Exposure to nature has never been more important than it is today. Between longer hours in the office and longer commute times, we’re spending more time than ever before indoors and away from the natural world.
What this means is we’re missing out on the essential psychological and physiological benefits that exposure to trees, fresh air, mountains, and bodies of water provide us with. But it’s not all doom and gloom thanks to the philosophy called “Biophilia” that is reshaping how we think about and interact with our environments.
Essentially, biophilia is changing the way we work, live, and operate within the built environment, and can be defined as “humanity’s innate need to connect with nature and the natural environment” according to Kenneth Freeman, Head of Innovation at Ambius. “As a species, we have divorced ourselves from our natural habitat: the open plains. Just as zoo animals and lab rats in sterile, unenriched environments show signs of physical and mental stress, so do humans when forced to work in lean, sterile, and unenriched workplaces.”
Businesses can reduce the negative impacts of sterile, lean workplaces and actually enhance their environments by integrating a variety of biophilic features such as green walls, plants, natural woods or stone, and more that mimic the natural world. These biophilic elements effectively create a positive response as if people were exposed to the natural stimuli in real life.
Core features of biophilia
- Scattered, clustered, varied vegetation
- Overlooking landscapes
- Blurring the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors
- Dynamic and diffuse light
- Natural scents
- Proximity to water
- Use of natural and local materials
- Shelter and privacy
The philosophy of biophilia has lead to somewhat of a renaissance within the construction and architectural industries as wellness and sustainable design practices such as the WELL Building Standard and LEED continue to take on increased importance within the built environment. It’s this collection of standards, sustainability initiatives, and wellness programs stemming from biophilic principles that are generating the change that employees are beginning to see integrated into their workplaces from coast to coast.
Although biophilia is still, at its core, a philosophical idea, there are tangible, real-life benefits associated with it that make the process of constructing, designing, and decorating buildings according to its precepts worthwhile for businesses of all types. According to Freeman, “the current research shows how enriched and empowered environments improve business outcomes such as improved productivity, well-being, and engagement; and there’s a similar body of research that shows that plants and natural elements in particular, have a profound effect.”
In terms of developing a uniform approach, biophilia is a way of linking together all the research explaining the myriad benefits that occur when the concepts are put into effect in the office, a hotel, a hospital or virtually any space. The research makes a strong case for improving human capacity, overall wellness, and job-specific functions that results in a variety of benefits for those working or operating in biophilically designed spaces.
Benefits of biophilic design
- Reduced employee absenteeism
- Improved health
- Increased mood and feeling of well-being
- Improved productivity
- Increased employee engagement
- Reduced stress levels
- Mental restoration & reduced fatigue
Biophilia, and biophilic design specifically, is only expected to gain in popularity in the next decade. The philosophy has already achieved a new level of “mainstream” notoriety in recent years, however, there’s still plenty of room for growth as biophilia and biophilic design expand beyond interior design and architectural circles and into new areas such as Human Resources, building operations, and property management.
New research extolling the benefits of biophilic design is being released regularly, and initiatives led by the WELL Building Standard are becoming more commonplace. With research and academic inquiry on the rise, it appears as though the incoming results have been profound enough to warrant a new level of interest and excitement from leading research institutions and businesses. As employers continue to become more aware of the scientific research, the mental and physical benefits to their workforce and the growth of their bottom line due to sustainability and increased performance, the more important biophilia will become in today’s world.
Ambius designers are experts in enhancing the office space of businesses just like yours. Contact us to speak to one of our specialists and get the ball rolling for improving your space today.
*This article received expert contributions from Kenneth Freeman, Head of Innovation for Ambius.
Can’t get enough sustainability and biophilic design news and trends? We recommend that you check out The New Natural Habitat: How Biophilia and WELL are Changing the Way We Work!