Biophilic design in the workplace

Tang Interiors

What is biophilia? The biophilia hypothesis, introduced by Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book ‘Biophilia’, is defined as ‘the urge to affiliate with other forms of life’.

More simply put, it’s the suggestion that humans are innately attracted to nature and the natural world due to hundreds of thousands of years of living off the land.

As urban spaces grow and technology becomes even more prevalent, incorporating elements of nature into individuals’ surroundings stands to provide health benefits.

What is biophilic design?

Biophilic design is the incorporation of nature, or elements mimicking nature, into the design of spaces.

A primary concern in urban areas, many spaces offer vast amounts of natural light, however, offer very little, or no elements of nature.

What are the benefits of biophilic design in the workplace?

Research into the benefits of biophilic design has gone a long way to explaining the various health benefits associated with bringing nature indoors.

Environment psychologist Stephen Kaplan says that nature powerfully engages the mind with “involuntary fascination” which helps restore attention and focus.

He also says that people can concentrate better after spending time in nature. In addition, people with a view of natural elements, such as trees, water or countryside, report greater levels of wellbeing than those looking over more urban settings, according to the Human Spaces Report.

The World Health Organisation expects stress-related illness, such as mental health and cardiovascular disease, to be the biggest contributor to disease by 2020.

It has been shown that incorporating elements of nature, either directly or indirectly, into the workplace can reduce stress, blood pressure and heart rate, as well as boost productivity and creativity.

In fact, biophilic design in the workplace can increase productivity by 8%, and well-being by 13%, helping to reduce absenteeism. How can biophilic design be integrated into the modern workplace?

There are many ways biophilic design can be incorporated into the workplace, with an array of options that are both obvious, such as greenery and materials, and less obvious, like textures and colours. Plants are a good starting place for bringing nature into the office.

Living walls, potted plants and trees are some of the most common examples. Elements of water can also be considered, as well as increased natural sunlight. Use of curvature and avoiding ‘sterile’ straight lines, emulating natural forms in the shape and layout of space is also possible.

Material choice can also be key. Use of natural wood, colours, incorporating botanical or animal motifs can all be beneficial. Using new products designed to mimic nature can also provide the stimulation humans need to benefit from biophilic design.

What is Tang Interiors doing to ensure its workspaces incorporate elements of biophilic design?

Tang Interiors has partnered with expert consultants and leading manufacturers to deliver high-quality, intelligently-designed spaces that incorporate elements of nature.

Interface Flooring, one of our suppliers, has created a unique range of biophilic flooring called ‘Human Connections’, designed to break down the barrier between the natural world and the buildings in which we work (pictured).

It has created eight different styles that provide sensory and natural cues to engage the mind and boost focus. Its styles incorporate city streets, paving stones and natural greens.

One of our consulting partners, Greenleaf Designspace, creates bespoke planting displays for interior and exterior projects. Libby Sprason, Creative Lead, explains the benefits of planting in the workplace: “The benefits of planting has been well recorded, most notably by NASA whose Clean Air Study identifies specific plant species and their undeniable air cleansing abilities. This is especially useful in newly-refurbished workplaces or new builds due to the many toxins present at this time coming from new paint, carpets and electrical equipment to name a few, all contributing to spreading harmful toxins in the air you, your visitors and your staff are breathing all day long. Plants will remove these and give us oxygen in exchange.

“This in itself should be enough to make us consider planting on a need-to-have basis rather than would-like-to-have however this is still not necessarily the case. The added beneficial effects of live planting in the workplace are becoming more commonly recognised, with simply having green leaves in your eye-line creating a calmer, more productive workforce.”