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By Heather L. Rineer 

Close your eyes and imagine strolling down a wooded path with beautiful living greenery and wildlife surrounding you. You feel a sense of calm, rejuvenation, and a connection to nature. You have just experienced biophilia—the love of live or living systems. Biophilic design is an innovative design approach that incorporates natural elements into built environments with the goal of improving employee’s health, well-being, and productivity, and ultimately, a company’s bottom line.

Connection with other living things provides feelings of positivity, energy, and balance. There are three strategies to implement biophilic design in your workplace: direct contact, indirect contact, and space and place.

To create a direct contact design, include such things as all-natural preserved plants, garden courtyards that create a home for animals, the presence of water, and natural light. The addition of natural light by daylighting helps keep the circadian rhythm on schedule, and 57% of professionals say that natural light from windows is their most desired element.

For indirect contact design, include images of nature, add shapes and forms that represent nature, simulate natural light and air, and create a feeling of nature through color. When the direct contact design approach of using windows is not possible, consider products that use images of skies, landscapes, or running water. These images can either be static or run on a constant loop on a television.

The experience of space and place is provided through special characteristics of the natural environment: the way people move through the space, the way it is organized, how the space transitions organically, and how integrating parts to create a whole, making a person feel as though they are traversing through nature. Create this experience by Incorporating interior balconies, interior courtyards, long views of surrounding settings, clear pathways between spaces, and orderly arrangements of objects in a coherently structured environment.

No matter how biophilic design is created, different types of natural items and colors can be incorporated depending on the geographic location of the built environment. For example, in the Southwest, you may want to incorporate rocks and sand within a space. In the Northeast, you may incorporate trees, grass, and flowers. The colors most prevalent in biophilic design are blue, green, yellow, and white.

Across the globe, the experience of biophilic design in the built environment has proven instrumental in advancing people’s health, fitness, well-being, and overall productivity. A 2016 World Green Building Council report showed a cognitive score increase of 101% for employees who work in a green, well-ventilated office.

Without the infusion of biophilic design, a built space lacks the connection between human and nature. Losing that connection can contribute to anxiety, depression, and unfocused minds. Imagine a space that has low ceilings, no windows, and dreary paint. The ability to achieve comfort is difficult, and a feeling of escape becomes more apparent with every passing moment. An unhealthy vibe or a “fight or flight” mood starts to fester and makes you feel the weight of stress on your shoulders.

Nature is a way to escape the stresses of everyday life. Nature does not judge, it has no urgency, and it doesn’t create deadlines which cause stress. Nature also promotes the idea of “just enough,” the sustainability of food, energy, and growth. Nature provides a sense of mystery, offering an enticement to explore its hidden depths and never-ending views.

More than 80% of professionals say they have their best ideas when working in flexible-space options. Flexible options don’t simply refer to either working in the office or working remotely at home. Employers are now incorporating different areas for privacy and collaboration to benefit their employees. Alternative work areas that incorporate biophilic design include cafés, lounges, outdoor walking paths, and outdoor seating areas. In the natural world, there are numerous environments for all manner of life to seek shelter and create community. Nearly 80% of professionals and 87% of executives believe this freedom to work the way that suits them best also encourages innovation within the workplace.

Currently, 66% of full-time professionals believe that the design of the workplace and its environment is as or more important than office location when considering a new job. When creating spaces that positively affect overall mood and productivity, both employees and employer reap the benefits. When employees are more productive, they tend to self-invest. When the employer sees a positive response from the workforce, they can be confident of their ability to attract and retain skilled employees.

Creating an environment that exudes biophilia is at the forefront of a new wave of innovation and change. More and more companies are self-investing through the design of their buildings, bringing renewed focus to employee health and well-being.

Incorporating nature’s affects in the built environment can help reduce employee absenteeism, improve health, increase peoples’ moods and feeling of well-being, enrich productivity, enhance employee engagement, decrease stress levels and fatigue, and restore mental awareness. Create a more organic workplace today by incorporating biophilic design and take the beneficial leap toward employee health, well-being, and productivity.

Heather L. Rineer

Heather L. Rineer

Diversified Design

Heather L. Rineer is a Senior Interior Designer at Diversified Design, a collaborative, award-winning team of designers and architects providing fully integrated design services out of New Cumberland, PA. For more information on the services of Diversified Design or to join our team, visit www.diversified-design.com. You can reach Heather at (717) 625-0400 or heather@diversified-design.com.

Featured in Commercial Real Estate Review – Fourth Quarter 2018