Anthropometry is the systematic measurement of the physical properties of the human body, especially the dimensions of the size and shape of the human body. The word is derived from the Greek words ‘anthropos’ (meaning human), and ‘metron’ (meaning measure). The dimensions and capabilities of human motion are very important in determining the overall design of the building. The basic principle of anthropometrics is that building design must be well adapted to fit the dimensions of the human body and human motion. Rather than people having to adapt to fit the design of the building. 

Measurements like eye height, the distance from the floor to a person’s eyes, can be taken sitting or standing. Other measurements include elbow height, hip breadth, overall stature, knuckle height, and popliteal height, or the distance from the floor to the back of the knee.

These measurements play an important role in the design of architecture, furniture, tools, cars, clothes, and more to fit the human body.

Anthropometry was developed in the 19th century as a method implemented by physical anthropologists for the study of human variation and evolution in both living and extinct populations. Around 1490, Leonardo da Vinci drew the image of the Vitruvian Man in a work titled Canon of Proportions or The Proportions of Man where he attempted to bring natural and mathematical harmony into the human form.

Specifically, anthropomorphic measurements involve:

  • Size (e.g., height, weight, area, and volume)
  • Structure (e.g., height, width, length of various body parts), and
  • Composition (e.g., the percentage of body fat, water content, and body mass) of humans.

Two basic areas in anthropometry

1.   Static anthropometry

Static anthropometry is a body size measurement carried out when the condition of one’s body is at rest or in a static state. In addition, measurements can be made when the body is using devices such as chairs, tables, beds, mobility devices, and so on

2.   Functional anthropometry

In contrast to static anthropometry, functional anthropometry is a measurement of human motion related to the completion of tasks, moves, and matters related to the use of space and equipment. For example, for factory employees, measurements are made when they are operating equipment in the room.

Tools for Anthropometry

A variety of specialized tools (as depicted below) are used to obtain anthropometric measurements:

  • Stadiometers: height
  • Anthropometers: length and circumference of body segments
  • Bicondylarcallipers: bone diameter
  • Skinfold callipers: skin thickness and subcutaneous fat
  • Scales: weight

Conventional measurements usually use measuring instruments such as anthropometers, measuring tape, and calipers. These measurements can sometimes cause data errors. So, it is better to do measurements with more modern tools such as anthropometric chairs.

In this case, dynamic measurement is also known. Research-based on dynamic measurement must contribute to several factors, namely comfort, efficiency, comfort, and human safety. 

Considering Anthropometry While Designing a Building

Comfort Level

For every person to be as comfortable as possible in a building, the dimensions of the rooms have to fit the dimensions of the people inside them. That involves making sure that ceilings are high enough, doorways and hallways are wide enough and rooms are large enough to accommodate the people inside them. To do this, architects must take into account average heights and widths of the company’s employees, then go an extra couple of inches up and out to make sure that everyone can walk through the building with ease.

Space Requirements

Another method of using anthropometry in architectural design is using human sizes to estimate the approximate amount of space that is required for various furniture in the living spaces. For example, when designing bedroom spaces, you have to verify that there is enough room for a bed, a set of dressers and a nightstand to fit inside the room. To make sure that there is enough room in residential areas, you have to think about all of the necessary elements like seating, dressers, counters and sinks of residential housing.

Buildings and Variations

Along with accommodating room sizes and furniture space, you also have to plan for the purposes the building serves. If you are designing a hospital, you have to verify that there is enough space in the hallways for gurneys and people alongside it to walk quickly and comfortably. Also, if the building is a public area, ADA-compliant handicapped ramps and bathrooms must be included into the design. There should also be enough space for the elderly to be able to get around; elevators should also be in the design for both the elderly and the handicapped.


A major challenge that architects, who are trying to apply anthropometry to building architecture, face is with regards to the dimensional data of the human body. This is primarily because the size of the human body varies according to age, gender, race and even socio-economic factors; hence the measurements taken also vary accordingly. Moreover, this measurement needs to be not only static but dynamic also – so architects need to have body dimension data when someone moves, does activities or participates in work. The body measurements vary according to the function we perform. There is a difference in dimensions for the way we sit, stand or perform any activity.

Then again, anthropometric measurements cannot be equated for people across two geographies – for example, measuring people in Philippines and measuring in USA are two radically different things. What this translates into is that one cannot use measurement data in Philippines to design architecture in USA.

While making ergonomic design of space or interiors, anthropometric measurements are a mandate. The use of these practices in architecture means that the design used must be in sync with the size and shape of the human body. Building design should be made to adjust the dimensions of the human body, not vice versa.

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