Biophilia is a fancy word to describe a love for nature and life. It was introduced to the mainstream in the 80’s. Scientists suggested that human beings have a genetic predisposition to seek out connections with the natural world. In other words, people are naturally biophilic. The “biophilia hypothesis” states that we need to connect with nature on a regular basis to be at our healthiest and happiest. Since its introduction, plenty of research on the topic has proven it valid.
Despite the research, design trends for interior and exterior spaces had–for a while–focused on stepping away from nature. Metallic finishes, inorganic building materials, and sleek furniture were the mark of a truly modern workplace. These design trends appealed to the desire to move “beyond our roots.” They aimed to drive workplaces towards the future. As it turns out, disconnecting from nature is not good for our mental or physical health. People who don’t interact with nature on a regular basis may be more susceptible to depression and anxiety. Additionally, they may develop physical ailments such as cardiovascular disease and obesity more easily. Connecting with nature can help prevent or improve these problems.
Space designers have taken note. Over the last few years, nature has made a comeback. This is inline with the current wellness movement. Biophilic design has earned its place in the spotlight, focusing on improving employee wellbeing and hopefully leading to a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. Organic shapes and materials are used to make new buildings and outdoor spaces more nature-friendly. In addition, old interior and exterior spaces are renovated and retrofitted with biophilic elements.
The benefits of biophilic design include: increased creativity, stress reduction, improved cognitive function, and enhanced mood. In short, you really do need nature. We are all biophilic whether we want to admit it or not. At this point, you may be wondering—how can you incorporate biophilic elements into your workplace without breaking the bank on expensive renovations? Here are some tips:
Firstly, potted plants are the simplest way to bring green indoors. They have a lot of healthy benefits too. Best yet, if you buy them on clearance at the end of Spring and Summer, you’ll be saving lots of money on your investment. Get members of your team to volunteer to water the plants. This will boost their individual interactions with nature and provide them with a nice break from the action. Also, consider surprising everyone with their own plant as a gift for their desk!
Secondly, light is important to most living things—including people. It helps regulate levels of alertness and maintain our bodies’ natural rhythms and processes. Fluorescent lights and other artificial light sources can mess up employee’s natural circadian rhythms. This leads to lower productivity, creativity, alertness, and physical health. Consider opening the blinds to let in more natural light. Alternatively, you can purchase circadian lamps and lightbulbs that mimic natural light and manage our natural rhythms more effectively.
Thirdly, water elements have been proven to reduce stress and improve memory. Even a small element, like a table-top fountain, works. The sound of falling water can improve employees’ focus and lower their blood pressure.
Fourth, Metallic finishes and hard, sharp angles go against the natural aesthetic of biophilic design. Consider replacing some of your furniture elements with new wooden or bamboo pieces. Mix wood and metal with your furniture choices for the best of both worlds! Softer, organic shapes, patterns, and materials that mimic those found in nature are also a must.
Finally, If real natural elements are still out of your price range, try incorporating pictures or images of nature. Consider designing one room in your office as a wellness room to provide a relaxing amenity for your team members. Create a space with soft lighting, images of nature, and a soundtrack of either quiet music or nature sounds. This will allow your team to benefit from biophilic design without incorporating it into your entire office.
Biophilic design is everywhere in modern buildings, from construction to interior design. Materials like cross-laminated timber are making their way into larger building projects as a low cost and environmentally-friendly option. Biophilic furniture and smart technologies are also on the rise. Don’t fall behind on this trend. Try incorporating some biophilic elements into your space today!