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Matthew Brosius

Biophilic Design: Do You Need it in Your Workspace?

The days of stereotypical office settings with uniform cubicles, fluorescent lighting, and minimal open space are ending. Today, more and more offices are realizing that design workspaces with an integration with nature in mind is producing better outcomes for their business.

In this post, we'll discuss:

  • What biophilic design is and why it's important
  • How to integrate facets of biophilic design into your workspace

What Is Biophilic Design?

The benefits of immersing yourself in nature as much as possible are well-documented. According to experts, working in a natural setting fools your brain into letting go of the impulse that associates work and stress. Many companies are beginning to think of creative ways to innovate by allowing — encouraging, even — employees to spend more time outside during the workday.

This is because research has repeatedly shown that working in and around nature has a certain set of undeniable benefits. First, it makes people more focused and productive, and second, it has been shown to have positive effects on health as well.

But, what if it's not feasible to operate a business where employees can spend time outside? Studies have found that the next best thing is to bring nature into the workplace. This has spurred a wave of new thinking about design, from homes, to offices, to government buildings, and everything in between, but commercial businesses are leveraging this natural design specifically to keep their workforce happy, healthy, and productive.

This is the idea behind the concept of biophilic design. The word biophilic means "the love of nature" and biophilic designs incorporate natural images and elements into a space of any type.

8 Ways to Incorporate Biophilic Design into Your Office

Depending on the size of the space you have to work with and other factors like budget and are surrounding your building, you might have to find creative solutions to merge nature and commerce in your workspace. Here are 8 jumping off points, to get you started in the direction of true biophilic synergy:

1. Create Visual Connections with Nature

Simply giving your team the opportunity to see elements of nature while they work is the minimum effort it can take to leverage the power of biophilic design in your workspace. An English study found that employees productivity was boosted after houseplants were brought into the office, emphasizing the power of our subconscious connection with nature.

Visual connection with nature is most often done using the addition of clear glass windows where there were smaller or translucent windows. When people are able to look at the outside when they work, they'll be happier and more productive.

2. Non-Visual Connections Work Also

Maybe it's not possible to bring your team together with nature in a way that they can observe. Some offices are dated to the degree that they can't be upgraded in a cost-effective way, and that's ok. Even if the windows in your office are very small, find a way to leave them open. The sound of birds or running water through the noise of the city or whatever setting your office sits is enough to relieve stress and make workers feel fresher.

3. Use Open Space to Your Advantage

Leveraging biophilic design in creative ways often means using tenets of nature that you or your team may not even realize come from nature in the first place. Research shows that open space and long sightlines cause people to feel like they're in a larger space similar to nature.

Few offices are better at this than modern, Bay Area tech headquarters. Twitter's, for example, uses open floor plans with translucent floor plans to encourage employees to immerse themselves in more natural settings, even providing an outside work area.

4. Use Water to Instantly Upgrade a Space

A water feature, fountain, or wall can instantly provide a more natural feel in your office. Not only does running water help purify the air, but the sound can also be a calming presence for employees in the area.

5. The More Natural Light, the Better

Allowing your office to get an abundance of natural light can help in a variety of different facets. First, it keeps your workforce from having to struggle under the harsh glow of outdated fluorescent fixtures. It also provides a deeper connection with nature due to its implication that windows and glass surfaces are allowing sunlight to permeate the space. Finally, natural light means your office is getting heat and light that you aren't paying for, making for a more sustainable operation.

A great example of this is the ROKI Global Innovation Center in Japan, where architects have created a mix of clear and translucent surfaces to produce a near-constant source of optimal natural light in the workspaces.

6. Airflow is Key

Having a constant source of fresh air in your office is an important aspect of biophilic design that produces benefits far beyond productivity. Outside air is more comfortable and fresh, meaning that employees will be happier and healthier at work. Ditch the AC whenever possible in favor of opening some windows or using strategically-placed fans to push natural air through the space.

7. Biomimicry Can Get the Job Done

In lieu of actually merging your workspace together with natural elements, nature-inspired architecture can be an effective substitute. Biomimicry is the term used to describe objects and buildings designed and built by humans to carry forward patterns and themes found in nature.

One great example is Shanghai, China's Museum of Natural History, constructed in 2015. Using a nautilus-inspired central windowed column, the architects clearly wanted to combine biomimicry with the impact of natural light in this incredible space.

8. Use a Mix of Refuge and Open Space

As mentioned, open space has intrinsic associations with nature, but don't overestimate the power of nooks and crannies in your office. Like in nature, open spaces contrasted with small, cozy, solo work corners can make it so everyone on your team can find a comfortable place for their needs.

Biophilic Design Is Simple, Yet Effective

You don't need to design an entirely new office to leverage the benefits of a naturally-inspired workspace. Something as simple as bringing a few plants or opening windows can allow your office to become a more productive space where your team can feel comfortable, no matter what's on the agenda.

Our team at Connecting Elements is here to help you through the design process for your workplace. Call 877-779-3409 to talk to an experienced specialist, or email us with any questions you have about your choices in furnishings.




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