The benefits of incorporating biophilic design into workplace strategy are gaining widespread recognition – and they are difficult to argue against. Who doesn’t sit at their desk and daydream of being on a beach, a country walk or just sitting in a park? We love being surrounded by nature – in fact our very survival depends on it. Not all of us can design our dream office from the ground up, so here is a non-exhaustive list of ways to introduce biophilic design into an existing space without blowing your budget. Thanks to KI’s Jonathan Hindle and to Joseph Clancy for this month’s submission.
1. Tweet, tweet
Close your eyes, listen to the office soundscape, and think about this: Our evolutionary instincts make it virtually impossible for us to filter out human voices, so pop music could exacerbate distraction-rich open plan offices. Conversely, natural sounds such as birdsong have profoundly positive effects on our brains. The presence of birds signifies an absence of predators. Sounds of gently flowing water or trees rustling in a light breeze can also reduce anxiety and stress.
2. Just add water
The importance of water to our survival cannot be overstated. Audible and visible cues to the availability of fresh water have a pronounced effect on our psychology. By adding a water feature, aquarium or source of drinking water, we can change the mood of an office, but it should be visible from workspaces, not just at reception.
3. Plants and flowers
Whether real, artificial or a combination of the two, the addition of plants is the most obvious way to bring the outside inside. Add planter boxes to storage units, large pots on the floor, desk plants, terrariums or vases of flowers.
4. What a lovely breeze!
The air in the office can have a significant impact on wellbeing, aside from never-ending too hot/too cold arguments! Air circulation and movement in an office can mimic the atmosphere by the addition of some strategically placed fans, as long as air movement is random and gentle. Also consider the ‘smellscape’. Biophilia works best as a multisensory experience, so don’t forget powerful olfactory stimuli – add fragrant flowers and plants or even fragrance diffusers.
5. Decay and renewal
Decay, decline and renewal are all part of life’s cycles. The absence of these can make an environment seem sterile – so, where practical, choose materials and finishes that change and age over time. Changing seasons, evidenced by deciduous trees, flowers and plant growth, keep us connected to nature’s cycles. Growing edible plants inside the office can make this even more tangible – especially if staff tend to them.
6. Let there be (varied) light!
Spatial configuration can help improve access to natural light and views, whilst reducing distractions in our peripheral vision. External views and natural light can have a dramatic effect on our circadian rhythms and wellbeing. Less uniform lighting creates an office rich with options on the ‘light menu’. We don’t all need uniform bright white lighting all the time. The key is variety – throughout the day and throughout the office.
7. Décor and Artwork
Natural materials such as wood, leather, cotton, linen, and wool age well (see 5) and can stimulate our sense of touch. Artwork depicting nature helps remind us of the natural world, through images, textures, patterns, colours and shapes. Additionally, artwork can be readily changed and rearranged.