Biophilic Design: Bringing Nature into Sustainable Office Spaces

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A new design trend is quickly gaining popularity among corporations and businesses dedicated to sustainable office spaces: biophilic design. 

The concept of biophilic design is to aid employees in connecting with nature while at work. 

Biophilic design innovation is ideal for sustainable offices already dedicated to energy efficiency and reducing their environmental footprint through smart office technology like motion-activated lighting or eliminating paper.

What Is Biophilia?

In Latin, ‘biophilia’ signifies love for nature, and the believers in biophilia hold that we are naturally attracted to nature and natural habitats as an instinctive method for combating stress. Hence, remaining tied to a desk all day in a most unnatural environment will increase stress because it contrasts with natural human instincts.

While the corporate and commercial world cannot function by working entirely outdoors, that’s not to say that nature cannot come indoors. Indoor décor that integrates plants and natural elements can offer refuge from a stressful working environment right in the office. 

First cited in 1973 by psychoanalyst and sociologist Erich Fromm in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, biophilia was identified as humans’ “passionate love of life, and all that is alive.” Biologist Edward Wilson went on to coin the term “biophilia” in 1984 as he believed that humans desired a connection with nature notwithstanding modern technology.

Companies such as AT&T Bell, John Deere, and General Electric created corporate locations amid sprawling grounds as early as the mid-20th century. In the book “Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes,” author Louise Mozingo submits that views of nature, such as a wooded hillside, pond, mountain range, or pond, would benefit employees.

What Does Biophilic Design Entail?

Biophilic design aims to create a serene refuge space within a work environment, with green playing the leading role. Naturally, green surroundings like a park or garden contribute to people feeling more relaxed and are identified with vibrancy, well-being, and growth. 

The challenge of biophilic design is to incorporate green into an office space and create an indoor garden that can be maintained year-round regardless of the season as a mental haven within the office space. 

While not every office place will be able to incorporate numerous green areas, some fundamentals can be applied to a variety of workspaces, such as an increase in natural light or views of nature through the reorganization of blinds or curtains used in windows. 

The organization of a company’s outdoor areas can be furnished with comfortable seating and worktables, weather permitting. 

For companies in large metropolitan cities without outdoor green spaces, balconies and rooftop areas can be organized similarly. These outdoor areas can afford employees a place to work or even recharge during a break, all the while contributing to their increased energy, productivity, and creativity.

Bringing the Outdoors Indoors

bringing-nature-indoors

Natural materials such as wood and stone can be integrated to mimic natural landscapes and vary décor textures. The use of colors can brighten the atmosphere. No one prefers a dull color to work in. The use of space is equally important as cramped quarters with the overcrowding of equipment and furniture will add to a stressful environment.

One of the easiest and quickest methods for integrating biophilic design in the office is to begin by bringing plants into the workspace.  

From simple potted plants creatively arranged to the installation of ceiling windows providing more natural light and reducing energy consumption, there are multiple design alternatives for every budget and every architectural structure. 

The Benefits of Biophilic Design for Office Spaces

Nature exerts a restorative effect, so the introduction of plants, the increase of natural light, and the introduction of wood and stone décor elements can all contribute to employees’ sense of well-being.

The introduction of plants into the office space can increase indoor oxygen levels and concentration, thus providing employees with a less stressful environment.

Studies show that offices that have integrated natural elements into workspaces have enjoyed increased well-being among employees and less mental fatigue. 

Research done in the United Kingdom indicated that workers with significant contact with nature showed a 15% increase in productivity compared to those with limited contact. This may be the result of increased oxygen levels, yet the key here is exposure to nature. 

Densely arranged indoor plants can deflect and absorb sound, reducing environmental noise. Succulents can absorb sound, while leafy vegetation acts to deflect it. Living walls filled with plants may function as a form of soundproofing, and portable living walls can be used to separate areas and divide spaces attractively.

Offices may also be able to save on energy expenses. Increased use of natural light can diminish the need for artificial lighting, and plants can contribute to temperature regulation, particularly in warmer climates.

A Return to Nature in the Office

By encouraging a sense of contentment and calm, employees will want to spend time at work, and this kind of atmosphere may also prove to be an attraction for visitors and potential clients. 

Designers will be stimulated to create new ideas and layouts as well as products tailored to office spaces without natural light or garden views as design returns to nature.

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