If you are asked to close your eyes and imagine a relaxing scenario, what is the image that first comes to your mind? Chances are very high that the image of a forest, mountains, sea, beach or a meadow will come to your mind as a source of relaxation rather than a shopping mall or an office. However, we still spend 80-90 percent of our time stuck inside, going back from home to the office.
In their quest to design solutions that relaxes the mind and keep our productivity at the peak, architects and interior designers are turning towards the concept of biophilia and biophilic buildings.
What Is Biophilia?
Nature is ultimately human’s innate habitat. With the evolution, industrialization and modernization, human interaction with nature changed a lot, decreasing to a great extent, which explains our longing for natural surrounding.
Biophilia literally means ‘the love for living things.’ It may seem like the latest buzzword in sustainable living,the term was first coined by psychologist Erich Fromm in 1964, who detected how urbanization is leading to a disconnection with nature.
What Is Biophilic Designs?
Originating from the term biophilia, biophilic designs are in harmony with nature and sustainable living. Major attributes of biophilic design are direct experience of nature through exposure to light, air, water, plants, animals and weather.
Since we spend most of our time indoors, the main agenda of a biophilic design is to bring the residents of the building as close to nature as possible. Architects usually attain the motive by bringing characteristics of the natural world into built spaces, such as water, greenery, natural light, elements like wood (where the grain is visible) and stone. The use of botanical shapes and forms instead of straight lines is a characteristic of biophilic designs, as well as establishing a visual relationship with the surroundings.
Benefits Of Biophilic Buildings
Spending long hours inside have its own setbacks such as decreased metabolism rates, increased risk of diabetes and heart diseases, increased risk of depression, lower back and neck pain resulting in decreased productivity in general.
A landmark 2019 study found that children in Denmark who had been exposed to more greenery had 55% less mental health problems later in life compared to those who weren’t exposed to nature.
Various other studies have shown that spending even a few seconds ripping your eyes from your screen to stare at a desk plant could help give your mind a break and restore your ability to focus. No wonder corporate giants like Google,Etsy and many more are opting for biophilic design and ideas to make their employees more relaxed, happier and harderworking.
Here are some unquestionable benefits of biophilic workplace:
Increased levels of concentration: The need to deliver on tight deadlines and prove one’s worth to managers, teammates, and peers often create tremendous pressure on employees. Grasses, shrubs, and large plants produce oxygen, which can reduce stress and help employees focus better.
Boost in creativity and cognitive functions: Drab indoors can often restrict the flow of creative juices. While this can affect the quality of work produced by any worker, it can be particularly frustrating for creative thinkers. By allowing natural light to flow in unhindered or installing biomorphic artwork, companies can certainly create an creatively-inclined environment. Use of natural materials, like wood and stones, have also been seen to boost creative thinking.
Lower attrition: If some surveys are to be believed, staff well-being and happiness also determine the attrition levels in an organisation. Since staff well-being is directly correlated with the working environment and conditions, biophilic design can actually help retain talent.
Improved sleep and relief from seasonal depressions: Studies have shown that light and warmth from the sun can prevent cyclical mood swings. It also stabilises the sleeping patterns in people, helping them stay fresh and lively.
How Companies Adapting to Biophilic Designs in Interior?
Green walls are common. So are office desk planters. Companies are now going an extra mile to make their workspace as close to nature as possible.
Coworking spaces are pioneers in this field. Popular co-working space Second Home’s claim to fame is that their space is home to more than 2000 plants with the goal of both providing visual and acoustic privacy as well as cashing in on all the benefits associated with being close to plants.
“There are no straight lines in the designs because there are no straight lines in nature. It’s also why every chair and desk lamp is different–this reflects the fractal complexity you find in nature, where every leaf and snowflake is shaped differently,” Rohan Silva, one of the coworking space’s founders, told Fast Company.
Google has been experimenting with various biophilic designs to find a perfect balance. The company has banked heavily upon skylights to provide more natural light, added more plants to its spaces, and even tried changing the wallpaper and carpet to more natural patterns.
7 Ways To Make Biophilic Workspace
There are some tried-and-tested ways to design a biophilic workspace. Here are 7 basic ones:
Having green walls in the office is a simple and a great way to embrace biophilia. If green wall is too much work, having ferns and potted plants at every corner, terrariums on individual desks, and koi pond installations in the common areas are all great ways to bring a bit of nature indoors.
Imagine a soothing soundtrack of waves, winds and chirruping of birds in an office instead of usual chatter or other city noise. The award-winning office of Prudential’s workPLAYce has sound of chirping birds on one floor in the passageway and
Given that scents trigger powerful memories in the human brain, using natural fragrances in the workplace can induce the feeling of being outdoors and eventually relaxes the human mind. Diffusing the fragrance of fresh flowers, plant oils and fruit essences throughout an office space has energising or calming effects. Having natural ventilation and adequate breezeways is another great way.
Sense Of Touch:
Replacing artificial upholstery and fabric in the workplace with natural elements is another big trend. Including lots of natural elements in the interiors of the workplace like wood, bamboo and stone, both in spaces where employees work as well as in break areas, would increase the efficiency manifold.
wall-to-wall windows is an easy way to bring in as much as natural light as possible, thus, syncing the natural circadian rhythm of residents of the place with the changing light of the day.
The presence of a water body has a soothing effect on people and has proven to be a mood enhancer. Aquariums, fountains, water walls and constructed streams and even artwork depicting water bodies can create a sense of natural calm.
Biophilic design is not about stuffing the workplace with plants, trees and everything natural. It requires meticulous planning with a vision and motive. If done right, the results can turn out surprising and game changing.