Biophilic design is a response to the human need to connect with nature and works to re-establish this contact in the built environment. Ultimately, biophilic design is the theory, science and practice of creating buildings inspired by nature, with the aim to continue the individual's connection with nature in the environments in which we live and work everyday.
In today's contemporary designed environment, people are increasingly isolated from the beneficial experience of natural systems and processes. Yet it is often natural settings that people find particularly appealing and aesthetically pleasing. So, by mimicking these natural environments within the workplace, we can create workspaces that are imbued with positive emotional experiences. It is often the case that we don't take enough time to immerse ourselves in nature or appreciate the living systems that exist everywhere around us, making it vital for us to incorporate nature into our day-to-day environments.
• A third (33%) of office workers say that the design of an office would affect their decision to work at a company.
• Only 42% report having live plants in the office and an alarming 47% report having no natural light in their office.
• Almost a fifth (19%) of respondents report that there are no natural elements present in their office.
• Just under half (47%) of all respondents agree that they have felt stressed in their workplace within the last three months. This finding emphasizes the importance of identifying and enforcing practices that can improve well-being at work - such as biophilic design.
• Two thirds (67%) of respondents report feeling happy when walking into bright office environments accented with green, yellow or blue colors.
• 24% of respondents say that their workplace does not provide them with a sense of light and space.
• 39% of workers felt most productive at their own desk in an open plan office (39%).
• 28% of respondents report that they do have a quiet space to work in their office.
As it stands, the field of research into the benefits of biophilic design is accumulating evidence at a rapid pace. In an evaluative review of more than 50 empirical studies, it has been concluded that an environment devoid of nature may create discord, meaning that such environments can have a negative effect on health and well-being. It is noted that this discord is largely due to a lack of greenery and, in particular, a visual absence of plants. This can be improved by incorporating elements of nature into these environments, by creating parks, offering views of nature through windows, and the presence of potted plants.
More recently there has been an increasing amount of research focusing on biophilia in the context of the workplace, looking specifically into the interaction between the design of the workplace and employee outcomes. However, despite evidence that shows people benefit from being connected with nature, it is concerning that a biophilic approach to the design of work environments is not placed higher on the global corporate agenda.
Research findings emphasize the dramatic impact that even simple changes to incorporate nature in the workplace can have on how employees feel when they come to work, and how happy, creative and productive they feel when they are working. This should encourage organizations to consider these effects and take action to incorporate biophilic design practices into the workspace. While the primary focus of this report is employee well-being, productivity and creativity, we also pay attention to measures of happiness, enthusiasm and motivation in examining how bringing nature into the workplace can elicit these positive emotions.
Globally, research has shown that workers' productivity depends upon the environment they are in. 39% of workers felt most productive at their own desk in a private office. The countries with the greatest preference for a private office were Germany (59%), China (52%), Canada (50%), Sweden (49%), the US (45%), Denmark (44%), France (43%), and the Netherlands (41%). 36% Felt most productive at their own desk in an open plan environment.
There has been a tendency for professional workforces to move towards open plan spaces. However, what we can see from this data is that we have individual preferences on office layout and it is important to take this into consideration, along with cultural preferences.
Overall, 28% of respondents in the present study said that they do not have a quiet space where they can go to work. Furthermore, over 10% felt most productive in a space that suited the task, such as a quiet room for a call, or break out area.
While it is only natural that preferences for type of workspace will vary, what this shows is that productivity is impacted significantly by our surroundings.
Workers in office environments with natural
elements, such as greenery and sunlight are:
Impact of Natural Elements within the Office
Impact of a Light and Spacious Work Environment
The NASA Clean Air Study was led by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in association with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA). Its results suggest that certain common indoor plants may provide a natural way of removing toxic agents such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene from the air, helping neutralize the effects of sick building syndrome.
The first list of air-filtering plants was compiled by NASA as part of a clean air study published in 1989, which researched ways to clean air in space stations. As well as absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, as all plants do, these plants also eliminate significant amounts of benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. The second and third lists are from B. C. Wolverton's book and paper and focus on removal of specific chemicals.
NASA researchers suggest efficient air cleaning is accomplished with at least one plant per 100 square feet of home or office space. Other more recent research has shown that micro-organisms in the potting mix (soil) of a potted plant remove benzene from the air, and that some plant species also contribute to removing benzene.
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