Welcome to the first instalment of our ‘Watch this Space’ series where we will be exploring the trends and movements within office space design that will be prominent throughout 2018. In this edition, we will be peering into the world of biophilic design.
“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.” – Edward O. Wilson
What is Biophilic Design?
Before we get into the specifics of what biophilic design is it’s important to understand biophilic as a word. Biophilic stems from the word “biophilia” meaning “love of life or living systems”. The term was first popularized by Edward O. Wilson as part of his biophilia hypothesis which claims that humans possess a hardwired tendency to search for connections with nature and other forms of life.
This deep-rooted link between humans and nature is the key principal in biophilic design and is used as the focus when creating a living, breathing, modern spaces that promote numerous benefits to our health and well-being.
Implementing biophilic design isn’t as simple as placing isolated instances of nature such as potted plants around an office, it is more a sense of creating a habitat using natural materials and elements that have been proven to have sustained benefits to humans.
What are the Benefits?
There are numerous benefits to biophilic design be it improved grades in schools, faster healing in hospitals or increased revenue in businesses along with increased physical and mental health and a reduction in the stress that is often packaged with urban living.
Due to the worlds continuing evolution into a concrete jungle it has never been more important to maintain our links to nature. The world health organization believes that stress-related illnesses will be one of the largest contributors to disease by as early as 2020. Biophilic design is a way to combat this by allowing us to reconnect with the world.
A number of studies have shown that biophilia and biophilic design can help improve:
- ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder)
The studies relating to the above were set around groups ranging from students to the elderly. One group is exposed to city streets and the other to forests before undergoing tests and analysis. In every segment, the groups that were exposed to nature saw positive increases in mood, memory, and immunity whilst they saw positive decreases in ADHD, stress, and inflammation. Studies such as these show that the use of biophilic design can have great effects on the human biology.
As well as numerous group studies relating to the wider aspects of biophilia, there are live research projects ongoing focusing specifically on biophilic design such as the one being undertaken by “The Building Research Establishment” who are refurbishing a 650 square-meter office building built in the 1980’s following the biophilic design principles. They will then collect human and environmental data to further demonstrate the benefits of this environmentally focused design approach.
In offices across the UK, more than 60% of staff don’t have sufficient access to daylight and more than 130 million working days are lost to sickness every year. Disappointing statistics like these can be reduced dramatically by incorporating elements of nature into an office’s design.
The first aspect and one of the most important is being able to design the space in a way that maximizes the amount of sunlight coming in and if the location permits it the number of natural views that can be seen.
The inclusion of greenery into the environment will instantly create a more natural and relaxed feel. Although potted plants are a start they shouldn’t be the end of the road, hanging gardens and leaf walls are a couple of ways to make neighbouring offices green with envy.
Integrating naturally formed patterns such as honeycomb along with softer lines into the design can help ease the stress that can be found in the straight, sharp, formal edges seen in many traditional office spaces.
Water in both its appearance and sound is very calming by nature. The inclusion of a water feature will provide a sense of tranquillity. Whilst installing one in the main office space may result in more frequent bathroom visits incorporating it into a communal area or even a reception space would put staff at ease from the moment they enter the office whilst becoming a welcoming feature for visitors.
Carefully choosing both colours and textures can also have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of an office. Using varying wood grains and bricks combined with natural colours that you would expect to see outside such as greens and browns can help create a healthier place to work.
Finally, creating a space where employees can physically be outside in a natural environment when on their lunch break will contribute towards a maintained level of productivity and motivation well into the end of the working day be it a roof-top patio or a staff garden.
2017 was a keystone for the popularisation of biophilic design and it is only set to get more popular this year as its principles become more closely integrated into the workplace.
By Andrew Mairs - Marketing Executive