Biophilic workspace: 14 design models for creating “green” offices
In the last ThinkLab article, “Office design: trends and solutions for more sustainable workspaces”, we explored the opportunities offered by biophilic design, introducing a trend-setting solution in the world of office planning.
Today we will discuss approaches and concrete solutions for introducing biophilics into corporate premises, highlighting fourteen design models that are based on the study titled “14 Patterns of Biophilic Design” developed by William Browning, Catherine Ryan and Joseph Clancy from Terrapin Bright Green.
The fourteen models are subdivided into three analytical areas: nature in the space, natural analogues, and nature of the space.
Nature in the space
This relates to the direct presence of nature, whether physical or ephemeral, in a space or location. By introducing plants, sensorial stimuli such as sounds and fragrances, and other natural elements, a connection with nature is created, helping employees recoup their concentration and improve their intellectual performance.
This segment comprises the first seven models, namely:
- Visual connection with nature. Views of natural elements, living systems and processes.
- Non-visual connection with nature. Auditory, haptic, olfactory or gustatory stimuli that generate a deliberate and positive reference to nature.
- Non-rhythmic sensory stimuli. The introduction of natural sensorial stimuli that attract attention, such as sounds or fragrances, reducing mental fatigue and stress.
- Thermal and airflow variability. Subtle changes in air and surface temperatures that mimic natural environments and conditions.
- Presence of water. A condition that enhances the experience of a place through seeing, hearing or touching water.
- Dynamic and diffuse light. The use of different intensities of light and shadows changing over time to create conditions that occur in nature.
- Connection with natural systems. The awareness and understanding of natural processes can create a change in perception that has a positive impact on employees’ health.
In this case, there is an indirect relationship with nature. The latter is introduced by means of objects, materials, colours, shapes, sequences and patterns used in the form of artworks, decorations, furniture, fittings and textiles. This design area utilises biomorphism, an artistic design modelling system based on natural forms recalling nature and living organisms.
Three other models are comprised in this segment:
- Biomorphic forms and patterns. As human beings, we feel a powerful visual attraction for biomorphic shapes or images. Introducing such elements inside offices has positive effects on reducing stress and enhancing concentration.
- “Material” connection with nature. The decision to choose natural and eco-sustainable materials, such as wood, for office design can help make the environment more distinctive, comfortable and inclusive.
- Complexity and order. The introduction of fractal geometries inside offices helps create more visually lively and dynamic settings, giving rise to a positive psychological response from people.
Nature of the space
Rather than being based on tangible design elements, the biophilic design models in this area are used to create locations that can stimulate employees’ sense of aspiration, discovery and mystery. In this case, nature emerges by means of space.
This dimension comprises the last four biophilic design models:
- Prospect. Offering the prospect of a view over a distance, across internal or external landscapes or panoramas, creating a visual connection with nature. This helps reduce stress, boredom and the sensation of fatigue.
- Refuge. The concept of refuge relates to the idea of enabling people to feel themselves as the protagonists in a space that is easily accessible and protective. Spaces of this type are primarily those for relaxation, privacy rooms and meeting booths.
- Mystery. This model is based on man’s inborn fascination with exploration and discovery, capable of generating a pleasurable response in the brain. It is possible to develop a sensation of mystery by designing interiors of great depth that encourage people’s movements and invite them to explore the space.
- Risk and peril. The Risk/Peril model has the objective of triggering interest and curiosity, revitalising memory and problem-solving skills.
The awareness of a controllable risk can support positive experiences that give rise to strong dopamine responses, with notable benefits on motivation and memory.
Data from the UN (United Nations) show that in the coming decades, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. This will lead to the appearance of new challenges regarding sustainability and changes in man’s relationship with nature. In this outlook, biophilic design could represent a practical answer that encourages people to challenge conventions and accept new sustainable design models in view of creating greener and more beautiful offices, companies and places in which to live.
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