What is Biophilic Design?
Biophilic Design is the term used to describe spaces that make the occupant feel connected to the natural environment, by incorporating elements of nature into built environments. The term ‘biophilia’ means a love of life or living things, stemming from the Greek for ‘Philia,’ meaning ‘love of,’ the opposite being ‘phobia.’
Humans seek connections between nature and other forms of life. Evidence suggests that even listening to recordings of nature can boost mood, decrease stress, and lessen pain. We simply do not like feeling confined or trapped indoors and rather, want to have a sense of feeling free and calm. Other forms of biophilic design include skylights which provide natural light, walls covered in live planting, the presence of water such as fountains or ponds, efficient ventilation, natural landscape features and live planting throughout.
Why is it important to incorporate Biophilic Design in the workplace?
Stress and anxiety in the workplace are at fever pitch levels. A study by Lahinch based HR company, HRLocker, found that over half of full-time workers in Ireland are experiencing burnout, particularly virtual burnout. However, technology is here to stay, and with the increased demand for flexible and remote working options, employers need to arm themselves with tools to combat virtual fatigue, stress, and burnout in the workplace. Connecting with outdoor natural elements is frequently being used to combat stressful urban living and consensus has been reached that using biophilic design in the workplace can significantly improve the mental and physical well-being of employees.
A white paper conducted by Terrapin Bright Green found that employees with views of trees and landscapes took an average of 57 hours of sick leave per year, compared with 68 hours per year of sick leave taken by employees with no view. That amounts to 10% of employee absenteeism which can be attributed to architecture with no connection to nature. The findings clearly show that when employees are surrounded by nature, it can improve health, productivity, and job satisfaction.
The Benefits of Biophilic Design
The space you inhabit while working has a dramatic effect on you. Humans have an innate preference for the natural environment, and with the increase in urbanisation, biophilia has been listed as one of the key elements which can be used to positively impact mood, stress levels and psychosocial status.
A study into the importance of biophilic design in the workplace found that employees working in a call centre, who had direct views of nature, handled calls 6-7% faster than those who did not. We know now that conventional office spaces are on the decline, and flexible workspaces are becoming more attractive for organisations, but injecting this idea of biophilic design into the workplace is slowly becoming an essential requirement when it comes to designing the workplace. By using biophilic design, organisations can increase productivity, which will in turn save costs.
Reduces Fatigue and Improves Cognitive Function
‘Zoom fatigue’ has become a massive issue in the workplace. When taking meetings in person, we look from person to person, take a sip of coffee, glance around the room, absorb the surroundings and take non-verbal cues from colleagues. When taking a virtual call, these non-verbal cues can be extremely hard to read or can be non-existent, faces are enlarged on screens and research suggests that having to constantly look at ourselves on a screen is fatiguing, and can cause stress and anxiety.
Long virtual calls can take sustained effort, and with advances in technology, virtual calls are taking precedent in the working world, and are going nowhere soon. Much like the body gets tired, the mind does too, and providing workspaces or breakout areas with biophilic design allows employees to mentally ‘stretch,’ allowing them to readjust their focus, reduce fatigue, improve cognitive function, and improve concentration. Providing breakout spaces, such as an internal courtyard or a water feature, can help employees to unwind, take in the natural elements, soak up the sun and allow for a mental rest throughout the day.
Reduces Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
A 2013 study by the University of Essex found that visual exposure to the natural environment can reduce blood pressure and heart rate following exposure to a stressful situation, compared with those who were exposed to a built environment following a stressful situation. Visual and non-visual connections to nature and the presence of plants and light reduce stress, lower the heart rate, and decrease blood pressure, among other benefits.
A study published by Human Spaces found that employees who work in spaces with biophilic design are 15% more creative and reported a 15% higher level of well-being. Not only does biophilic design improve health, but biophilic design also improves employee operational activity Employees feel better physically and mentally and by improving connections to nature employees are performing better in the workplace overall.
Biophilic Design in the workspace
Applying biophilic design in the workplace clearly has many benefits for both the employee and the employer. Here at Iconic, biophilic design is integral to how our office spaces work so that your office space can work for you.
The Lennox Building, the first WELL v2 certified project in Ireland and the first certified flexible workspace in Europe, has been designed with the wellbeing and productivity of its members at its core. With live planting throughout, floor to ceiling windows on every floor providing an abundance of natural light, temperature zone controls, a large outdoor terrace, and a wellness events programme; biophilic design was at the core of The Lennox throughout every stage of its development.
Additionally, the entire design of Iconic’s newest workspace, Viscount House, has been worked around biophilic design. Overlooking the beautiful Fitzwilliam Square Park, in the heart of Dublin’s city centre, the aim of the architecture was to bring its occupants closer to nature. The live planting throughout Viscount House reduces noise pollution, increases air quality, reduces C02 emissions, enhances mental wellbeing and helps reduce stress and the spread of illness while boosting immunity.
Interested in learning more about Iconic Offices?
Do you want to hear more about how biophilic design can help optimise your business? At Iconic, we have flexible working options to suit whatever your business may need. There is no one size fits all solution, with private offices, coworking, or your own private coworking hub, all with biophilic design incorporated; we can find a flexible solution to meet your requirements.