Biophilic design is an excellent match for the workplace. Numerous studies have connected increased productivity and morale with the presence of biophilic elements like daylight, plants, and reclaimed wood paneling. It’s why biophilic design is at the core of many of the world’s top offices. However, the benefits of biophilia don’t stop at boosted productivity. Biophilic design can satisfy several intrinsic human needs, bringing a whole host of benefits. Three of these needs that biophilia meets are socialization, collaboration, and physical activity. Here’s how biophilic design elegantly optimizes each.
How Biophilic Design Drives Social Interaction
The human need to connect and socialize with others is a powerful driving force. It’s what’s ties civilizations together and creates relationships. There are many practical needs for socialization as well. From the workplace to the store, socializing is an important aspect of experiencing a space, and this is especially true for places that host events. That’s where biophilic design comes in.
The biophilia effect is the simple concept that humans crave nature. Just as it’s natural for humans to socialize, it’s also natural for humans to connect with nature. And as it turns out, biophilia and socialization are intertwined. Socialization is a natural human need, and biophilia satisfies many natural needs, helping people reach a more native state of well-being. As a result, biophilia helps people feel more relaxed and thus open up and connect with others in an instinctive expression of human connection.
This link between biophilic design and socializing has been documented in several studies. One such study examined a focus group of elderly individuals and analyzed their behavior when using wood or plastic products. The study found that wood products significantly increased social interaction. Other studies have looked holistically at the effects of biophilic design on socializing. A Terrapin Bright Green study reported that biophilic spaces can “generate even more healthy social interactions by encouraging their spontaneous occurrence.” When biophilic design is present, people can’t help but feel good and share that positivity with others.
From Architecture Beta: The presence of reclaimed wood in an office naturally increases social interaction
In turn, social interaction has several benefits that are useful in any kind of space. Positive interaction with others releases oxytocin in the brain, which improves mood. There are also myriad studies that connect social interaction with longer lifespans and reduced depression and anxiety. That means the ability to socialize is critical for places in which people will be spending a lot of time, like offices and hotels. In spaces where people don’t spend as much time, socializing is still important, as it enhances the overall experience of being in a space.
From Future Constructor & Architect: Social interaction is a vital need in any space, including common areas like this one
The Relationship Between Biophilia and Collaboration
Just as biophilia can encourage social interaction, it can similarly bolster collaboration. While collaboration obviously necessitates social interaction, it also requires some additional design considerations to maximize productivity.
The ideal workspace for productivity accomplishes a few key goals. First, it helps workers feel healthier. What’s most important is that a space is fully human-first, and that means designing to satisfy human needs and optimize wellness. Many architects and designers employ biophilic design techniques to make this happen. One of biophilia’s biggest benefits is stress reduction, which can cause a positive domino effect in other areas. Consequently, the larger presence biophilia has within a space, the healthier occupants will be. This makes sure workers are at their best, both physically and mentally.
From Interior Design: Biophilia fosters the perfect environment for productive collaboration
Second, a workspace has to facilitate productivity through its design. This requires a multifaceted, comprehensive approach that takes all types of work into account. There should be places for quiet, undisturbed solo work as well as multi-size group work. For group work, there needs to be adequate and adaptable resources. For instance, many workspaces include amenities like a whiteboard, Wi-Fi, and modular furniture to allow for flexible collaboration. Workers need to be able to move seamlessly between solo and group work or even different types of group work.
Third, a workspace must naturally encourage collaboration. In other words, if inspiration strikes and a group wishes to arrange an impromptu collaboration session, they should be able to quickly and easily. Of course, this demands that a workspace be designed for productivity, but promoting collaboration goes beyond that. Throughout a workplace, there should be spaces in which collaboration can happen at any time. It’s crucial to offer a variety of seating options, adequate workspace for groups of all sizes, and spots for meeting and lounging, and it’s important that these features are available throughout the entire workplace.
From The Total Office: A range of seating options and workspaces promotes on-the-fly collaboration
Biophilic offices that are designed for collaboration and employee wellness are in demand more than ever. The reason is simple––biophilic design creates the perfect environment for all types of collaboration. In addition, these same applications of biophilic design aren’t just for the office; they translate to any space that hosts collaboration, such as hotel lobbies, coffee shops, hospitals, and event spaces.
The Opportunity for Physical Exercise in Commercial Buildings
Physical exercise remains an essential element of a healthy built environment. Providing opportunities for occupants to work out magnifies the numerous benefits of biophilic design and introduces completely new benefits. In regards to physical activity in the office, some studies show that physical activity programs may have benefits beyond immediate physical improvement, such as better performance and less absenteeism. In a hotel environment, a gym or workout room allows guests to enjoy a healthy amenity.
From First Line Magazine: The sustainably designed Studio 111 offers several fitness programs
Opportunities for physical exercise in the office are particularly important. The CDC suggests on-site programs that are built into the workplace itself. A gym space or weight room comes to mind, but you can take a more subtle and integrated approach using biophilic design. For example, you might install a tree-lined walking path indoors that is curved, emulating the lack of straight lines in nature. This provides a simple and accessible physical exercise option that leaves workers feeling better all around.
You might also take inspiration from biophilic gyms that use natural materials from floor to ceiling. Think sandbags instead of kettlebells and reclaimed wood instead of artificial flooring. A biophilic gyms will fit right into a building that is already using biophilic design and will supply a generous amount of biophilia to a space that’s more traditionally designed.
Biophilia is deeply rooted in human nature. When a built environment include more biophilic elements, occupants feel healthier and happier, allowing them to work and live better. Best of all, this is true across all types of built environments, from the office to a casual restaurant. Designing a space with biophilia in mind doesn’t just connect people with nature; it also allows people to become the best versions of themselves.