Over recent years there has been an increasing recognition of the benefits that humans gain from contact with trees and nature. This love of time in nature has been termed biophilia. According to Planet Ark, the health and happiness benefits associated with spending time outside in nature are well known and have been studied extensively by the scientific community. But, they say, in modern society our relationship with nature has changed. Working hours and stress levels have risen, technology and screens have encroached in nearly all areas of our life, backyards have shrunk, children play more indoors than out, and the list goes on. Australians for example now spend over 90% of their time indoors. So, what can we do about it? The good news is biophilic design is helping bring nature indoors, and with it, a multitude of benefits.
Biophilia refers to the human desire, our inherent need, to be immersed in nature. The benefits of spending time outside in nature include increased levels of happiness and self-esteem; increased cognitive abilities, decreased stress response, blood pressure, pulse rates and cholesterol levels (Planet Ark). Biophilic design aims to strengthen our relationship with nature through intelligent design helping urban dwellers access the benefits of nature inside, creating a happier, healthier environment.
To achieve this connection, natural elements are incorporated into the modern built environment to replicate the immersive experience of being in a natural outdoor environment. This approach to architecture is not just about bringing plants into the office space. It involves the use of direct and indirect nature, with consideration of space and building conditions. For example, wooden interiors have been found to have multiple physiological, psychological, and environmental benefits, including:
Improvements in emotional state and level of self-expression
Reduced blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels
Improved air quality through humidity moderation which is through to lead to increased productivity and improved concentration levels.
Many studies have promoted the various benefits of biophilic design in the workplace, finding that bringing natural elements into an office environment increases creativity, contentment, productivity and reduces stress.
While a more stimulating workplace with natural light, views of the outdoors, and natural materials such as timber and stone, can improve team morale.
Incorporating biophilic design in your workspace
There are many effective and accessible ways to incorporate biophilic design into your workspace. Studies have found that simply having a view of nature from a window can have significant positive effects, such as shorter postoperative hospital stays, induced feelings of relaxation in patients in rehabilitation centres, and improved comfort levels of employees in offices (Planet Ark).
Introducing plants will increase oxygen levels and improve air quality which will help to decrease mental fatigue and improve concentration levels, while also adding to the general aesthetic of the office. Natural light/daylight is also important. It can create comfort and serenity in the form of skylights, glass, and mirrors.
Access to fresh air and the outdoors has many added benefits for employees as it increases feelings of wellbeing and productivity. If you have access to a garden, courtyard, or balcony space you could add some comfortable seating to encourage staff to utilise this outdoor space more often.
Incorporating natural materials into the office design such as wood and stone is also an effective way of bringing natural outdoor elements into the office. Studies have found that wood produces stress-reducing effects similar to the exposure to nature in the field of psychology.
Water features and fountains also have many added benefits such as decreasing stress and improving performance, while fireplaces can provide warmth and movement which is visually stimulating and appealing, while also providing comfort and colour to the office space.
If these direct forms of nature are too difficult to emulate in your work environment, you could display images of natural landscapes and incorporate more earthy colours and tones into your office design. Paintings and photos of nature will still have positive impacts on the mental and emotional state of occupants, while incorporating more blues and greens into the office will have a tranquil effect on employees.
These are just some of the ways you can use biophilic design in the workplace to encourage productivity, creativity, contentment, and mental stimulation while also giving you a great excuse for an office re-vamp!
For more information read Planet Ark’s Report on Nature Inspired Design: https://makeitwood.org/documents/doc-1501-wood---nature-inspired-design-report-final.pdf