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Eimear Ennis, Associate Director at NODA Architects investigates how we can improve our wellbeing by incorporating the ethos of Biophilic Design into our work spaces.
The concept that as humans we possess a desire to seek connections with natural forms was coined Biophilia by Erich Fromm saying it was:
“the passionate love of life
of all that is alive”
Biophilic Design is a term in the building environment whereby designers connect the occupant to the natural environment using direct nature and indirectly in the use of natural materials, spaces, light and colours.
Through this the interior spaces and architecture can come to life and enhance the end users stress levels. It can also improve cognitive function and creativity.
With the increase in stress levels it isn’t surprising that this relates to the growth in our urban centres.
According to the WHO stress is one of the biggest factors in employers losing revenue.
Now, in the time of COVID 19, we are experiencing more stress than ever, and we hope to show here how small initiatives in design can create a positive human centered space where staff and guests can feel comfortable in their surroundings that they are safe places to be in.
This approach has been used in many New York hospitals over the last few months where ‘Recharge Rooms’ for staff have been made to promote good mental health through the use of sounds imagery and light.
How can we achieve this?
We believe that there are 4 areas where this can be addressed and have started at the cost effective option which is achievable by all.
1. Adding Nature in our environment
• Cut Flowers
• Landscaped courtyards gardens
• Living Walls
• Green Roof gardens
2. Textures and scents evoking nature
• Scent atomisers
• Cleaning products
• Textures wall finishes, floors, soft furnishing choosing elements that evoke nature.
There are many companies now taking on board how important the connection with nature is. Interface Carpets have pioneered this. Their designs are not only tonal to reflect this move towards our desire to be linked with nature but also textured which heights the experience. On another positive note they have a holistic approach to their products which means that they use nature itself to recreate a more sustainable product which in turn is healthier for the occupants and the environment.
Check out Interface Carpets here
3. Natural Ventilation
• Allowing for openable windows
• A temperature that is comfortable to be in
• Sun screening to dissipate heat build up
Natural ventilation may not be achievable in all cases, bit we need to review how our fresh air comes into buildings and recirculating of air in general.
Never has our ventilation systems been more important in light of the recent few months with employees concerned about recirculated air through mechanical ventilation systems. Fresh air cleanses and brings balance to our systems, it charges our immune systems and gives you a sharper mind and more energy. We all know so well the 4pm slump as rooms heat up and air becomes stagnant. Allowing for a natural air system will keep us all working more effectively.
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• Natural light that supports the sleep wake cycle that we have internally programmed into us. This means that we function better under natural light so any artificial light should be able to reduce the same amount of light necessary for this to happen.
• Allow desking onto windows
• Use of LED lighting where there are no windows to reflect natural light conditions. LED omits a high percentage of the blue spectrum ever through it appears white which is good for alertness.
• Having simple pot plants can dramatically improve the air quality as they absorb pollutants and toxins and can reduce sick building syndrome
• Offices can be dry spaces given the heat build up and static from so many machines being powered at once. Plants can put water vapors back into the air
• Noise Reduction. When sufficiently used such as a green wall it can help with the noise levels in open plan offices
2. Mental Health
• Up to 8 hours are spent in offices by having greenery within spaces this can calm the mind, reduce stress which in turn improves self esteem, creativity and reduces the amount of absenteeism
•Light is very important. Too little light will produce melatonin which sends an impulse to the brain to make us sleepy. This is not helpful in a busy office environment.
•Zoning spaces. It is important to allocate different zones, social ones in terms of coffee counters, quiet zones for more detailed report writing so that people can work effectively but also can have down time away from their desks which is just as important.
4. Retention of Staff
•By making changes we can increase the happiness of staff, we all have heard the saying a cluttered space a cluttered mind, this is true and by making our work spaces more positive we in turn will have staff who want to remain in the office and help grow the company
•Commitment to the company, most employees will be happier doing an extra bit as they have a positive mental attitude to their work.
Image by Interface
Whilst doing a webinar with Interface, they had a guest speaker Oliver Heath talking about Biophilic design in our working spaces. What really interested me was the statistics that he produced citing that 10% of employee's absence can be attributed to working in environments with no connection to nature and that by addressing this as simply as including living elements or views onto nature that it can
• Increase wellbeing by 15%
• Productivity by 6%
• Creativity by 15%
So if it is only a gesture of buying some plants, bringing in cut flowers to reception this is the simple first step and one which is worth it. With reduced numbers in offices, maybe its time to think about your office space and how smaller collaborative zones may work and how to subdivide spaces with trellised partitions and even bring in more natural colours and textures.
Extract: Creating Positive Space Interface with
Oliver Heath www.oliverheath.com
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