Biophilic design – Why and how nature takes over offices

FMnewsroom – office design. The office market is practically in a continuous evolution, new trends are gaining strength every few years. In the fight against global warming, sustainable solutions came into focus and ESG requirements became decisive investment factors. Environmental awareness is influencing the real estate sector more than ever before.

According to the German philosopher and social psychologist Eric Fromm, humans are psychologically attracted to living organisms. Knowing this, it’s unsurprising that most city-dwellers, at some point in time, desire an escape to the country. Some of us dream of living by the sea, others dream of endless green. Nowadays these mental and physical factors are consciously used when designing an office – as points out.

There is an innate human need to be close to nature

Biophilic design was coined after the theory of ‘Biophilia’, which is the “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes”. As Knight Frank explains, the term was created in the 1980s, when American biologist Edward O Wilson observed how “increasing rates of urbanisation were leading to a disconnection with the natural world”-

“Architects, interior designers and even office managers have begun incorporating elements of Biophilia (dubbed biophilic office design) to alleviate the disparity between our urban lives and our born need to be close to nature, making our office environments more palatable.”- Amanda Lim, Head of Knight Frank’s Flexible Office Solutions

Biophilic spaces can feature big windows that allow us to watch the world change, natural elements like water or plants and earthy tones that mimic landscapes.

The connection with nature has always been important for human civilization, however, the technocratic trends of the last century took the “modern type of man” farther and farther away from nature. Now this tendency is turning as the organic approach can be seen not only in the use of architectural materials but with the spread of the circular economy, it also appears comprehensively in the real estate market.

The principles of biophilic office design 

Biophilic design plays an increasingly decisive role in the case of office designs, which include many factors, but perhaps the most important are:

  • biodiversity, that is, as much and as diverse vegetation as possible;
  • dynamic lighting and lots of natural light;
  • warm colours;
  • the use of natural materials and large windows with a view of nature.

This kind of approach considers people as biological organisms, the harmony of mind and body largely determines health and well-being. Biophilia supports the love of place, where employees like to visit their workplace because there they can maintain their mental balance.

The health-factor

Office plants can improve air quality, especially those that can absorb pollutants and weed out toxins, such as Aloe Vera, Snake Plants and Money Plants.  Biophilic office design can enhance mental health and happiness also. Being in nature or green spaces can not only boost our feelings of calm but also reduce our feelings of stress and anger.

Research has also found that sunlight boosts our production of serotonin, also known as our ‘happy hormone’, which reduces levels of anxiety and depression. Large windows that let in natural light can be an instant win for employee happiness.

Considering we spend 90,000 hours of our lives on average in the office, incorporating design elements that mirror being in nature or green spaces can turn our workplaces from stress-inducers to stress-busters.

The productivity-booster

There Human Spaces report showed that biophilic design improves productivity by 6% and creativity by up to 15%. Spaces covered with vegetation can increase a person’s self-esteem and mood, and the presence of water has a relaxing effect. Moreover, according to experience, these benefits can appear in 5-20 minutes – adds.

Knight Frank mentions another study by a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis which found that in offices with natural light, employees showed an 84% decrease in eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision symptoms, which often detract from productivity levels. In terms of employee retention, improving your office environment is said to boost staff loyalty across all generations by 53%.

Businesses view their office space as a strategic device; investing in your workplace means investing in your people. Silicon Valley’s tech giants offer a perfect example. 

“Take, for example, Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. Known as The Spheres, the office is a jungle-inspired greenhouse with glass orbs that are meant to pull Amazon workers out of their high-rise offices and into a workspace that’s embedded in nature. From rope bridges and tree houses to streams and green walls, The Spheres include thousands of plants strategically placed to encourage employees to think creatively.”- Teneshia Naidoo, Head of Content at Cityscape Intelligence 





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