Biophilic Design in the Work Environment

Biophilic Design

I hear more and more that people want to see 'greenery and plants' in the working environment. Biophilic design meets this need. This is not a trend, but comes from our core. Only in the last thousand years (only 1% of human history) have humans begun to move away from primarily natural environments.

So how do you integrate Biophilic Design into your work environment?

We now spend an average of 90% of our time within the built environment. For that we depended on our contact with nature, in which we grew up in a large natural, non-built world. According to one of the founders of the philosophy of Biophilic Design (Wilson, 1984), this is where our love for life and all living things comes from and we have an 'inherent tendency to seek contact with nature'. This contact does not have to be literal or direct. It could also be a view of greenery from a window or symbolic, such as a work of art in an office atrium that makes the same movement as a flock of birds flying. A good example of the latter is hanging in the Knoop in Utrecht at the office of the Tax and Customs Administration.

It's interesting to know what works and what doesn't. Research has been conducted into this philosophy and biophilia for several years. The latter, the basis of biophilic design, was first mentioned by Fromm in 1964 and later put into practice by Wilson in 1984. Since then, research has been conducted into what this means for the well-being, well-being and productivity of people.

Scientific research Biophilic Design?

Over the past 30 years, case studies have shown the benefits of biophilic experiences such as better stress recovery, lower blood pressure, improved cognitive functions, better mental stamina and higher learning speed. To remove all wooliness from biophilia and biophilic design (and individual elements thereof), I show a number of measurable results here:

  • In a Japanese study, they found through multiple field experiments that the heart rate of the participants who walked in a forest compared to a participants who walked in an urban environment was 3.9-6.0% lower, the cortisol level (stress hormone, like adrenaline) was 13.4 -15.8% lower compared to the 'city' group and also the upper blood pressure pressure was lower. In addition, the activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (when we relaxed) increased significantly (+ 56.1%) and at the same time the activity in the sympathetic nervous system (when we are stressed) decreased in the participants walking through the forest (-19.4%). ).
  • Daylight and sleep. Participants assigned to workplaces with direct daylight (windows) slept an average of 47 minutes more per night than the participants in the group without windows (Cheung et al., 2013). In an office environment in which biophilic design has been applied, direct daylight in the workplaces is taken into account and the employees will therefore experience a better night's sleep.
  • Noise and stress responses. In nature, sound disappears and you have no hard reflections that cause high sound levels. This is a frequently heard complaint, especially in open-plan offices where biophilic design has not been applied. Fried (2002) found that as noise levels increased, absenteeism increased, Oberdöster (2006) found that as noise levels increased in a classroom, the teacher's heart rate also increased by an average of 10 beats per minute and Evans & Johnson (2000) found higher levels of epinephrine (stress hormone, also known as adrenaline) in the urine of employees who were in an environment with an increased noise level and also found a reduction in motivation compared to the control group.
  • Light and views. Elzeyadi (2011) conducted research in a building in which 30% of the employees had a view of trees and a manicured landscape, 39% had no outside view and the remaining 31% had a view of a street, building and parking lot. Employees who had a view of the trees and the green landscape had taken an average of 57 hours of sick days per year compared to 68 hours by employees without a view. Employees without a view also experienced more physical discomfort. According to Elzeyadi, 10% in variation of sick days can be explained by architecture and biophilic design elements, such as light quality and the quality of the view.
  • A call-center case study in 2003 found that individuals with a view of nature handled calls 7% to 12% faster and also performed 10 to 25% better in mental function and memory tests.
  • Kaplan (1995) has also found that artificial greenery provides faster reaction times, more correct answers and better memory compared to people looking at images of the built environment.

This is just a small selection of the studies that demonstrably endorse the benefits of biophilic design.

And what about the healthcare sector?

You can also apply these principles of biophilic design in the healthcare sector. For example, it turned out that patients recovering from gallbladder surgery with a view of greenery compared to a view of a stone wall were able to go home after 7.96 days (Ulrich, 1984). This compared to 8.71 days for the patients facing a stone wall, which is almost a day difference. According to United Consumers, 5 bed days after gallbladder surgery in the Netherlands cost an average of € 1933.58. This is € 386.71 per day. He used 46 patients in Ulrich's study. This means that in that case alone, almost € 17,788.94 can be saved by applying biophilic design, which does not yet include the benefits of reduced workload for nurses and doctors.

Biophilic design in practice

In open-plan offices we see that the poorly experienced open-plan offices offer little complexity, that is to say, these offices have a sterile, uniform design. In addition, we get stressed, because from our nature we are looking for an overview and a refuge. We would like to maintain an overview. In a poorly designed office garden where biophilic design is not applied, we are exposed as 'prey' where we do not have this overview, specifically what is happening behind us. This is why, for example, most people do not like to sit at the head of the block in a desk setup of three. It activates the alertness level, causes an increased stress level and can lead to a reduction in performance in particularly complex tasks.

Biophilic design is therefore not only about the plants and nature in the space itself. It is also about the connection with the outside, the use of natural forms and ensuring sufficient complexity, mystery and places of refuge in the design itself.

Biophilic design. For an interior that is beautiful, but also has a positive impact on health and well-being.