Last edited 10 Feb 2021

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BSRIA Institute / association Website

Biophilic design - why it matters

Employee health and wellbeing can be enhanced by having biophilic plants in workplaces.


[edit] What is biophilic design?

Biophilia is defined as ‘an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world’. Simply put, we as people, feel happier when in natural surroundings rather than man-made environments.

However, rapid urbanisation in recent times has meant that more and more people are living and working in cities – it is estimated that we spend 90% of our time in enclosed buildings.

And as most buildings are not designed to have any connection with nature, this is having a big impact on people’s overall health and wellbeing. In fact, as many one in four people in the UK experience mental health problems, and 72% of workers said that they felt their physical or mental health had been negatively affected by their workplace [1].

Biophilic design is a way of bridging the gap between our workplace environments and nature by incorporating elements such as natural materials, water features, plenty of natural light and interior planting.

[edit] How can it help?

Studies found that when interior plants were present, workers:

  • Were at least 15% more productive [2].
  • Felt 50% less stress or anxiety and 30% less general fatigue [3].
  • Showed fewer symptoms of minor health issues (such as colds) and took less sick leave [4].
  • Felt a 13% increase in overall wellbeing [5].

This clearly shows that the inclusion of just one of the elements of biophilic design can help employees to feel happier and more relaxed, with a greater sense of wellbeing, thus increasing their productivity.

Not only that, but UK businesses currently lose 6.9 days per year per employee due to absenteeism, costing the British economy £100 billion. Reducing the amount of sick leave taken using interior planting and other biophilic elements has the potential to save employers significant amounts of money.

[edit] How to do it

Here are some ways biophilic design can be incorporated in a workspace:

Use natural materials and finishes – such as wood panelling – which are softer on the eye than bright colours. It is important to make sure that employees have adequate natural light and proper ventilation. Scents and sounds such as birdsong and running water help employees to feel more relaxed.

Incorporating plants is perhaps the easiest way to implement biophilic design – and there are lots of exciting ways to use planting in workspaces.

Interior trees can really imbue a space with a sense of the outdoors; they also significantly reduce noise levels and improve the air quality. If there is no room for trees, smaller plant displays can be used. A great example is Pukka Herbs’ offices in Bristol, which include bespoke planters made of reclaimed timber, galvanised planters with Kentia Palms and other air-purifying plants, as well as beautiful hanging planters with trailing plants. Green walls and moss walls are a great way to add greenery without taking up floor space – the same goes for small desktop planters. The possibilities are endless.

[edit] Investment for the future

Embracing the concepts of biophilic design can significantly improve working environments, which in turn, will lead to people being healthier, more productive and feeling a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing in the workplace. This can bring economic benefits to businesses too, through reduced employee turnover, increased productivity and reduced absenteeism. Furthermore, by creating spaces which bring the outdoors inside will also establish sustainable workplaces for future generations.

[edit] References

  1. Oktras.
  2. Study by Dr Craig Knight (psychologist) et al. University of Exeter.
  3. Study by New University of Technology Sydney.
  4. Study by Prof. Dr. Tøve Fjeld, Agricultural University of Norway.
  5. Interface research quoted in Forbes.

[edit] About this article

This article was written by Kayley van As of PlantCare. It was previously published on the BSRIA website in September 2019 and can be accessed HERE.

PlantCare was established in 1976 and is a provider of interior planting and plant maintenance services.

Articles by BSRIA on Designing Buildings Wiki can be found HERE.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki


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