In 2014, while researching the benefits of nature, Gregory Bratman, a graduate student at the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources at Stanford University discovered that even a brief glimpse of nature contributes to making people more attentive and pleased. Similarly, based on his research from the early 1980s, R.S. Ulrich argues viewing nature helps in reducing recovery time following surgery.
The above examples linking nature to improved health are among thousands of studies that indicate the importance of our exposure to nature. Nature exposure, however, is becoming less accessible to office workers as most of our time is confined inside the walls every day. With the lifestyle we follow today, it’s almost impossible to go out in nature at the amount we should. However, we can bring nature to us. That’s what biophilia is all about — welcoming nature in our workspaces.
Biophilic design connects people with the natural environment indoors. It can be practised in different ways, through the use of direct or indirect nature. In other words, it’s about designing office space with the outdoor elements to positively contribute to the health and wellbeing of the occupants, which will ultimately improve productivity.
Inspired by nature, the biophilic design is about incorporating as many natural elements indoors as possible. The most essential aspects of biophilic design include:
Natural light is often defined as one of the major perks for office employees. A recent survey as reported by Harvard business review, confirms how vital natural light is for office employees. Apart from boosting vitamin D, natural lighting is known to forestall seasonal depression, improve sleep, and reduce the risk of non-natural lighting.
You can incorporate natural lighting in office design with the installation of reflective materials, clerestories, skylights, and atriums. Occupants produce better results in offices where there is enough natural lighting.
Proper flow of air can improve temperature and humidity but also positively contribute to the health and productivity of the occupants. A study from Harvard indicated 61% improvement in cognition with higher office air quality when employees were tested under normal office condition against better ventilated and carbon dioxide reduced condition. Additionally, the same study revealed a 100% cognition improvement in the occupants with doubled ventilation.
You can manage an ideal airflow in your office space with improved ventilation, proper use of windows, and some innovative designs to allow natural air to spread indoors.
Introducing vegetation indoors provides the occupants with a direct relationship with nature. Plants have been proven to positively affect physical health and performance as well as reduce stress and other mental issues.
There are various ways you can add plants indoors. Either you can use plants to dictate the whole design process, or you can start with introducing indoor plants in corners and desks of your existing office space.
Interaction with animals encourages interest, mental stimulation, and pleasure. While including animals inside an office design may be hard to achieve, you can accomplish it in specific ways with the installation of aquariums, gardens, and green roofs.
We often say even just looking at pictures of nature helps our mind shift its mode of thinking. Well, we’re actually correct as various studies have already backed our claim. A recent study that used fMRI to measure brain activity showed that the brain of participants who viewed natural pictures associated with empathy and love. In contrast, the brains of participants who viewed urban scenes associated with fear and anxiety. Who wouldn’t love to create an environment that encourages positivity?
The beauty of biophilic design is that we can also use indirect nature to achieve it. The combination of the right colours, pictures, and natural feel can certainly be introduced in an office interior. For instance, natural features and textures, such as wood and marble can also help bring outdoor vibes and creates a delightful indoor environment for the occupants.
Though it may sound intimidating in the beginning, Biophilic design is not hard to achieve. When you take examples of big tech offices, such as Amazon Seattle office, they are all well-thought and well-budgeted projects, carefully designed to achieve biophilia. That doesn’t mean you can’t achieve biophilic design without spending big. It’s all about knowing the elements and carefully addressing them at your ease. You don’t even need to do it all at the same time or overhaul your office space all at once
Introducing plantlife in the workspace on a small scale shouldn’t be a problem even if every inch of your office space is utilised to squeeze people in. Plantlife increases oxygen levels and eases fatigue and mental stress, improving the mood and performance of employees. You’ll find numerous indoor plants that fit in the desks and beautifully grow on the walls. There is not a single corner in your office where indoor plants don’t fit. Plants can be incorporated at any space of your office. If you don’t have space on the ground, make sure to utilise your ceilings or walls.
Making natural light and views of the outside world more accessible to your staff can be a game changer. As most office workers don’t have enough access to natural light, it can be one of the underlying factors affecting their productivity, and most importantly, their mental wellbeing. Natural light and outdoor views heavily impact employee productivity and energy levels. With clever design fixes and installation of the ideal materials, such as mirrors, skylights, you are one step closer to achieving biophilic design in your office space.
Outdoor office spaces, such as roofs, balconies, and terraces, can provide a natural oasis to your employees. You can begin with adding your workspace elements and encouraging staff to work outdoors when possible. It will also allow your team to enjoy the benefits of natural light and fresh air while maintaining a creative, healthy, and productive life.
Colour can impact people in numerous ways, both positively and negatively. For instance, American police stations use rooms with walls coloured in pink to help calm people down. Colour of nature can make a big difference to the performance and mood of people. Researches state that colours can influence a person’s physical and mental state. Therefore, incorporating the right colour into your interior design is vital.
Natural features can be anything that provides the occupants with natural vibes. It can be an aquarium full of colourful fishes or a wall decorated with natural pictures. It can also be elements that offer a sense of being outdoors. For example, natural textures, such as wood can help experience the vibes of outdoors and bring a positive effect in the minds of the employees. Use natural features in the walls or in areas that are accessible and beneficial to everyone.
There is a wealth of evidence that links nature exposure to positive health outcomes. Considerable amount of research on the benefits of exposure to nature has highlighted psychological and physiological health benefits. According to the studies, exposure to nature helps decrease oxyhaemoglobin concentrations in the right prefrontal cortex and also helps to achieve positive changes in heart rate variability. With the research indicating the importance of nature in our lives, opting for biophilic design can be great for offices to keep their team both physically and mentally sound. Healthy body and healthy mind means a satisfied team that performs better.
If you want to incorporate biophilia in your office space or have any queries about office fit-outs in Australia, consult with Interia services today.