When people think of landscape design, they tend to think of rolling lawns and English Tea gardens. These are great, of course, especially for businesses, but many work places don’t have the room to indulge in those sorts of large-scale projects. A restaurant may have only a small front patio or a small strip of sidewalk […]
Millennials love plants! And as Caroline Biggs noted in her NYTimes article, Plant-Loving Millennials at Home and at Work, companies are working hard to incorporate greenery and natural features into building design.
Going even further, forward-thinking companies from around the world have taken on the “Living Building Challenge” at their offices and workspaces. The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is a green building certification program that challenges designers to build a structure that functions as self sufficiently and sustainably as possible. Only eight buildings in the world are certified as living buildings, with many more working on the certification.
The challenge is divided into seven performance areas that stress the importance of non-toxic materials, regeneration, and health and beauty. A final project integrates biophilic design, local culture, and a connection to all things natural.
In the United States, two New York-based companies and one Massachusetts College site have taken on the challenge to become a “Living Building”, and in the process create a biophilic design with a workspace focused on the occupant’s well being.
1. Etsy Headquarters
Etsy, which is everyone’s favorite place to shop online for handmade goods, started with an existing building for its New York headquarters and transformed it into a sustainable and naturally harmonious workplace. Located in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood, the rooftop has sixty species of native plants and two outdoor terraces providing a beckoning place to relax. Rainwater collection on the rooftop feeds an irrigation system in the building sustaining the living walls growing on every floor.
With greenery everywhere, the indoor air quality is much higher than the outdoor air quality, and Etsy believes by keeping employees healthy and happy they tend to be more productive and loyal to the company. In open areas, employees sit facing large picture windows working on sustainable wooden tables with a living wall spanning the space behind them. These appealing and healthful areas are a calm contrast to the hubbub of the city.
2. Ted Talks Headquarters
At Ted Talks headquarters in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, two floors of the building have been outfitted with low maintenance, high visual-impact plants. Oversize planters line the halls filled with a dizzying variety of easy-care plants. Individual desktops are adorned with plants and meeting areas have self-watering plant dividers. Everywhere you look there are plants, blended with the decor or placed to serve as screening walls.
Ted Talks recognizes that not all employees work well in the same spaces. They have customized each workspace (integrated with plants of course!) to suit each person’s working style. Ted Talks open, non-desk work areas with flexible designs accommodate the many different work styles producing their popular 18-minute talks.
3. Williams College – Class of 1966 Environmental Center
In Williamstown, MA the Class of ’66 Environmental Center has taken on the ambitious performance requirements of an LBC certification. The center focuses on plant infused indoor spaces with measurably healthful indoor air. Large picture windows and lots of access to fresh air ensure compliance with the light and air quality requirements of an LBC building.
Williams College is committed to demonstrating that high-performance buildings are not only possible but practical as well. The LBC standards require that the occupants of a building be active participants in the process because success is determined by the actual building performance, not the theoretical one. It is imperative that the occupants understand how the building works and how their behaviors may affect the performance goals of a green sustainable building.
These companies have taken on the challenge to raise the design bar for themselves and to inspire others to reach greater natural harmony with their design choices. There is much to learn from studying the new structures and monitoring their progress. Even if the benchmark goal of environmental equilibrium can’t be reached, striving to achieve a ‘living building’ stands as a commendable accomplishment. It is a biophilic design inspiration to architects and environmentally conscious companies around the world.
The Shard stands out in the London skyline at just over 1,000 feet tall. The structure is made from 11,000 panels of glass and topped by it’s iconic “broken glass” roofline, from which it gains its name. The building is a testament to the power of man-made design, with all its sharp edges, steel, and glass. But venture inside the Shard to the 12th floor and you’ll find a whole different design aesthetic that’s embracing nature.
Welcome to the “Living Lab”
The 12th floor of the Shard has become a biophilic design masterpiece. The biophilic design principle seeks to integrate nature into man-made spaces, with the idea that humans have an innate need to connect to nature. London-based design studio Daewha Kang Design created the Living Lab for a top facility management company housed on the 12th floor. Designers wanted to take the principles of biophilic design and create an elegant, functional area for work. Some of the design elements they used include:
- A circadian lighting system that’s in tune with the body’s natural internal clock and subtly shifts through the day.
- Color palettes inspired by nature, including warm wood tones and bright spring grasses.
- Living nature directly integrated into workspaces, such as with live plants growing in desks.
- Privacy screens made from bamboo and other natural materials that enclose the space from floor to ceiling.
The overall effect of the biophilic design is a warm, welcoming space that works in harmony with the company’s integrated technology. It also embraces the sweeping views of London out the windows.
The Purpose of this Biophilic Design Experiment
The Daewha Kang group created the Living Lab with an express goal in mind. They wanted to be able to measure the impact of biophilic design on workers. This includes their productivity and a general sense of well-being. The firm is measuring the impact of the design on productivity by using a control center located on the same floor. The control center uses a similar aesthetic without the biophilic design elements. Workers will rotate through the two spaces every four weeks, while the design firm measures productivity in both. Employees will also take daily surveys that provide feedback to the design team.
The hope is that Daewha Kang can prove what much anecdotal and scientific evidence has already suggested: that biophilic design can help boost productivity and well-being in workspaces.
How to Incorporate Biophilic Design in Your Space
More and more companies are integrating biophilic design into their offices. This includes Etsy headquarters in New York and well as many offices around the Boston area. Companies are receiving positive responses from those using the spaces every day and seeing the benefits of integrated nature. Bringing nature into your space can help reduce stress and create a more efficient workplace, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to do. You can integrate biophilic design principles without completely overhauling the design of your office. Small changes can start to make a big impact on employee health and happiness. Start to integrate more nature into your space with the help of an experience biophilic designer. They can help you with projects such as:
- Plantscapes which are custom-designed for your office.
- Living walls that add interest, color, and nature to your office.
- Living art pieces strategically placed in your space to enhance the atmosphere.
Use these projects as a starting point and see the positive impact it can make on your office.
Cityscapes can help you find the right biophilic solutions for your office. Get in touch with our team today to set up a design assessment and to learn more about the work we do to help bring nature into man-made spaces.
There is an oasis in the heart of London’s financial district where the citizenry can relax in the calmest of rooftop gardens. Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a new concept in landscape architecture and the city is all the better for it. The unique geometric windows provide great views over Canary Wharf while shrubs, trees, and flowers from all over the world offer a green space respite for all who choose to enter. The garden is hidden beneath a latticed, timber roof and is an exceptional example of how innovative design can successfully create a fusion between urban and rural environments.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden is situated directly above London’s new Canary Wharf train station, a seven-story structure providing an east-west rail link in the heart of the city. The ambitious project was pioneered by renowned architects Foster and Partners and includes four stories of retail spaces, several eateries, and an abundance of leisure facilities. The plan comfortably unifies the train station below with these visitor-friendly elements.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden is interestingly located geographically on the Prime Meridian line just north of Greenwich. This aspect divides the site into eastern and western hemispheres and serves as an influence in the garden design. The garden emphasizes the historical maritime culture of the area while at the same time providing an accessible modern venue of mixed use for London’s ordinary folks.
The enclosed garden was designed by the London-based landscape architects, Gillespies and is an incredible masterpiece of creative innovation and imagination. Plantings are arranged by native origin into two geographic zones where the east side layout may feature Japanese maple trees and Chinese bamboo while the opposite west side may highlight American gumtrees or Australian ferns. It’s like taking a slow walk around the world.
The structure is built with a semi-permeable canopy which provides a localized microclimate environment perfect for more exotic plant species to thrive. Unexpected paths branch off from the main walkway delighting visitors with a show of different and sometimes rare plant species. Benches are randomly placed along the pathways inviting passers-by to dawdle in the beauty of the natural surrounds.
The project was a challenging undertaking often requiring out-of-the-box thinking and innovative construction to support the many unusual plant species and mature trees envisioned for its completion. Soil conditions, light, drainage, and enough space for root growth all had to be taken into consideration. Most materials were craned in through openings in the roof. The result is a satisfying and surprising tropical paradise where you would least expect to find it.
Crossrail Place Roof Garden is a prime example of how a city’s revitalization efforts can provide an infrastructure plan designed to serve as a community hub without sacrificing aesthetic qualities. The lush sheltered plant environment leads way to an in-house 80 seat amphitheater at each end hosting a variety of local performers and musicians. It is all free and meant to encourage the imagination of young and old alike. The roof garden has become a community treasure since its opening in 2015.
The stunning contrast between the dramatic architecture and the exotic greenery of the space couldn’t be more pleasing to those wanting to escape the busy streets below. The project illustrates why redevelopment goals can and should integrate green areas within city landscapes. Access to natural environments is beneficial to productivity and creativity and the incorporation of green spaces into a business setting is nothing but a win/win. All it takes is the inspiration of new concepts and ideas, meticulous planning, and the motivation to meet and beat the challenges along the way.
The Blessings of Botany
When we think of houseplants, we often put them in the same category as mere home decor, or even a hobby; but it is important to note that leafy green plants are much more valuable than normally given credit for! Botany has an intrinsic regenerative quality that benefits the environment for humans and animals alike, both mentally and physically.
Let’s take a brief look at how plants have made our world, our workplaces, and our homes a better place.
Did you know that simply being around plants and working with them can lower your stress levels? That’s right! Studies have shown that people who spend time around plants have developed significantly lower blood pressure and an increased level of psychological stability.
In our world of technology and informational overloads, scientists have come to recognize interior plants as a valuable relaxation tool that can counter the negative effects of the modern computer age. There’s just something about having nature around that makes us think more clearly, makes us operate more efficiently, and helps us feel better.
Indoor plants are growing in reputation as efficient and practical air purifiers. Seems to good to be true, right? The fact is, plants clean the air by absorbing toxic carbon dioxide and light energy in through the leaves; this the natural process of photosynthesis. But it gets better; plant foliage also absorbs other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, and other dangerous chemicals from plastics, carpet dust, and cigarette smoke.
Houseplants take in a bunch of airborne garbage, safely dispose of it, and then give back purified oxygen to be used once again by us. It doesn’t get much better than that! Some of the best varieties for cleaning the air include ferns, palms, snake plants, and peace lilies.
Okay, we aren’t going to just skip over the fact that houseplants can be simply gorgeous. If taken care of properly, a flourishing indoor plant can be the highlight of a room. For thousands of years, humanity has taken great delight in the beauty of gardens and cultivated plants.
The ancient Chinese used indoor plants as symbols of wealth and prosperity, as well as for general ornamental purposes. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon became one of the 7 Wonders of the World, displaying the glory of botany like none other. Ever since explorers have been traveling to and from the tropics, beautiful flowering plants have found their way into homes and palaces all over civilization.
It’s no different today! Elaborate sculpted plants, living walls, and other creatively arranged plants can dramatically increase the aesthetic value of a home or workplace, improve acoustics by muffling reverberations, and create an eye-catching focal point in a room.
Let Interior Plants Do Their Job!
Although many people are intimidated by the thought of taking care of plants, it really is a simple process. Some varieties may require special watering patterns, trimmings, or specific levels of humidity; but in most cases, care is minimal and the returns are big! A few minutes of research can inform you on the proper care for whichever varieties you have. And don’t forget the fact that working with and handling plants is great for your soul!
So, are you ready to give indoor plants a fair chance? Go for it, and experience the wonder that has captivated botanists since ancient times! Let every area of your life be enhanced by the benefits that greenery offers; cleaner air, clearer minds, and creative beauty. What could be a better choice for you, your friends, and family?
The modern idea of a functional workplace no longer revolves around a desk in a large office. Each day, wireless communications become more sophisticated. Younger people, who are more used to these new communications methods, are entering the workforce and employers have a new awareness of how employees work best. These new ideas and innovations make it possible for companies to incorporate nature and the outdoors into a beneficial workplace environment.
Landscaping with Biophilic Design
Many companies are combining the recent trends of biophilia (a human being’s natural affinity for nature) with the landscaping trend of placemaking and recent findings concerning productivity. Placemaking is a recent trend in commercial landscaping. Designers use it to reevaluate unused outdoor spaces and remake them into a practical outdoor space for employees, clients, and customers to relax or do business. This trend partners well with landscaping with biophilic design, which stresses positive interaction with the user’s surroundings.
Working in an alternative space is no longer equated with fooling around. Recent studies have linked it with higher productivity and cost savings for companies. WorkDesign magazine cites a Heschong-Mahone Group study that tracked employee productivity with exposure to nature. Researchers observed call centers where managers placed seats so employees could see outdoor greenery with their peripheral vision. This small change resulted in employees with the view handling calls six to seven percent faster than the group without the view. While it cost money to renovate the office, it ultimately saved the company about $2,999 for each employee because production went up.
Innovative Workplace Trend
As more and more millennials enter the workforce, companies are adjusting to meet their needs and expectations. Because younger employees grew up in a wireless world, companies and municipalities are looking for creative ways to attract them. Blueprint reports that urban areas are increasingly incorporating outdoor office space in communities, not only for freelancers but to add an alternative for professionals who want to meet or work in a professional outdoor setting, rather than a restaurant or a windowless conference room.
A Silver Spring, Maryland project, called The Outbox, has recently been lauded as an innovative way to incorporate outdoor office space into urban life. It is simply a seasonal structure with outlets, a seating area and open walls that allow a clear view of the surrounding area but also provide shade and shelter from any sudden weather issues. This popular destination draws an eclectic mix of different professionals who come together to work and share ideas.
Renovating You Space for Biophilia
If you have an unused outdoor area on your business property, now it the time to consider incorporating a space for working outdoors. Of course, wifi is crucial for an outdoor workspace but there are other needs.
- Consider remaking an unused outdoor area on company property to include any features relative to your employees.
- Shade trees are appealing for a park setting but don’t place seating under them or your best client may end up with bird droppings on her favorite suit.
- Colorful flowers provide a mood lift, so ask your landscaper to fill pots and planters with seasonally blooming plants.
- Ask your landscaping crew to keep greenery closely trimmed so that it does not block walkways or seating, particularly for the handicapped.
- Outdoor furniture should still look professional after being out in the elements for a bit and it should be at the height most comfortable for people working on laptops.
- Plan a structure that can protect employees from the elements. Wind days are a problem if your workplace still uses paper and sunny days create glare on electronic screens.
There are many benefits to landscaping with biophilic design. Renovating your outdoor area to include a place for employees to work is not only good for your current staff but for millennials entering the workforce. Besides creating an appealing space to work in, it will draw in new employees and freelancers who can bring fresh ideas to your company.
Employee Productivity and Health
Landscape design is an important part of your business plan and can provide many advantages to a workplace. One of the most subtle and most valuable effects of good landscape design is the boost in employee productivity and health. This is for a few reasons.
Seeing Natural Environments Improves Thinking
According to an article published in the American Psychological Association, viewing nature rests the mind from the strain of what is called directed attention. This is the type of attention that people use when they do tasks that require a lot of focus, and it is different from the fascination type of attention that people use when they look at nature. After resting the mind, people can focus better. Studies have also found that people can remember better and pay attention longer by 20% when they are exposed to nature.
For instance, there was a study done where people were given 40 minutes of attentionally exhausting tasks and then relaxed in different ways, including a walk in a nature preserve. The people who were exposed to nature did better at a standard proofreading test than the people who were assigned to other types of relaxation.
It isn’t necessary for your employees to work in a nature preserve to get these benefits, either: being able to see or take their lunch in a professionally done landscape that has plants in it will improve their focus.
Exposure To Nature Improves Mental Health
Studies show that people who spend more time in nature feel more hopeful and often have better mental health. They feel more energetic, less stress, and less depression when outside. Being able to see a good landscape from their windows can help employees feel better about work in general and enjoy their job more.
The association between exposure to nature seems particularly strong when it comes to depression, which is a condition that can definitely sap your productivity. A study on twins that was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that people were less likely to feel depressed if they had ready access to green spaces.
The improvement in mental health can be indirect, too. For instance, the effect of tiring your mind from using directed attention increases impulsivity, distractibility, and irritability. This can increase the stress on everyone who has to work with the person who is fatigued. Many studies have shown that increased stress leads to increased absenteeism and decreased productivity.
Green Environments Improve Physical Health
There is a documented association between green spaces and improved health outcomes. This might have something to do with nature’s association with lowered stress levels. Lessening the stress people feel is known to have positive health effects such as improving sleep and making it easier to recover from illnesses.
For instance, there is a famous study that a director at Texas A&M University conducted on patients who were recovering from abdominal surgery. The director surveyed the recovery of patients who were given a view of trees from their window and the recovery of patients who were given a view of brick walls from their window, and he found that the patients who could see the trees recovered faster, didn’t request as much pain medication, and had fewer complications.
But beyond the effects of reducing stress, green landscapes may encourage physical activity. Taking a walk around the campus at lunch is a more attractive idea if the path that you will walk on is hedged with pretty flowers. Increased physical activity promotes general wellness, which in turn boosts attendance at work and the ability to concentrate on the tasks at hand.
These three subtle benefits make good landscaping design something to look into.
Employees spend many of their waking hours at work. The office is like a home away from home, so it is important that employees feel like they are at home while they are there. If you have ever worked in a building that boasts furniture representative of a 1980s sitcom or has decor that is discolored, worn, and tattered, then you know it can lower the morale in the office and make people less productive. When employees are proud of their workspace, they are often times more willing to go above and beyond the call of duty, which translates into better productivity all around. Improve office life, motivate your employees and give them a workspace that feels more like a home with these office life altering tricks and techniques:
Update Office Furnishings
Whether your company is large or small, office facelift funds should be worked into every business budget. Presentation is an important part of the package when you are trying to generate new business and keep your current customers coming back for more. A well kept office space conveys professionalism. Employees and clients alike will feel more comfortable negotiating new deals, coming up with the next big concept, and seeing projects through to completion when they have a clean and contemporary space to work in.
The overall image of your company should be conveyed in the furnishings you select for your office space. If you wish to portray a laid-back atmosphere that fosters creativity and allows your employees to think and work freely, go with bold colors and furniture with interesting patterns and shapes. If your business is designed around helping others, choose natural earth tones and portray a look of warmth and compassion.
Get On-Board with Biophilia
Biophilia is a psychological concept that was first used in 1973 by psychoanalyst Erich Fromm who said that humans have an innate need to connect with the natural world around them, and are attracted to things that are considered to be alive and from nature.
It is a concept that is being incorporated more in shopping malls, office buildings, and other public spaces as nature calms the spirit. To engage employees and make them feel more relaxed in the workplace, incorporate landscape art, live plants, natural colors, fish tanks, water fountains, and other earthy elements.
The Little Things Do Matter
Providing simple concessions like a coffee pot and healthy snacks in the break room are little things that matter a great deal to employees. Small gestures of appreciation show employees you care and will help keep them feeling comfortable while they are at work. According to The Balance Small Business, businesses that provide free snacks and drinks to employees are the ones most likely to get the best employees in the job market.
Other gestures of appreciation you can consider to improve life in the office include giving employees gift cards to their favorite retailers for a job well done, providing a relaxing break area that includes comfortable seating, games, a TV, and some live plants for them to look after, and pumping soothing music through the airwaves to promote deep thought and reflection.
Knock Down the Walls
Open office concepts are in and promote conversation and idea sharing in the workplace. An open office concept invites employees to discuss projects and form partnerships among themselves as well as makes their supervisors more accessible to them. When the walls are knocked down, even a small office suite can take on a vast and expansive new life, letting in much more natural light for everyone to enjoy.
When designing your open office concept, remember to keep the cubicles low and try to incorporate more windows and skylights into the construction plans. If your office building needs to have individual offices for key executives to work from, position the offices so that they are in the middle of the building, allowing for lower level employees to have access to prime window seating.
In today’s job market, employees have choices when it comes to where they work, and sometimes the tipping point all comes down to the physical appearance and ambiance of the office space you provide. Give your office a facelift, let nature in, and provide employees with a few small gifts of gratitude, and you will enjoy seeing their smiling faces as they work hard to make the business boom.