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.
Live plants in the workplace can be a highly debated topic among many. While some may shy away from adding plants because of required maintenance, a fear that they will overwhelm the space, or anxiety about choosing the right plants, having live plants in the office may be something to reconsider.
Having plants in the workplace can offer employers, employees, customers, and clients alike a variety of benefits and advantages. Not only are they beautiful pieces of decoration, but living plants can also provide an array of physical, psychological, and environmental benefits that will you make you wonder why you haven’t added plants to your workplace already.
The Benefits of Live Office Plants
1. Design Aesthetics and Visual Appeal
Everything about nature and the world around us is beautiful, which is why live plants and flowers in any indoor space add an element of decorative beauty. Adding varying shades of greens, browns, and even other natural colors add dimension and focus to any office and provide visual appeal for anyone working or visiting the office. Plants provide workplaces with an enhanced, “put together” feel that conveys a positive message, as well as decorative focal points that can brighten up any space.
2. The Effects of Plants on Stress and Productivity
Scientific research has found a strong correlation between nature and the human brain. In fact, science tells us that plants in the workplace can reduce stress and fatigue by up to 20-30 percent. In addition, plants can help create positive work environments and create a natural, meditative atmosphere that restores positive moods and reduces mental fatigue. This helps boost the performance and productivity of the brain.
3. Creating Healthier Work Environments
The healthy effects of plants don’t just stop at the brain. One of the biggest perks of having plants in the office is the air-quality they provide. With the right amount of greenery, carbon dioxide can be reduced by up to 50 percent, while also helping to tackle bacteria, germs, and dust in the air. People who work around plants all day are less likely to suffer from skin problems, cold symptoms, and more. Many offices experience a reduction in employee absenteeism, as well as minor illnesses when the right plants are added.
4. Noise Reduction
Office spaces tend to have great acoustics, which can also mean noisy workspaces. Live plants are healthy (and affordable) options for reducing unwanted noise in the workplace. Plants have a natural ability to absorb background noises and help block distractions for employees or visitors. It also makes for a less-distracting and calm atmosphere to be in.
5. Fulfilling Biophilic Needs
Science has indicated that humans have an instinctual and physiological need for connecting to nature and other forms of life. Biophilia is a hypothesis and theory that proposes the idea that this connection is physically necessary, as well as psychologically. Since humans are instinctually connected to living things, there can be consequences when these needs are not met. People who work in an office can spend up to 90 percent of their day indoors, which makes little time for fulfilling any of these biophilic needs. Live plants and fresh greenery in a workplace can appease your desire for nature and have a strong impact on your overall wellbeing.
The benefits and advantages of having plants in the office are numerous. As a less stressful, more beautiful place to be, offices with plants send all the right messages. With the right greenery and decorative style, you can create a healthy and beautiful workspace that will have employees and visitors alike wanting to stay a bit longer.
Holiday decorations are more than fun. They boost team morale by making the workspace cheerful and reminding employees that their bosses care about making their work life comfortable. Plus, it reinforces your image with anyone who comes in contact with your business. So when you hire someone to decorate your business, you’ll want to discuss with them how you will get all these benefits. The team will likely want you to consider the following:
The top of everyone’s list should be safety. No one wants the holidays to turn into a threat to people. The decorating team will want to know where exits are so they can avoid blocking them with decorations. They will also have to know where your fire sprinklers are so that they can avoid blocking or damaging them. On a more legal note, your design will have to comply with OSHA regulations, which includes keeping exits clear and avoiding overloading electrical outlets. One OSHA requirement to keep in mind is about any temporary wiring that you use for decorating: it has to comply with the same rules as permanent wiring, except it must be taken down before 90 days are up.
On your end, you might want to check that your fire extinguishers and other safety equipment are in working order before the team arrives to put up the decorations. You will also need to remember to turn off any illuminated items every night before you go home. Electrical items can catch fire if they are allowed to burn when people aren’t in the building.
Team morale may get a lift from seeing snowflakes in the lobby, but it will plummet if employees have to step over the snowflakes all day in order to do their job. Ultimately, your office is a place where people have to get their work done, and you don’t want to interfere with that. Before your corporate design team shows up, you can do a quick tour of the building to find places that should be avoided. For instance, people often take shortcuts to get from one place to another because it is faster, and putting a Christmas tree in the middle of the shortcut will catch people off-guard. You also want to avoid cluttering necessary work surfaces.
You know your employees, so you know that you have hired many types of people. Some of those people might not celebrate a particular holiday. It’s always a good idea to poll your employees to find out which holidays should be decorated for. That way, your employees know that you respect their history and care about them individually (as opposed to assuming they all celebrate the same way you do.) You can also go the route of avoiding referencing specific holidays: stick with snowflakes and fake snow in the winter, pine cones, and cornucopias in the fall, and daffodils in the spring. It creates the same festive spirit without leaving anyone out.
It is important for another reason to be mindful in your holiday decorations: a lot of the decorations will be in public spaces where your customers will see them. You don’t want to make them uncomfortable.
Consistency With Your Business Image
Your corporate image doesn’t change just because a holiday is approaching, which is great because corporate holiday design is a way to reinforce that image. A tasteful, luxurious holiday design will reassure your customers that you are a respectable, prestigious business. A colorful holiday design will make customers feel like you are a fun, modern business. Want your customers to know that you are in touch with their traditions? Decorate for the same holidays that most of your customers celebrate. Want your customers to associate you with good times? Add a few quirky touches to your holiday design. You will have to work with your decorating team to create the image you want.
With these tips in mind, your corporate holiday design is sure to boost morale and your image.
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.