Biophilia, our innate desire to connect with nature, is a concept that’s rising to the forefront of modern workplace design. Below, we share our perspective on the importance of biophilic design. Then, we explore two approaches to biophilic design and share how it affects our wellbeing.
Why Should We Look To Nature?
We believe that wellbeing throughout the workplace is essential today, and that wellbeing and biophilia are now inherently linked. Wellbeing is broadly used to describe a state of mind and sense of comfort that organizations want to provide for their employees. Biophilia is a powerful tool toward that end. Biophilic design principles may be applied in new ways that span from living design to symbolizing or simulating nature within the workplace. Each approach offers a different form of creative expression and contributes to reducing stress, promoting rejuvenation, purifying air, and beautifying space. And that produces a compelling combination of quantitative and qualitative results, which directly impacts people’s performance, experience and allegiance to the places they choose to work.
Biophilic Design At Work: The Tangible Approach
Perhaps the most familiar means of bringing biophilic design to the workplace is by incorporating tangible, visual elements – and living design – into the office: natural materials like wood and stone, along with plants and living green walls.
Inc. discusses how powerhouse employers are investing in this approach; Amazon introduced glass-domed greenhouses into their Seattle Headquarters, Microsoft created treehouse conference rooms and Airbnb designed their San Francisco office with stone floors and wood wall accents. Meanwhile, Fast Company examines a New York City health clinic, whose lounge features wood in multiple areas: wood floors, wood shelving and wood chairs – “all of which provide a tangible material connection to the natural world.”
We’ve noticed this increasing demand for workspaces that promote wellbeing through the physical environment. Following a successful introductory program in select markets, we’re expanding our alliance with Sagegreenlife, a leader in the design and manufacturing of living green walls. Sagegreenlife’s living designs add a truly organic element to the office – infusing a space with nature in a very literal way.
Biophilic Design At Work: The Symbolic Approach
Biophilic design can also refresh and revitalize the office in a more representative way. The new Designtex + Coalesse collection is one example of this emblematic approach – research on biophilia and patterns for enriching environments informed the thinking behind the collection’s development.
Featuring: the Designtex + Coalesse collection fabrics - where biophilic inspiration was key in the development.
Before the Designtex + Coalesse collection came to fruition, the principle of biophilia was key in the creation of Coalesse pattern and color palettes.
We had been researching and then creating exploratory patterns and natural color ranges that were part of our vernacular. The thing we were intrigued by is how to create more symbolic or subtle cues from nature because we know that the brain is wired to automatically recognize those patterns and fill them in. Our patterns and referential colors tap into that sensibility with the variety, interest and stimulation that we benefit from as human beings—but without being limited by a more literal translation.” – Coalesse Global Director of Design, John Hamilton
Modern organizations are taking a more nuanced perspective when it comes to biophilic design – integrating a combination of living design and natural materials along with more abstract references in the office inspired by and derived from nature. HP’s new Houston campus is one example – “Screen walls on the first floor were inspired by a dragonfly wing, while the building's shades… are reminiscent of a sunrise and sunset.”
A Force of Nature: The Impact of Biophilic Design
Below, we list just a few of the benefits of biophilic design in the office – effects which influence how companies can attract and retain top talent.
Reducing stress & promoting rejuvenation: Biophilic design carries significant implications for worker wellbeing – improved cognitive function, reduced stress and enhanced creativity are just a few benefits we’ve discussed before on the blog. Eco-Business suggests that with employees spending close to 90% of their time indoors, biophilic design counters the urban, built-in environment, reduces stress and improves productivity. Facility Executive highlights that a visible connection to nature gives way for, and fosters, psychological restoration.
Purifying air quality: Workplace Insight mentions research indicating one of the benefits from biophilic design as “11 percent gains in productivity from fresh air.” Inc. notes that “even as few as one plant for every three employees can reduce CO2 levels by 20%.”
Beautifying space: Living Future highlights the Etsy HQ, which blends environmental elements with allusions to natural patterns and processes. The design team avoided right angles and straight walls to embody the irregularity of nature, and features including an outdoor terrace with native plants, workspaces designated for maximum exposure to natural light and nature-inspired artwork are just a few of the ways biophilic design elevates the space.
Interested in learning more about connection between worker wellbeing and biophilic design? We discuss the impact of nature in modern workplace design here and its benefits for both individuals and organizations here.