What is biophilic design?
In a nutshell, biophilic design is the practice of bringing the outdoors in. It is design that reconnects us with nature by integrating natural features into indoor environments. And it’s become increasingly popular in recent years, particularly in office design.
Why? Well, have you ever gone for a long walk to ‘clear your head’? Do you retire to the garden in summer at the end of a long work week? Do you retreat to rural locations when you go away on holiday? Put simply, humans are soothed by nature. We have an innate connection with the outside world that has developed within us over hundreds, if not thousands, of years. But sadly, due to rapid urbanisation, the majority of us get the opportunity to connect with nature less and less. In fact, recent studies suggest that we now spend 90% of our time indoors.
This is why biophilic design is so powerful. It helps us to reconnect with nature within an urban setting. When done well, biophilia in the workplace can have a profound effect on mental health, productivity and more.
What does biophilic design look like?
The term ‘biophilic design’ covers a range of design features. It can be anything from a direct connection with nature, such as the introduction of plants and other greenery, to the indirect – for example using natural materials and textures.
The following are all examples of biophilic design:
- Living walls
- Increasing natural light or positioning desks closer to natural light
- A natural ‘earth tone’ colour palette on walls and furniture
- Natural wood and stone finishes
- Water features
- Nature themed wall art
In essence, any design feature that helps to help bridge the gap between the inside and outside world could be classed as biophilic.
What are the benefits of biophilic design?
We discuss the benefits of biophilic design in more detail in this blog, so we won’t go into too much detail here. But, it is certainly worth restating the mental health and wellbeing benefits that come from bringing the outdoors in. Nature helps us to recuperate by reconnecting with our senses and grounding us in the moment. This not only helps to replenish our cognitive resources but also contributes to our physical wellbeing by reducing blood pressure and muscle tension. It has also been shown to slow the production of stress hormones. With stress-related illness on the rise, it’s no surprise that global giants such as Google, Amazon and Apple are investing heavily in biophilic design to aid mental health and wellbeing.
There are other benefits too. Greenery helps to reduce the dry atmosphere caused by electronic equipment by circulating the air more affectively. There are also office culture benefits. We’ve seen teams name their plants and take turns caring for them. In another office, employees held a photography competition to get images from local beauty spots to display on the wall.
But what about outdoor spaces?
Here at Opus4, we absolutely love biophilia – but it is worth mentioning that it isn’t actually a substitute for spending time outside. This year, more businesses are investing in their outdoor spaces as they look to find new and different ways to put mental health and wellbeing front and centre. Outdoor space also has the added benefit of being more ‘COVID-19 friendly’ as businesses tentatively look towards a safe return to the office. If you have the space available to you, this could be a great thing to pair with biophilic design to really reap the rewards of connecting with nature.
If you’re looking to give your office an upgrade, get in touch. We’d love to talk to you about how we can help you to embrace biophilic design and make your workplace a happy and healthy one.