Biophilic design principles for workplace wellbeing & competitive advantage

26th February 2021

Published in

Landmark office space with lots of plants

Article by Katie Le Chevalier – Business Development Manager – Planteria Group

Personally, when I think of great office space, I think of spaces that inspire. The workplace should be impressive and attractive – somewhere that you want to spend your time. It should work for the people who use it, but it should make you feel something too. When I am working, I want to feel calm and centred, not frantic and frenetic. Good design can make all the difference in helping me get in the zone.

The best office design starts with a people-centric approach. After all, you are designing a space for people to perform in. Therefore it needs to be a holistic approach with consideration for your team and their needs.

Here are some questions you may ask when considering if the workplace works for you. Will it make you enthusiastic about going to work? Is it practical and comfortable? Does it encourage collaboration and have enough private space for holding team meetings and informal conversations?  How does the workspace reflect my company values and ethics? Does it boost productivity, attract talent and support wellbeing?

Biophilic design – tell me more

The word biophilia means a love of living things – ‘bio’ meaning life or living things and ‘philia’ meaning the love of something, the opposite of ‘phobia’. As humans, we have an innate need to connect to nature. Imagine, for a moment, how you feel when you are sitting in a garden, walking by the sea, or looking at a sunrise.

A study published in Landscape and Urban Planning measured neural activity as a response to various pictures of different settings. The researchers showed subjects images of nature vs images of built environments devoid of nature. The subjects showed significantly increased fMRI activity in a part of the brain associated with pleasure. So, we know that nature positively impacts our emotional and mental state.

In the UK, we spend more than 90% of our time indoors, which means that many of us are not getting enough exposure to nature, let alone the sunlight we need. People who live and work in cities can be especially lacking in connection to green spaces, and that is why it is so essential to include biophilic design into our workspaces, the place we are spending most of our time.

Biophilic design includes all the natural elements of daylight, plants, views from windows out to gardens, terraces, water features and even animals like office pets. All will help improve mood and positively affect us.

The 3 Pillar concept

There are 3 Pillar concepts to biophilia-based design:

Nature in the Space refers to incorporating plants, fresh flowers, and water features like fish tanks into the built environment. It is the easiest way to incorporate biophilia into a space and can be done at any stage, including retro-fitting, and is also relatively inexpensive. Innovative interior designers blend planting with furnishings and make a feature of them. They incorporate plants into racking systems, with other storage – the systems multi-task as room dividers breaking up open-plan areas and creating privacy. Locker and cabinet tops can double as planting troughs. Plants can also be hung from ceilings and walls, leaving floor space free for people.

Natural Analogues are one degree removed from real nature. Think of materials that evoke nature – natural wood grain, slate, stone, marble, even carpeting which mimics grass. Artwork depicting nature, large friezes or feature walls such as artificial living walls, for example. A naturally inspired colour palette, echoing the seashore or a verdant forest. Biomorphic forms and textures mimicking shells or other natural shapes in furnishing would all fall into this category.

The third pillar is the Nature of the Space. It refers to the different spatial configurations we know humans respond well to and prefer – one of the most compelling being a ‘savannah view’, a wide-open vista of a natural setting.

Curious to know more about biophilia? Planteria is hosting a webinar on Friday 26 March at 12:00.  Register now to join.

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