As the credit crunch begins to bite, all businesses will be carefully reviewing their overheads. Premises costs are usually one of the biggest.

One of the most expensive mistakes commercial tenants can make is to assume that certain major areas of expenditure are the landlord’s responsibility. So what should tenants be looking out for?

Repair and maintenance

All leases will set out the tenant’s obligations in relation to the maintenance of a property. But the precise meanings of words generally used to describe a tenant’s repairing obligations have been settled over many years of court decisions, and the implications of certain phrases are not always obvious.

For example, a covenant ‘to keep the property in repair’ includes an obligation to put the property into repair if it is in a state of disrepair at the start of the lease. A tenant who has entered into a lease which contains this obligation and has decided to proceed without a survey, may find themselves paying for repairs of which they were not even aware.

An obligation to `keep the property in good condition’ can require works to be carried out even if there is no disrepair.

A covenant to `renew’, on the other hand, may extend to rebuilding the whole property if that is necessary to achieve repair. And the word `repair’ itself may include remedying and removing the cause of an inherent defect, such as a defect in the original construction or design of a building. This will even be the case if the building is several years old and the tenant has had no involvement with its construction.

Common parts

In multi-let buildings, the landlord will often take responsibility for the maintenance of the structure and the common parts of the building and then recover the cost from the tenants via the service charge.

Service charges are one of the most often contested areas of commercial leases, and there is little statutory protection for commercial as opposed to residential tenants.

Again, close attention to the wording of the lease is important to make sure that the landlord is not only obliged to maintain those services which the tenant needs to operate from the premises – such as lifts, car parks and shared air-conditioning – but also that the cost is shared fairly.

For example, in a mixed use building with ground floor shops and offices on the upper floors, the retail tenants should not be paying for the costs of maintaining the lifts which solely service the offices.

It also worth considering carefully the areas of expenditure listed in the lease where the landlord is entitled to recover the costs from the tenant. For example, tenants should not assume that the cost of an expensive upgrade of the common parts of a building, which is designed to attract more tenants, will necessarily be borne by the landlord.

Business rates

In commercial leases, business rates are generally the tenant’s responsibility and tenants might also anticipate that they are free to claim the benefit of any rate reliefs. But it is common for commercial leases to provide that the tenant will compensate the landlord for any empty property rating relief that the landlord `loses’ after the end of the term because it has been awarded to the tenant. This can be costly.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA)

The DDA requires a `provider of services’ to take positive steps to make its services accessible to disabled people, which may include making physical adjustments to the property’s access. This new duty is not only the concern of landlords – it falls on whoever is providing the service – and this can be the landlord, tenant or even both.

rental agreement
rental agreement

Fire prevention

It is usually the tenant’s responsibility to comply with all relevant laws in relation to a property, including those relating to fire prevention. The statutory regime has recently changed.

Under previous legislation, if a fire certificate had been issued, tenants could be confident that the property complied with the fire standards. But fire certificates have now been superseded by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which came into force in October 2006.

The order imposes a new regime of self-assessment, more in line with health and safety regulation, and a tenant is likely to be the `responsible person’ for ensuring compliance in relation to the property it occupies. And compliance can be expensive. For example, in an extreme case, the tenant may be required to pay for the installation of a sprinkler system.


Where property has been previously contaminated, a remediation notice requiring it to be cleaned up is generally served on the landlord rather than the tenant.

But commercial leases will often provide that the tenant is responsible for complying with all legislation in relation to a property, and in particular for carrying out any work required by law.

Such a clause would make the tenant liable for the clean up of historic contamination, even where the notice was served on the landlord. However, if a remediation notice is served on the landlord and the notice is not complied with, it is the landlord and not the tenant who will incur criminal liability.

In addition, there may be circumstances when the tenant could be liable to carry out remediation works by virtue of other obligations in the lease, for instance a covenant to comply with health and safety legislation or to maintain the property.

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs)

The obligation to produce EPCs will now apply to commercial as well as residential premises. In the case of new leases, the production of such certificates is the responsibility of the landlord.

But EPCs also apply to the disposal (or `assignment’) of a lease by a tenant and also the grant of a sub-lease – where a tenant grants a new lease to a third party.

In the case of an assignment, the assigning tenant needs to provide the EPC to the incoming tenant. Where a tenant proposes to sub-let its property, it has to either negotiate with the landlord to obtain an EPC for the whole building (as long as there is a common heating system) or obtain an EPC for the part of the building that it being sub-let.


Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 came into force on 21 May 2004, and created a significant new duty to manage asbestos risk in `non-domestic premises’.

This includes determining whether asbestos is present in a building or is likely to be present, and managing any asbestos that is identified. The broad definition of `duty holder’ means that, under Regulation 4, a wide range of people will be liable and, like the DDA, this can include tenants as well as landlords.

Continue reading STORE MANAGER: So, whose responsibility is that?

Plan now for the future: Researches are required in any field including Home improvement

Researches for home improvementResearches for home improvement

Management issues are discussed in excerpts from ‘Managing for the Future: The 1990s and Beyond.’ The trend for organizations to employ independent outside contractors for many maintenance, clerical and support work is expected to become the norm in years to come. Such unbundling of support services from the corporate structure generally leads to more productivity because similar staff on payrolls have little motivation to produce without the promise of advancement. For businesses to earn a return on their research dollars, success depends on other things besides knowledge and luck. Given the changes in the world’s economy and organizations, new skills for executives are demanded. Three important skills for executives in the coming years are looking outside the business for management plans, assuming responsibility for obtaining information about a new position and building continuous learning into the system.

Today even more than ever before, Peter Drucker, the world’s most influential management thinker, is being looked to and listened to by business leaders and economic scholars grappling with the challenges of change. This major new book brings together his latest, most stimulating and enlightening views on the new world business order and management imperatives of the 1990s and beyond. This is the final excerpt from his latest book. From “Managing for the Future: The 1990s and Beyond” by Peter F. Drucker. Copyright (c) Peter F. Drucker, 1992. Reprinted by arrangement with Truman Talley Books-Dutton, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

…The trend is accelerating sharply in all developed countries. In another 10 or 15 years it may well be the rule…to farm out all activities that do not offer the people working in them opportunities for advancement into senior management. This may indeed be the only way to attain productivity in clerical, maintenance, and support work. And increased productivity in such work will increasingly become a central challenge in developed countries, where such work now employs as many people as manufacturing does.

Effective Research Pays

Some businesses…get a fiftyfold, or even a hundredfold, return on the research dollar. Many more get little or nothing. The key to success is not all knowledge, intelligence, or hard work–and least of all, luck. It is following the 10 Rules of Effective Research:

* 1. Every new product, processor, or service begins to become obsolete on the day it first breaks even.

* 2. Thus, your being the one who makes your product, process, or service obsolete is the only way to prevent your competitor from doing so.

* 3. If research is to have results the…distinction between “pure” and “applied” research had better be forgotten.

* 4. In effective research, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, economics…are not “disciplines.” They are tools.

* 5. Research is not one effort–it is three: improvement, managed evolution, and innovation. They are complementary but quite different.

* 6. Aim high! Trivial corrections usually are as hard to make and as staunchly resisted as fundamental changes.

* 7. …Effective research requires both long-range and short-range results.

* 8. Research is separate work, but it is not a separate function.

* 9. Effective research requires organized abandonment–not only of products, processes and services, but also of research projects.

* 10. Research has to be measured like everything else.

Many researches have been focusing on home improvement
Many researches have been focusing on home improvement

While mergers and takeovers, imports and exports grab headlines, business alliances rarely do. Nor do they generally show up in statistics. Yet for small and medium-sized businesses they are increasingly becoming the way to go international, and for big business, they are the way to become multi-technological.

…These are all dangerous liaisons…but the problems can be anticipated and largely prevented:

Before the alliance is completed, all parties must think through their objectives and the objectives of the “child.”

…Equally important is advance agreement on how the joint enterprise should be run.

…Next, there has to be careful thinking about who will manage the alliance.

…Each partner needs to make provisions in its own structure for the relationship to the joint enterprise and the other partners.

…Finally, there has to be prior agreement on how to resolve disagreements.

Corporate capitalism was the buzzword of the 1960s…Under corporate capitalism…economic superpowers were run by autonomous managements…Corporate capitalism was a delusion from the beginning and an arrogant one to boot. When attacked, no one supports it–as U.S. managements found out as soon as the raiders appeared…Speculator’s capitalism is the wrong remedy. Its side effects threaten to kill the patient. Speculator’s capitalism is probably not even very good for the shareholder. At least that seems to be the conclusion of America’s major shareholders, the pension funds.

…The proponents of corporate capitalism 20 years ago thought that they had the right answers. Speculator’s capitalism has proved them wrong. But they may well have asked the right questions. Now that speculator’s capitalism is in turn proving inadequate, and indeed a threat to America’s long-term economic future, we have to tackle these questions again. On our answers to them the future of free enterprise…may well depend.

We cannot build it yet. But already we can specify the “post-modern” factory of 1999. Its essence will not be mechanical, though there will be plenty of machines. Its essence will be conceptual–the product of four principles and practices that together constitute a new approach to manufacturing.

Each of these concepts is being developed separately, by different people with different starting points and different agendas. Statistical Quality Control is changing the social organization of the factory. The new manufacturing accounting lets us make production decisions as business decisions. The “flotilla,” or module, organization of the manufacturing process promises to combine the advantages of standardization and flexibility. Finally, the systems approach…[integrates] the physical process of making things…[which is] manufacturing…[with] the economic process of business…[which] is creating value.

Like others, managing our house effectively is a hot topic in smart home
Like others, managing our house effectively is a hot topic in smart home

New Management Skills

…In the light of changing world economy, the advent of the information-based organization and the need to systematize innovation and entrepreneurship, what skills and abilities will an executive need to be effective in the next years? The old skills are, of course, required, but there are some new ones which are likely to become increasingly important. I can think of three.

* Skill 1: Management by going outside…Learn to be outside where the results of the business take place. Nothing is more wasteful than a visit to the Barcelona subsidiary. But work for two days, standing behind the counter, and it is surprising how much the manager will learn about that company.

* Skill 2: Find out the information you need to do your job…People must learn to take responsibility for their own information needs…Most managers still believe that they need an information specialist to tell them what information they should have. But information specialists are providers of tools. It is the manager’s job to figure out what information he needs to identify: 1) what he is doing now; 2) what he should be doing; and 3) how he can get from (1) to (2).

* Skill 3: Building learning into the system…Learning must be continuous. We have to recognize the unwelcome fact that the knowledge of those who are five years out of school is by definition obsolescent. Continue reading Plan now for the future: Researches are required in any field including Home improvement