What is biophilic office design and why is it important?

Discover how to boost employee morale and productivity with biophilic office design.

By Lily-Rose Taylor

14.05.24

So how can biophilic office design improve your office?

A striking one-third of workers say that the design of an office influences their job choices, according to the Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workspace. With such a significant number of people placing value on workplace design, it’s clear that design with human needs at the forefront is imperative.

Biophilic office design is changing workspace environments by integrating natural elements directly into the architectural fabric.

From boosting mood to improving mental clarity, the benefits of biophilic office design are substantial and backed by an increasing body of research.

What is biophilic office design?

The philosophy of biophilic office design is rooted in the concept of biophilia, introduced by American biologist Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s. Wilson proposed that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life, suggesting that our affinity for the natural world is a critical component of our well-being.

Building on Wilson’s work, biophilic office design incorporates elements such as indoor plants, natural light, water features, and materials like wood and stone that echo the natural environment. The aim is to create environments that are inherently healthier and more productive.

Pioneering theorist Stephen Kellert spoke about biophilia as “the inherent human inclination to affiliate with nature that even in the modern world continues to be critical to people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

With a focus on mental wellbeing in the workspace and human-centred design, workspaces are increasingly turning to biophilia to bring the outdoors in and create a healthy space which has a “human-centred approach to design”.

Biophilic design in offices

Biophilic office design requires a thoughtful integration of nature into the very fabric of the building’s design, ensuring that natural elements are visible and impactful throughout the office space.

So how can you apply biophilic office design principles to your office?

Let there be light!

One of the easiest ways to add biophilic office design features to your office is by maximising natural light. Consider expansive windows, skylights that mimic the open sky, and transparent partitions that not only bathe the space in sunlight but also create a seamless flow between the indoors and outdoors. This abundance of natural light is crucial for maintaining circadian rhythms, making employees more alert and reducing eye strain, which improves overall-wellbeing and productivity at work.

Green is the new black

Did you know that by adding plants to your office, you can reduce CO2 levels and airborne pollutants, significantly improving air quality? Features such as indoor plants, living walls, and green ceilings all contribute to improving concentration and job satisfaction, creating a sense of calm within the office.

Touch and texture

Use materials like wood, stone, and bamboo to create a connection with nature. These elements can be elegantly incorporated into flooring, walls, and furniture, creating a workspace that resonates with the textures of the earth. This subtle yet effective use of natural materials serves as a constant reminder of the natural world, grounding and soothing the mind during stressful work hours.

A symphony of sight and sound

Imagine the soothing sound of a small waterfall or the gentle babble of a fountain right in your biophilic office space. Water features are a remarkable addition, providing a dynamic and calming sensory experience. The auditory presence of water is known for its soothing properties, promoting a tranquil and productive workspace.

A room with a view

Where feasible, biophilic office designs incorporate direct views of nature—be it a beautifully landscaped courtyard, a city park, or distant hills. When direct natural views are not possible, high-quality digital displays of vibrant natural landscapes can serve as effective visual substitutes, creating a sense of openness and freedom.

Diversity in design

Creating diverse and dynamic spaces that reflect the myriad forms of natural environments can ignite creativity and alleviate fatigue. Imagine spaces dedicated to collaboration that feature elements like bamboo partitions or pebble paths, alongside quiet zones with soft, grass-like carpeting where one can work with focus and minimal disturbance.

Biophilic office design is about creating a holistic environment that benefits physical health, emotional well-being, and productivity. By integrating the outdoors with the indoor work environment, companies can create spaces that cultivate a deeper connection to the natural world.

Case study: Parvalux – from stark and boring to a wellness hub

In 2023, Parvalux implemented biophilic design, creating a sanctuary of wellness and connection. Natural oak furniture, real plants, and soothing, earthy tones now create a welcoming atmosphere, encouraging interaction and relaxation among over 200 staff. This once stark canteen has evolved into a community hub, buzzing with activity and designed not just for meals but for nurturing wellbeing and strengthening team bonds in a more connected, vibrant environment.

Read the full case study here. 

Achieving WELL certification with biophilic office design

WELL certification is a prestigious recognition for buildings that prioritise health and wellness in their design and operations. Biophilic office design plays a crucial role in meeting WELL standards, particularly under the ‘Mind’ and ‘Comfort’ concepts of the WELL Building Standard.

Here’s how biophilic design can help offices achieve WELL certification:

Direct Impact on WELL Mind Concept: The WELL Building Standard includes features that aim to reduce stress and improve mental and emotional health. Biophilic office design directly contributes to these goals by integrating natural elements that help reduce stress and promote mental well-being. Features such as visual and physical accessibility to natural elements are key components of this strategy.

Indirect Pathways to WELL Compliance: Biophilic design also supports other WELL concepts like ‘Air’, ‘Light’, and ‘Water’, by promoting better air quality through plants, optimising natural light, and incorporating water features that improve humidity and indoor climate conditions.

dsds

Quantitative and Qualitative Benefits: WELL certification assesses both the quantitative aspects, such as air quality and light levels, and qualitative aspects, like design diversity and beauty. Biophilic design excels in providing tangible health benefits while also creating visually and sensory pleasing environments that contribute to these qualitative assessments.

This synergy between biophilic elements and WELL standards shows how office design can be both visually pleasing and functionally beneficial in promoting health and wellness.

Case study – Platinum Group

When Platinum Group moved to their new Bournemouth office, AXIS House crafted an 8000 sq ft biophilic haven that blends vibrant greenery with functional, sustainable design elements such as a plant-adorned entrance and a fish tank room divider.

This transformation has turned the office into a dynamic environment where collaboration, well-being, and innovation thrive. Every space, from the table tennis area to the podcasting zone, is designed to energise and inspire, embodying a new way of working.

Read the case study here

Ready to make your office into a biophilic human-centred office?

Our strategic consultancy and design services are at the forefront of biophilic office design, helping companies create spaces that not only look good but feel good. Explore our services and let’s create a workspace that’s not just a place to work, but a place to thrive.

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