The Principles of Biophilic Office Design

Everywhere you look, there’s a new scientific study telling us that getting close to nature is good for our minds and bodies. Trees are being hugged, forest bathing is a thing and now, biophilic office design is all the rage. What is it? It’s the process of enabling people to connect with nature while they work in an office environment.

The word biophilic is derived from biophilia, which refers to our inbuilt tendency to be drawn to nature and its processes. It’s the reason why we love to be by the sea, walk in the woods or scatter plants around our houses.

The concept of biophilic office design is the art of creating spaces that bring us closer to the natural elements. That doesn’t mean you have to have a waterfall in reception or a topiary in the canteen. It could be large windows that allow staff to watch the elements or earthy colours that reflect the natural world.

The benefits of a biophilic office

Studies repeatedly show that nature is good for us. Research indicates that biophilic elements in hospitals help to speed recovery time and in the hospitality sector, hotels report that guests are willing to pay up to 23% more for great views.

There’s something about the way a really well designed biophilic office space makes you feel and organisations realise that investing in it is a good way of attracting high calibre staff. Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle are a great example of biophilic design. The office is known as The Spheres and consists of a jungle-inspired glass house with orbs that is as far removed from high-rises office blocks as you could imagine.

The Spheres contains thousands of plants intermingled with tree houses and rope bridges. It’s the ideal setting to spark creativity and the kind of office space that nobody is in a hurry to leave come 5pm.

The principles of a biophilic office design

Here are six techniques that are used to create a truly biophilic office space.

  1. Natural features – features that connect us to nature are prevalent and range from plants, water features and natural light through to an earthy colour palette and in some cases, animals. Also, it’s worth noting that plants contribute to air quality and when you consider that 40% of all absences are due to indoor air pollution (US Joint Commission), it pays to invest in greenery for the workspace. Living walls are becoming increasingly popular as are roof gardens and utilising outdoor space.
  2. Natural shapes – the spaces are dominated by architectural elements that reflect natural forms, such as curves, domes and arches.
  3. Natural atmosphere – elements are incorporated that reflect the time of day, so for example, there might be different light settings at different times.
  4. Light – great attention is paid to the effects of lighting and it will vary depending on the use of each space. Natural light is hugely important. Studies show that 60% of workers don’t get enough sunlight and that natural light increases well-being.
  5. Culture/geographical elements – the inside space is connected to the outside world, with elements of history, geography and culture.
  6. Curiosity – the office space is created in such a way that people are curious to look, explore and experience it.

Biophilic design boosts productivity

A study by Cornell University showed that workers had an 84% decrease in eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision when they were in an office with natural light. That same study showed that those sitting near a window, were 2% more productive.

Another study, this time by a flooring manufacturer called Interface, found that people working in offices that contained natural elements such as sunlight and greenery, experienced a 15% increase in their wellbeing, which in turn, led to greater productivity.

Making a start

Not all organisations have the funds or capacity to recreate Amazon’s Spheres, but there are some simple changes you can make to office space to make it more biophilic.

A good way to start is by introducing more plants. If you do this, make sure that somebody is responsible for caring for them. While greenery is a great mood lifter, dead plants dotted around the building aren’t.

If you have the funds, think about how you can introduce the natural environment into your office spaces, using materials, colours and architectural features. Think about introducing curves, allowing in as much natural light as you can and choosing a palette that is inspired by nature. If you’re feeling ambitious, living walls or an indoor garden are a great way to invite nature into the building, making it feel like a living and breathing sanctuary.

At One Avenue, all our office space in popular areas of London such as London Bridge, Tower Hill and others, can be styled to suit your needs. If you are looking for a biophilic workspace in London, contact our team.

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