Wed, February 17, 2021


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Crowd simulation models help organisations with social distancing

With many sectors keen for staff to return to work when it is safe to do so, crowd simulation models have been developed to help create effective social distancing measures.

Crowd modelling accurately reflects how people move within a building and public area, unlike using two-dimensional images of building layouts which cannot make sense of how people will interact within the layout.

Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have recently used a crowd simulation tool to mimic the effects of social distancing in a crowd. The tool was originally designed for crowd control in the entertainment industry but was adapted to map social distancing inside buildings by treating each person as a walking magnet. In the simulation, every other person in the scene repels depending on the strength of the magnet.

David Smyth, a research assistant in computer science at Trinity College Dublin, said: “We simply calibrated the system so that at a two-metre distance the level of repulsion was high, giving a social distancing effect while navigating.”

But the kind of business that is being simulated vastly changes the parameters. James Ward, associate director of architecture at Arup, explains: “An office floorplate is a fairly predictable environment, but a lab or manufacturing facility requires a more detailed conversation to understand exactly how they use that space.”

Neil Manthorpe, associate director of landscape architecture and urban design at Atkins, points out that it’s also not just a matter of how many people are entering a building, but who. “How a child might interact with a building will be very different to a businessman who is used to going in and out of the building all the time. Another group that’s often referred to is the elderly, who need more time when they’re crossing a road or entering a building.”

It is hoped that with accurate simulations, staff members and the public can be protected when phased approaches back to buildings begin.

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