Can Nature Change Your Work Environment for the Better?

Biophilia simply put is “the humankind’s innate biological connection with nature”. There is a wide pool of evidence proving positive outcomes stemming from biophilic design. Studies that show those who experience these spaces may feel the benefit of lower blood pressure, a lower heart rate, expedited healing, and improved cognitive performance (Terrapin Bright Green, 2012)

Amid the pandemic, we are learning how to adjust to the “new normal” and what it takes not only to survive, but thrive once again. Communities are slowly merging into their old routines. People are returning with a heightened awareness of safety and caution, looking for refuge and comfort in a place where much of the day is spent.
There is no better time to embrace ideas and strategies that can support people in all the spaces they spend their time. Stepping closer to nature and a natural environment is one significant way to bring about a sense of peace and security in a vastly changing world.
While biophilia this is not a new concept, it is not exactly a main-stream topic of discussion either. Biophilia, simply put, is “the humankind’s innate biological connection with nature” (Terrapin Bright Green, 2014). Biophilic design carries the theory one step further in applying the concept to the tangible elements around us, the things that designers can introduce into the built environment for clients to thrive.

 

 

A park above the streetscape among residential units and businesses, this green space provides an oasis to the occupants of adjacent buildings.

 

There is a wide pool of evidence proving positive outcomes from biophilic design. Studies show those who experience these spaces may feel the benefit of lower blood pressure, a lower heart rate, expedited healing, and improved cognitive performance (Terrapin Bright Green, 2012). Businesses that embrace designing (or even retrofitting) a space, with the comfort of the employee in mind, see advantages like decreased illness and absenteeism and increased efficiency, contributing to lower operating costs (Browning, 1998), as well as an increase in staff retention (Terrapin Bright Green, 2012).
 

Details found in this organically formed wood furniture are enhanced by the abundance of natural lighting, establishing the presence of nature in this workplace. 

 
Terrapin Bright Green created a framework to understand the elements of biophilic design, “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design,” so designers can identify and recreate fundamental principles of nature. These 14 patterns are categorized into three groups: Nature in Space, Natural Analogues, and Nature of the Space.
 
1. The first, Nature in Space, “addresses the direct, physical and ephemeral presence of nature in a space or place” (Terrapin Bright Green, 2014). This includes elements like natural light or the use of water, providing greenery, comfort through airflow, and views of nature. Three key elements of the application are incorporating variation, providing dynamic environments, and engaging more than one of the senses.  

 

A child enjoys the moving water and contrasting textures around him in his built environment. 

 

2. The second, Natural Analogues, “addresses organic, non-living and indirect evocations of nature” (Terrapin Bright Green, 2014). This category celebrates nature through mimicking textures or shapes, creating order and complexity like patterns found in nature, and creating a sense of place, perhaps by providing links to local environments.
 
3. The third, Nature of the Space, “addresses spatial configurations in nature” (Terrapin Bright Green, 2014), which describes an environment that is more than initially meets the eye. Imagine uncovering a small alcove, a retreat from the average, the excitement and mystery of exploring a new trail, or settling in a space that is withdrawn, protected, and gives a feeling of safety. All these scenarios provide an experience in a space that is innately interesting and engaging.

 

An office conference room, visually open to the space below, celebrating a retreat from the average and explores heights, which provokes excitement.

 
While each of these descriptions are quite important individually, the most successful use of biophilic design is seamlessly merging all three of the above groups into everyday use in the built environment. As design professionals, it is necessary to keep the end-user in mind throughout the entirety of the design process. Biophilic design can generally improve one's overall well-being, which is becoming more and more relevant in the world we live in today.

 

Design Collaborative focuses strongly on creating people-first places through design, and we explore all avenues of how to make our spaces better places for people to live, work, and play in. Biophilic design is one way of integrating humanity's well-being into our creations. We welcome any questions on biophilic design and Design Collaborative in general. Please reach out if you would like to know more! 

 


Angie Senko, AIA, LEED BD+C
Associate, Architect
asenko@designcollaborative.com
260.422.4241