Being at One with Nature with Biophilic Design

By David Keane | on October 17th, 2018

When you’re researching ideas for commercial interior design in London, you’re probably going to come across the term “biophilic design”. It sounds like a fancy, tree-hugging trend that will die out as quickly as table football in the breakout space, right? After all, your office fit-out needs something long-term, that maximises productivity, employee well-being and looks awesome on the cover of Fancy Office Interiors Monthly.

Well, biophilic design is all that, and it’s really not going anywhere soon. In fact, it may be the key to keeping everyone happy, connected and throwing creative ideas like confetti at a wedding.  Here’s how:

First Off – WTF is Biophilic Design?

As much as the name suggests it, biophilic design isn’t about sticking hanging baskets everywhere like a porch-decorating granny.

Nope, the term was popularised by American psychologist Edward O Wilson, who had the mind-blowing realisation that after living for centuries as farmers and hunter gatherers, the human brain was probably not cut out for working and living in horrible grey concrete blocks. Keep in mind this was back in the 80s, when concrete was king and the Gordon Gekkos of the world were happily stabbing each other in the back over a few quid. That decade was a tough time for tree-huggers.

Anyway, the idea that humans should reconnect with nature means that good biophilic design should introduce elements of the natural world into the workspace. Bringing in natural materials, forms, colours and textures – as well as reconnecting people with natural lighting, air quality and “human” recuperative spaces – can blow any two-bit therapy session out of the water.

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Get a good enough office interior designer (ahem, like us), and you might find your employees start hugging the reclaimed timber room partitions. Hey, at least they’re doing it with a smile.

Greens are Good for You – the Benefits of Biophilic Design

It’s not just the hippies in us that agree. According to this report, biophilic design can increase productivity by 6%, creativity by 15%, increase feelings of wellbeing by 15% and leave people almost twice as happy and inspired as compared to employees who have no natural environment in their workspaces.

That’s goddamn science spitting the facts. If that’s not a reason to go completely Captain Planet on your boardroom, we don’t know what is.

Even the simplest change can have a massive impact on the happiness of your employees. The next step is knowing how you can get there.

Introducing Biophilic Design into your Workspace

We’re practical people – no matter how good nature is for wellbeing, no one is booting up their laptop halfway up a tree while surrounded by wolves. As kick-ass designers, we have to find a way to bring the natural world to you, and after communing with Mother Nature (and drawing from boat-loads of experience), we know just how to turn your office from grim to green:

  • Choose natural materials for your furniture and fixtures. Wooden desks not only make you look like a badass CEO, but they also connect you to the natural world.
  • Use common natural colours. That neon yellow may have looked good at the rave you went to at the weekend, but it will make everyone completely miserable. Try leafy greens or ocean blues
  • Maximise natural light and ventilation. The variations we experience in nature – dappled light, changes in airflow and subtle temperature changes – all have a positive effect on our brains. Basically, have lots of windows, open them occasionally, and try not to rent office space that backs onto the alleyway of Crazy Joes All Night Pizza Parlour.
  • Play with natural forms. Have you ever seen a perfectly straight line or box in the natural world? Thought not. Embrace those unpredictable curves, just like nature intended.
  • Muck about with texture. Shiny hard plastic not only reminds you of a dentist’s office, but it’s also depressingly far away from the natural world. Stone, woven fabrics, real wood under your fingers – that’s the real deal.
  • Experiment with space. We stand on two feet for a reason: we like having a big grassy plain to survey. From giving the appearance of vastness with large skylights, mezzanines and open-plan areas, our monkey-brains will be kept happy (and safe from wolf packs).
  • But remember the small nooks. Putting little work pods or cosy high-backed chairs around the office gives your employees a safe haven. Just make sure they don’t start whittling spears to take down the lunch truck.
  • And of course – putting out loads of plants. Floors? Pot plants. Walls? Living, with tons of planted panels. Ceilings? Hanging plants, absolutely everywhere. And speaking of…

How the Heck do you Maintain a Biophilic Office?

You know what the human brain hates? Dead plants. We can try drawing from evolutionary psychology with this one and explain that dead plants ruin a harvest, but mainly it’s because rotting vegetation looks and smells really bad.

As a good commercial interior designer in London, we can help select the hardiest plants that can take a bit of a beating, and give you care advice. But you’re not likely going to want Mark in accounts climbing into the rafters for a spot of watering, in case he’s never seen again (or becomes a pod person).

There are loads of companies who provide office plant maintenance in London. We can even suggest a few if you’re looking to go completely biophilic, for the low price of employee productivity and less sick days. Think of it as healthcare for your business.

Want to take a walk on the wild side? Use those green thumbs and get in touch.

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020 7971 1132

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