In his white paper “Biophilia and Healing Environments,” author and architect Nikos Salingaros proposes that bringing biophilia — our love for the natural world — into buildings and workspaces can create positive, healing environments. With a renewed focus on the importance of health and wellness in our everyday lives, incorporating biophilic elements into the workplace can be more beneficial than ever to foster emotional and cognitive comfort.
Put another way, biophilic design, whether at home or at work, contributes to mindfulness. And in seemingly ongoing seasons of stress, being encouraged to pause and notice what’s happening in the present is all the more important.
Let’s take a step back and define biophilic design. It’s no secret that humans have an inherent attraction to the natural world. This acknowledgment led to a field of study called biophilia or biophilic design — design inspired by nature. The guiding principle behind the idea is that nature is essential for mental and physical wellbeing, and should be incorporated into design. As researchers are discovering more and more about how these natural elements impact us, biophilia then becomes most important for those looking to create workplaces that promote health, wellness and comfort.
According to environmental design consultant Bill Browning, biophilic design embraces our innate affinity for the natural world by “bringing experiences of nature to us in the built environment; this can include living plants, water, daylight, natural materials, fractal patterns and spaces that support prospect views or provide a refuge condition.”
Browning says these biophilic experiences can reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and enhance mood and creativity — and, by extension, productivity. Using natural elements in office design can help relieve employee anxiety and create room for people to breathe.
Though the most powerful biophilic designs integrate large natural elements (like living walls and courtyard gardens), biophilic elements don’t have to be extravagant to encourage people to slow down and be present. Even a thoughtfully placed bonsai tree or succulent can have a calming, centering influence, reminding people of their connection to the living world.
Anyone who wants to incorporate biophilia into their work environment can start by thinking about how natural elements stimulate the senses and thus kindle self-awareness and focus. Here are some thought starters:
How can you encourage mindful practices through biophilic design in the workplace? Share your ideas in the comments.
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