According to the United Nations World Cities Report, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban environments by the year 2030. That means 1 in 3 people will reside in cities with a population of at least half a million. As a result, architects, scientists, and organizations are working together. They are studying the dynamics of the human-nature connection. In addition, how this connection can be incorporated into the concrete jungle. The answer to this challenge is biophilic design.
As defined by the International Living Future Institute:
“Biophilic design is the practice of connecting people and nature within our built environments and communities.”
An analysis of the data collected by the Labor Department revealed that the average U.S. employee works 1,811.16 hours every year. An estimated 40 percent work more than 50 hours a week, while 20 percent work more than 60 hours per week. This means that employees spend a lot of time in the office. Maybe even more than they do so at home. As a result, companies are increasingly focusing on providing an office design that creates a holistic, productive and collaborative atmosphere for their employees.
In 2014, the EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) Human Spaces Report analyzed the impact of biophilic design across eight countries. Recently, the second wave of data was collected on workers in 16 countries. Statistics on workers in office environments with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, reveal the following:
- 85 percent of the workers surveyed were employed in an urban environment.
- Workers who functioned in airy, well-lit and green spaces, reported 15 percent higher levels of well being as well as lower levels of stress than their counterparts.
- Offices that incorporated biophilic elements increased their productivity by 6 percent.
- Employees’ ability to think, innovate and perform creatively increased by 15 percent.
Some of the first organizations to jump on board the biophilic design philosophy are big weights such as Apple and Amazon. In doing so, they have helped make the movement mainstream through high profile successful projects.
Amazon’s new office in downtown Seattle features three glass and steel domes occupying a forest area of 40,000 plants. Known as the ‘Spheres’, the glass orbs have been an instant hit with employees. From the 4,000 square foot living wall to the 55 foot high treetops, Amazon has created its own unique urban workplace ecosystem.
As part of its outdoor districts in its Redmond campus, Microsoft has built three treehouses to empower its employees to work and interact in new ways. Created by renowned builder Pete Nelson, the treehouses feature unique details. This includes weatherproof benches, rustproof rocking chairs, charred wood walls, and skylights.
Compared to a UFO, Apple Park has aptly been nicknamed the ‘Spaceship’. One of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world, this architectural wonder in Cupertino, California is fitted with solar panels and has its own on-site low carbon central plant. The landscaping includes more than 7,000 trees including indigenous plants of the Mojave Desert and apricot orchards.
While the majority cannot afford grand projects, there are some simple principles which can be easily incorporated into any workplace.
- Increase accessibility to natural light and views of the outside to boost employee productivity.
- Use outdoor spaces like roofs and balconies to create creative working spaces for employees.
- Experiment with bright, vibrant colors like orange and blue.
- Utilize natural textures like wood and stone that imitate the outdoors.
- Bring in plants to increase oxygen levels, which in turn brings down mental fatigue.
- Avoid congested, cramped spaces, and keep the office design open and airy.
In conclusion, biophilic design marks a revolution in office architecture. With scientific backing, it proves that architecture makes a difference in workplace health, employee productivity, project teamwork, and stress management. In the words of Amanda Sturgeon, biophilic design expert, and CEO of International Living Future Institute:
“What could we learn from what makes us love being outside and incorporate it into the design of our buildings?”
When you think of landscape design in corporate settings, you may consider it a one and done type of procedure. In the past, this might have involved using fake plants to fill the voids of blank walls or drab surroundings.
It’s time to take landscape design more seriously as a viable way to not only improve the aesthetic value of your office space, but also the air quality.
Take a look at some recent corporate landscape design trends to show you what’s possible at numerous levels.
The Advent of More Experiential Design
One major trend in this design field is creating more experiential environments, both outdoors and indoors.
You’re seeing a more concerted effort to make corporate settings more enjoyable as a place to not only work, but have more pleasant employee experiences. This includes adding more walking and bicycling paths, or gardens to provide places for solace.
With the corporate world often being hectic, this experiential trend is one to keep in mind to create less stress. It’s a chance for your employees to meditate so they brainstorm for more innovative ideas.
More Sustainability in Landscaping
Many corporations bring sustainable practices in numerous ways now. In landscaping, it’s becoming a major trend, especially in eco-friendly water management.
How you take care of your plants indoors and outdoors is going to play a big part in how you water them. You’re seeing more corporations use plants that don’t require as much water for conservation, including eliminating excessive maintenance.
Succulents are a popular plant variety needing hardly any water, including cacti. If you travel often, these are beautiful plants unable to die on you if you forget to water every week. However, they do need more sun, so you’ll need to keep them by a well-lit window.
The Trend in Using More Colorful Plants
Greenery is still in, but so are more colorful plants for use in office settings. Companies have begun to add uniquely colored plants with purple, pink, or even patterns.
Pink Princess Philodendron is one good example, as is Tri-Color Oyster Plant for a purple tinge. You’re even seeing dwarf fruit trees being used in corporate settings. This is truly a unique trend, even if it does require a little extra maintenance.
The color from growing a small lemon tree in an office suite can add huge visual interest when meeting with guests.
Rather than use standard cubicle walls, some companies are starting to use green dividers as a unique way to bring plants into the workplace.
These green walls work better for noise reduction, including bringing far more privacy. At the same time, using the right type of plant, you can use these to help purify the air from chemicals and other pollutants.
It’s common to see these as stand-alone pieces or working as full dividers.
Plants Cleaning the Air
As part of your more green initiative in your company, you’ll want to think about how plants can purify the air around you. This works outdoors as well as indoors.
Not all plants are good at this, though others are better known for absorbing chemicals like benzene or formaldehyde. These pollutants are often hidden in carpets or furniture, bringing potential illness if you inhale them every day for long hours.
Ficus benjamina, or even Aloa are two of the best air-purifying plants out there. Some of these plants are large enough to fill in spaces to make your office more presentable. Even if you have a lot of office furniture, plants add a visual interest and down-to-earth feel to remove any sterile corporate appearance.
Visit us at Cityscapes Inc. so we can help you achieve these corporate landscape trends to create a new and refreshing aesthetic.
In his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv writes that modern-day children are not connecting to nature. Children aren’t allowed to run off on their own and explore for hours at a time. Climbing a tree is banned for being too dangerous, and the siren call of electronic devices pulls on kids’ attention instead. As a result, we are seeing an increase in “nature deficit disorder.” He doesn’t mean this in a medical sense, but in a cultural one. A lack of connecting to nature results in increased anxiety, a sense of unfocused attention, and overall worse outcomes for productivity and satisfaction.
Louv dates the shift from nature-loving childhoods to modern ones quite some time ago. Many of those children he’s talking about are all grown up now and working in modern offices. Children are no longer connecting to nature as they once were. The distance from nature leads to a sense of overall disconnection. It’s harder for people to find their own internal purpose when they don’t recognize their contribution in a larger world.
Luckily, even small doses of nature-infused design principles can reverse some of these negative impacts. Biophilic (nature-loving) designs can boost morale, increase productivity, and create a generally more cooperative workspace. For an added bonus, they are often also beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, too!
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to bring the outdoors indoors is by using natural lighting. Wide, open floor plans that allow light to filter through space will help make it feel inviting and warm. Workers who are exposed to natural light throughout the day sleep better at night, making them more alert and productive when they’re at work.
Inviting Lunch Spaces
Sixty-seven percent of Americans report that they eat lunch at their desks more than once a week. This has profound negative impacts on their overall health and also their productivity. Most people already spend too much time sitting in one place without stretching. a major contributor to chronic back and neck pain. Those who eat lunch at their desks also miss out on the mental break of taking a moment away from their tasks. As a result, they don’t get the benefit of clarity and fresh eyes when they return.
It also decreases key social connections because people are less likely to build relationships with co-workers. Creating inviting lunch spaces that utilize natural settings can help alleviate these problems. Whether it’s an outdoor space with ample seating and plenty of greenery or an indoor atrium with lots of potted plants and natural light, creating an inviting space will get people away from their desks for a moment, increasing the quality of the work they produce when they return.
Even artificial displays of natural elements have been found to boost overall well-being. Use nature-based decor whenever possible. Landscapes, seascapes, and florals in the form of paintings and photographs are an easy way to bring a bit of the outdoors inside. Consider natural elements when designing floor tiles and carpeting options as well. Lighting that resembles nature is welcoming and much more pleasing than the harsh glow of overhead fluorescents. Nature is always in style, so adding these elements into design plans or renovations helps ensure a long-lasting decor.
In many cases, the disconnect with nature has been such a part of our lives that we don’t even know what we’re missing. Our brains, though, still have a hard-wired positive response to these influences. Getting in touch with nature is a guaranteed way to make the workplace happier and more productive.