What is Biophilic Design

Biophilic design is the art of integrating nature into the built environment in order to improve human wellbeing and yield environmental benefits.

Employees spend at least 8 hours a day in an office or other confined work space. Working in a biophilic office environment nourishes employees’ physical and mental health in many ways, such as reducing airborne pollutants, creating a calming atmosphere, among several others.

Benefits of a Biophilic Office

Biophilic design encompasses benefits for human health as well as for environmental sustainability and business productivity.

Indoor air quality can be negatively impacted by printers and copy machines that emit toner particles and toxic gasses such as ozone, nitrogen dioxide and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). From coughing and minor throat irritation to dizziness and respiratory damage, such pollutants can cause both short and long-term impacts on employees’ health. Having plants and green walls in the office can improve air quality by removing airborne pollutants, reducing indoor CO2 and producing oxygen.

A mobile green wall integration into the lobby of an office

A mobile green wall integration into the lobby of an office

Biophilic elements can also act as noise buffers and cultivate a serene atmosphere, leading to elevated mood and lower stress levels, improved concentration and overall better performance on the job1.

Creating work environment that employees enjoy and thrive in yields better employee morale and retention and attracts more potential workers – a win for employers looking to build a reliable team. Biophilic benefits in an office setting are including and not limited to, mental, physical, and social health of employees, which lead to financial benefits for employers, create educational opportunities and improve internal environmental condition of office.

Holistic Health Factors in the Workplace with Biophilic Design

Holistic Health Factors in the Workplace with Biophilic Design

In fact, biophilic office environments can increase productivity of employees by 6% -20% 2. More than 90% of operational costs linked to human resources and financial losses due to absenteeism and presentism account for 4% of this cost 3.

Applying Biophilic Design to the Office Environment

Biophilic design has many applications that could be used directly or indirectly. Direct applications refer to direct use of natural elements in space. Incorporating green walls, plants, water features, natural light and other natural elements into the work space are some direct applications of biophilic design4.

Indirect application of biophilic design refers to the aesthetic aspects of nature. Using natural colors, pictures, and materials are examples of indirect biophilic applications 5. While it has been proved that direct application is more impactful on human health and wellness, designers implement indirect applications in a case that direct application is not feasible.

Biophilic Design Benefits in the Office Environment

The diagram below reflects the application of biophilic design on a small to midsize office environment its benefits and a focus on the mental and physical health of employees. Giving individuals the positive feelings of being around nature improves workspace satisfaction, their physical health and productivity consequently save money for the employer.

Benefits of the Wellness Space and Biophilic Design Integration into the Office Environment, a case study

Benefits of the Wellness Space and Biophilic Design Integration into the Office Environment, a case study

In this case study, planters and mobile green walls have been used as dividers for ensuring social distancing, reducing stress and improving health conditions (Mental, Physical and Environmental). These green spaces can also serve as social areas for employee interaction or give employees the opportunity to exercise their green thumb and help with plant care if they like (Social and Educational).

A few mobile green walls and potted plants been used to serve biophilic impact as well as create socialdistancing in the office environment

A few mobile green walls and potted plants been used to serve biophilic impact as well as create social
distancing in the office environment

Offering a Wellness Room to Employees

A wellness room is a designated space where employees can de-stress and focus on their mental and physical wellbeing. Incorporating biophilic elements into a wellness room will create a sense of serenity for employees resulting in reinvigoration for when they return to work. Providing workout opportunities, healthy snacks and incorporating natural elements in the recharge room could answer different needs of employees as well.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital built wellness rooms for their healthcare workers to ‘recharge’ after working long hours in a stressful environment6. Healthcare workers reported a 60% decrease in stress levels after spending 15 minutes in these nature-inspired relaxation spaces7.

Using green walls for common areas and socializing places

Using green walls for common areas and socializing places

Biophilic Wellness Room Importance on Employees’ Productivity and Profitability

It is proven that productivity cost is 112 times more than energy costs in the workplace3. Considering this fact, improving employee’s productivity and reducing absenteeism could increase profits more than reducing energy costs. According to statics, every fifteen employees’ salary costs 1$ million for the employer3. Globally, a third (33%) of office workers say that the design of an office would affect their decision to work at a company.

Biofilico, a company that tested the efficacy of biophilic wellness rooms. They had 108 local office employees spend an average of 60 minutes in a wellness room and the results are as below8.

As it is proven by studies, a wellness room provides benefits for both employees and employers.

Benefits of Wellness Rooms

Enhancing employee mental and physical health through wellness rooms results in happier, healthier employees, increased economic value for employers and bettering the overall health of society at a community level. Biophilic designed wellness rooms can:

  • Increase employee productivity and concentration
  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reduce stress hormones
  • Elevate employees’ mood and support team work
  • Assist with your company’s sustainability marketing
  • Assist with LEED and WELL certifications for your building

Author: Asma Bashirivand

[1] Yin, J., Yuan, J., Arfaei, N., Catalano, P. J., Allen, J. G., & Spengler, J. D. (2020). Effects of biophilic indoor environment on stress and anxiety recovery: A between-subjects experiment in virtual reality. Environment International, 136, 105427.
[2] Wheeler, G., Almeida, A., & Clements-Croome, D. (2006). Creating the Productive Workplace.
[3] Browning B, Garvin C, Ryan C, et al., The Economics of Biophilia-Why Designing with Nature in Mind Makes Financial Sense. 2012.
[4] Mohora, I. (2019). Importance of Biophilic Attributes in European Coworking Spaces. Proceedings of
INTCESS, 979-988.
[5] Kellert, S., & Calabrese, E. (2015). The practice of biophilic design. London: Terrapin Bright LLC.
[6] Burke, M., (2020) Coronavirus stress among hospital workers leads to creation of ‘recharge rooms’.NBCNEWS

[7] Putrino, D., Ripp, J., Herrera, J. E., Cortes, M., Kellner, C., Rizk, D., & Dams-O’Connor, K. (2020). Multisensory, nature-inspired recharge rooms yield short-term reductions in perceived stress among frontline healthcare workers. Frontiers in Psychology, 11, 3213.
[8] Biophilico ltd, (2022) biophilic design features of this restorative space.

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