Biophilia in definition means “the love or life of living systems” and it focuses on the ideology that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connection with nature and other forms of life. Biophilic design is an extension of this theory and idealises the introduction of natural forms into working environments. Natural light, organic structures and biocolonizable textures are all part of this emerging style.
This type of design isn’t a new concept, it’s actually been around for a while and applied by the likes of well-known Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and, more recently, Oliver Heath who last month led a biophilic workshop in Cardiff, introducing fresh ideas to young, talented designers.
Our very own Interior Designer, Carys Jones, attended the workshop and notes how using outdoor surroundings to enthuse an interior space is a great way to encourage positivity in the workplace. She says, “Using materials and colours from natural origins, introducing variations that can be found in the leaves of a tree or a sunset, helps create a holistic space that makes people feel comfortable.”
Now, connecting with nature may not be everyone’s cup of tea; however, it’s been proven that this type of design has a positive effect on those in a working environment. Research has found there is a strong correlation between staff performance and the environment we work in.
According to the BRE (Building Research Establishment), in a biophilic office environment there are quantified improvements in productivity, wellness and a reduction in days absent due to illness. Statistically, even with just a 1% reduction in absenteeism, the lost days alone would save the UK economy approximately £1 billion a year. Meaning that staff are not only profiting emotionally, but employers will feel the benefits too!
To embrace biophilia, it doesn’t necessarily mean your office has to be full of foliage or covered in murals of greenery – sometimes only small changes need to be made. Simply opening up a space to introduce more sunlight, or arranging desks to reflect an organic formation, are small steps that could improve staff well-being and performance.
Carys says, “There needs to be some connection to the outdoors, even if it’s not obvious. Introducing glass partitioning will allow natural light to flow into the space from exterior windows, or continuing an exterior stone flooring into the interior workspace is another great way to bring the outdoors in.”
Providing different areas where people can work, naturally promotes agile working and increases staff collaboration – something we know is key in modern workplaces. These areas are usually implemented through working pods, soft seating or high benches, coupling this with textures that mimic natural materials or forms is key in a biophilic space. It’s possible to even go as far as implementing a biocolonizable area, like a living wall – which can be seen here at Welsh Government, Merthyr Tydfil.
Everyone has their own preferred way of working, but by providing alternative areas that include elements of our natural surroundings, it can help improve the office experience as a whole and create an environment staff are happy to be in.