View Full Version : Structural requirements for biomechanics lab

02-20-2002, 06:30 AM
Dear BIOMCH-L members:

In Dec. of last year I posted a question to the list with respect to
the planning and design of a new biomechanics facility. The original
post appears below followed by a list of the responses I received.
Several of the respondents spent considerable time putting together
their thoughts and opinions on this topic, and I am grateful for their
willingness to share both their knowledge and experience about
technical issues relating to lab planning and design. I hope this
information will be useful to other members of the biomechanics

Original post:

Dear BIOMCH-L members:

I have a request to those of you who have been involved in the
"planning and design" of new biomechanics labs. The Faculty of
Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina is currently
in the process of planning for a badly needed new facility to be
completed in 2005. I am in the enviable position (I think) of being
asked for input with respect to how a new biomechanics lab will be
planned and incorporated into this new facility. I have a very good
idea what is needed in terms of space and location (ground floor etc.).
However, what we actually "get" will of course be determined by a
variety of factors, one of which will be what is common or standard
(if there is such a thing) in new biomechanics labs that have been
constructed specifically for that purpose within the last 5 to 15
years. Essentially I would like to find out what is the "state of the
art" with respect to the design of new biomechanics labs, if such a
thing exists. Could those of you who have specific information on the
design and physical dimensions of recently constructed biomechanics labs
please send me some information (it need not be lengthy)? Here are some
specific questions with respect to the type of information I'm

-dimensions (length x width)
-location (presumably ground floor for force plates, but also location
with respect to other facilities; e.g., gymnasium, parking garage, etc.)
-equipment (i.e., how many force plates - parallel or in
series, length of walkways, # of cameras, flexibility of
camera positioning, e.g., overhead, etc.)
-function (i.e., primary use; e.g., clinical, research, instructional;
of what type; gait, neuromuscular, isokinetic, etc.; any secondary or
tertiary functions?)
-lighting/electrical requirements (e.g., A/V, emergency power, computer
stations, etc.)
-structural requirements (e.g., floor, walls, roof, etc.)
-mechanical requirements (e.g., plumbing, heating, ventilation, A/C,
-equipment (e.g., storage, cabinets, closets, etc.)

I already have most of this information but would like to be able to
put forth a better proposal which is based, in part, on what currently
exists. Thank you all very much in advance for your assistance. I will
post a summary if there is sufficient response.


List of responses:

1) From Steve Irby at the Mayo Clinic :

Congratulations John.
Designing new lab can be rewarding. I've taken part
in design of 3 and construction of 2 gait labs for two different
institutions. The disparity between design and construction is the same as
courtship and marriage. That is, not all courtships end in successful

The following are based upon my personal experience with labs that perform
both clinical and research work.

dimensions: 10 x 10 x 4 m, perhaps incorporate 25 m runway for
running/throwing. Hard ceiling w/ power outlets.
location: ground floor with nearby exterior entrance, handicap accessible,
handicap parking nearby. Distance yourself as much as possible from utility
power feeds, large electric motors (elevators, HVAC motors, machine shops,
commercial refrig/freezers), radiology (MRI), and other EMI sources
(automated teller machines can be surprisingly noisy).
eqpt: minimally 2 force plates w/ mounting system that allows some
flexibility without major remodelling, 6 motion cameras, 2 video cameras for
documentation/QA. We now use camera stalks from Bogen that are monopods
that lock in place between hard ceiling and floor. Make sure to get enough
cable length for cameras and forceplates (your length estimate + 20%)
function: My background includes labs with 90:10 and 20:80 clinical:research
practices spanning 13 yrs. Design it so cables are managed (i.e. protected)
as much as feasible. This minimized problems w/ from staff, patients, and
visitors. Clinical application most important long term, serving
orthopedics, rehab, neuro.
lighting: 120 foot candles on the floor, uniform, w/ a few discrete
adjustable intermediate levels. This makes for better video recordings, but
seems quite bright (US standards ~70 foot candles is bright office area).
You need power everywhere. Consider dedicated/isolated ground for EMG and
other critical DATAQ eqpt. Beware sharing circuits w/ other areas, common
hallways. Floor buffers will blow out circuits, other eqpt will inject
maddening intermittent noise on ground line. We rely upon institutional
power control which is quite extensive. Based upon local history I'd
seriously consider UPS for critical/delicate instruments. Cost of UPS
equipment is not too bad.
mechanical: Heat load is primarily cpus and humans. Plan to grow 25%.
Keep lab spaces away from water mains and drains. If heat/cooling system
uses water, watch placement of heat exchangers overhead. Plumbing is
cheaper up front, so if you think you might want a sink somewhere (hand
washing or near repair shop) add it now.

cabinetry: No one has too much, although it is often the wrong size. Make
sure bookcase depth is adequate for 3-ring binders. Throw in a few eqpt
cabinets (18-24" dp) to accommodate misc hardware in lab and repair areas.

security: Needs to be discussed w/ institution. For physical security I
like cipher locks but be prepared to change combos annually. For data
security get backup system set up w/ off-site copies.

other: network communication: get jacks on every wall and have them all
connected to hub all the time. Lay out plans for data organization to
include paper, electronic data, and video.

Steve Irby

2) From James Corollo at the Children's Hospital in
Denver :

Hi John,
I've had the "good fortune" to design several laboratories over the past 20
years, and feel we have found a good compromise of flexibility,
functionality, and aesthetics at our current facility in Denver. I'd be
happy to discuss some of the construction issues with you either by phone or
email. No one facility design is ideal for everything you might intend to
use the laboratory for, but if you prioritize your real needs (not your wish
list), you can make the right choices. The design we came up with and some
of the reasons for going this route are documented at the following URL:


I've developed larger facilities, but for routine clinical movement analysis
of steady-state walking (not running), a 10 x 8.5 meter laboratory area
gives you sufficient flexibility for bilateral 3D motion capture. Ceiling
height should be at least 10 feet if you plan on recording high quality
observational video, so you have the potential to use video lighting that
projects small shadows. With this size, you can easily array 6 - 10 motion
capture cameras around the perimeter and at different heights for whole body
or foot models, and still achieve an adequate calibration volume of 4.5 x
1.5 x 2 meters down the middle of the volume. While you can achieve larger
calibration volumes with a clear 10 x 8.5 meter laboratory space using wide
angle lenses, I generally prefer to use a normal lens focal length to
minimize unnecessary distortions. I also like to have a separate
"technical" area where the computers and other recording instruments (and
the people operating them) can work without distracting the subject during a
data capture, but not so separate that you can't easily communicate with the
PT or kinesiologist who is leading the subject through the gait tasks. This
area benefits from computer flooring, so the equipment interconnections are
not exposed, and gives a slightly higher visual perspective to the
measurement area.

I preferred ground floor locations to accomodate force platform arrays, and
large concrete inertial masses to mount the base plate, to achieve the
highest natural frequency possible from the GRF recordings. We've found
that a 1:2:1 array of 4 force platforms can accomodate most children and
many adults referred for movement analysis. Even though our platforms are
moveable, we rarely actually move them from this configuration to accomodate
a clean left and right footstrike during each pass. We've used a hard
rubber floor material on the entire measurement area (Tuflex), with a
contrasting area defining the main kinematic lane down the center, and have
mounted this same material to the top of each force platform. Testing by
our manufacturer (Kistler) found that the Tufllex material dropped the
natural frequency approximately 100Hz when it is temporarily bonded to the
surface; from approximately 950Hz to 850Hz; still suitable for transients
during walking.

Electrical, mechanical, and HVAC requirements can be easily developed by the
sub-contracted engineers assigned to the project, if you provide the
electrical current loads and heat loads from the equipment you select. I
prefer isolated power (no conduit grounds) for A/C powered instruments and
computers, and separate electrical distribution for lighting and general
office. In general, locate electrical outlets close to where the
measurement instruments need to be, and then add more than you thought you'd
need for flexibility, since its much less expensive to slightly overdo it
during construction, than it is to add electrical and HVAC later.

Best regards and good luck with your project.

James J. Carollo, Ph.D., P.E.
Director, Center for Gait and Movement Analysis (CGMA)
The Children's Hospital, Denver
Assistant Professor
Rehabilitation Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery Departments
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
1056 East 19th Ave., B476, Denver, CO 80218
voice: 303-864-5805 fax: 303-864-5815

3) From Alison McConnell at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto

hi there john!
we're just setting up a biomechanics lab, but perhaps
with a different focus. it sounds to me like you're planning on doing
gait trials; we're going to be looking at trauma biomechanics, mainly
the biomechanics of fracture fixation.

we've got a room about 5m x 10m, with a fume hood, an Instron
mechanical testing machine, lab benches with storage cabinets above, a
fire cabinet, sink, freezer, and OR-style table in half the lab, and
workstations in the other half of the lab, separated by a wall. We're
on the ground floor of a research wing.

hope that helps a bit!

let me know if you have anymore questions...
alison mcconnell

I would also like to thank the following individuals who responded with
documents, suggestions, contacts, etc.

-Jim Raso from the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital in Edmonton
-John Kozey from Dalhousie Univ.
-Monika Bhuta from Innovative Sports Training Inc.
-Norman Murphy from Tekscan
-Stephen Cheetham from Skill Technologies Inc.
-Gary Blanchard from AMTI
-Edmund Cramp from Motion Lab Systems
-Dr. Lars Janshen from the Humboldt University in Berlin

Thanks to all!!


John M. Barden, Ph.D. Candidate
Lecturer in Biomechanics and Motor Control
Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies
University of Regina
Regina, Saskatchewan
Office: (306) 585-4629
Lab: (306) 585-5809
Fax: (306) 585-4854
E-mail: John.Barden@uregina.ca

"The value of self government at an individual level cannot be

- Frank Herbert

To unsubscribe send SIGNOFF BIOMCH-L to LISTSERV@nic.surfnet.nl
For information and archives: http://isb.ri.ccf.org/biomch-l