Biophilic Design in the Modern Workplace
Biophilic design is an emerging trend that incorporates natural elements into built environments like offices and workplaces. As urbanisation distances many people from nature, biophilic design seeks to satisfy our innate human affinity towards the natural world through architectural and interior design.
The term “biophilia” literally means “love of life or living systems.” It describes that people possess an instinctive bond with nature and other forms of life. Biophilic design taps into this bond by introducing things like sunlight, green plants, natural materials and views of nature into indoor spaces.
Rising Popularity of Biophilic Offices
Incorporating biophilic elements into offices is becoming increasingly popular. A survey found that employees think access to natural light and views improves their wellbeing and productivity. With a global workforce spending over 90,000 hours inside office buildings over their lifetimes, biophilic design presents the opportunity to reconnect people with the natural environments we intrinsically crave.
Concept of Biophilia
The biophilia hypothesis was first coined by the biologist Erich Fromm and then E.O. Wilson over 30 years ago. He proposed that because humans evolved in nature over millennia, we have an innate and genetically determined affinity for the natural world. Things like sunlight, vegetation and water subconsciously provide us with comfort and feelings of wellness because that is the environment our species grew accustomed to over generations.
Translating Biophilia into Office Design
Biophilic office design seeks to translate our inborn connection to nature into the built environment. Strategies include maximising natural light through skylights or windows, incorporating lush green plants, using natural materials like wood and stone, providing water features and green walls, and facilitating views of nature from the workplace.
Unveiling the Aesthetics of Biophilic Design
Biophilic design refers to the incorporation of natural elements into built environments, drawing inspiration from the innate human affinity to connect with nature. At its core, biophilic design utilises plants, natural materials, sunlight, nature views, and other organic features to transform indoor spaces.
Defining the Key Visual Components
The key visual components of biophilic design include:
- Abundant use of plants – Trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, mosses etc.
- Natural materials – Wood, stone, clay, fibers, metals
- Images of nature – Murals, artwork, photographs
- Natural colors and textures
- Dynamic natural light
- Natural shapes and forms
These elements introduce vitality, richness, and a visual connection to nature often lacking in contemporary offices dominated by drywall, plastics, and artificial lighting. Even small touches like a plant wall or nature photography can make a dramatic difference.
Transforming Office Aesthetics
When skillfully incorporated, the aesthetics of biophilic design completely transform sterile, generic offices into inspiring spaces radiating natural beauty. Consider an office entryway featuring a living plant wall and custom wood furnishings versus one showcasing plain white drywall. Or compare a lounge area with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking trees and sunlight to a windowless break room lit by flickering fluorescent bulbs. The contrast is striking.
Beyond superficial appearances, biophilic principles reshape offices to promote health, productivity, and an innate sense of place – qualities no conventional design can replicate. Thoughtful application of biophilic elements creates offices that nourish the soul as well as the mind.
The Science Behind Biophilic Design and Employee Wellbeing
A growing body of research demonstrates how biophilic design can benefit employee health and productivity. Studies have shown that visual access to plants, natural materials, and daylight helps reduce physiological stress indicators like blood pressure and heart rate. It also improves mental engagement, leading to higher creativity and job satisfaction.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Multiple studies confirm that spaces incorporating vegetation, water features, and dynamic lighting provoke positive emotional responses. Views of nature lower cortisol levels, heart rate variability, and other stress biomarkers. This helps prevent burnout while boosting attention, motivation, and cognitive performance.
Increased Creativity and Productivity
Environments mimicking natural settings stimulate the brain’s frontal lobes, heightening creativity and problem-solving abilities. Employees working in daylight or with plants concentrate better, process information more efficiently, and demonstrate higher productivity levels.
Improved Health and Wellbeing
Biophilic elements like living walls, indoor gardens, and large windows nurture our innate human-nature bond. Studies show that interacting with vegetation and sunlight on a regular basis bolsters the immune system, and promotes overall wellness. It also helps foster community and an expanded sense of purpose.
Conduct an Assessment
Before making any design decisions, assess the office’s layout, lighting, views, and potential plant placement areas. Consider foot traffic, seating arrangements, and which spaces employees frequent. This will reveal prime real estate for biophilic interventions, ensuring plants and other natural components are thoughtfully incorporated where they’ll have the greatest impact.
Select Complementary Plants
Choose plants suited to the office’s unique conditions like sunlight, moisture, and maintenance capabilities. Seek variety in color, texture, and form to create visual interest. Consider sculptural statement plants alongside air-purifying or pet-friendly options depending on needs. Most importantly, select plants employees connect with as they’ll be more likely to engage with nature daily if they find the plants appealing.
Place plants in communal areas where possible to maximise exposure. Cluster biophilic elements by windows, in lounge spaces, or along circulation paths. Use plants to define spaces, provide privacy, or soften hard edges. Wall-mounted living walls and self-watering planter systems are great low-maintenance options. Remember, strategic placement amplifies the biophilic effect so employees reap nature’s benefits all day.
Biophilic Design’s Role in Sustainability and Environmental Responsibility
Incorporating biophilic design elements into office spaces can significantly contribute to sustainability efforts and environmental responsibility. The use of natural materials, energy-efficient systems, and greenery improves indoor air quality while reducing a building’s carbon footprint. Strategic implementation of skylights, solar tubes, and glass walls maximises natural daylight and decreases reliance on artificial lighting. Living walls, green roofs, and indoor gardens filter pollutants from ventilation systems. They also capture carbon dioxide and release oxygen through photosynthesis.
Long-Term Ecological Benefits
Adopting biophilic principles in office design provides ecological benefits over the lifetime of a building. Offices with biophilic elements may have potential energy-saving benefits. The water efficiency of landscape irrigation and wastewater recycling systems further conserves this precious resource. These sustainable buildings emit fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants as well.
Conscious Design Choices
Every design decision has an impact on the environment. Biophilic workspaces allow companies to consciously create healthier, more energy efficient spaces for their employees while reducing their carbon footprint. As stewards of the planet, businesses should consider how their offices interact with the natural world. Creating biophilic spaces is one way they can operate in harmony with nature rather than working against it.
Biophilic design has clearly demonstrated numerous benefits for modern office spaces. By incorporating natural elements such as plants, water features, and natural materials, work environments can be transformed aesthetically while also promoting employee health, wellbeing, and productivity.
In summary, the innate human affinity for nature, known as biophilia, has been proven to reduce stress, increase creativity, and improve mental health and self-esteem. Scientific studies have linked consistent exposure to biophilic components like sunlight, vegetation, and fresh air with improved cognitive performance, emotional resilience, and even longevity.
Partnering with a professional plant hire service like Aztec Plants takes the stress out of biophilic office design. Their experts handle plant selection, maintenance, and design consultation so companies focus on their core business while enjoying the aesthetic and wellbeing perks of bringing nature indoors.