Survive summer in the office with biophilic design

23 July 2015. Feature.

Research reveals the benefits of biophilic office design, essential during those summer months.

It’s one of those wonderfully typical British traits to complain throughout the colder months, only to groan even louder when the summer time finally arrives. Although the summer offers the perfect opportunity to trade that sweaty commute in favour of a walk or cycle into work, it’s the hours of suffering in the office that really gets workers hot and bothered.

According to occupational health experts, the optimum temperature for any office is between 21-24c, with humidity at around 50%. The minimum fresh-air rate should be 10 litres per second per person and the optimum air movement should be 0.1-0.5 metres per second. This is essential info for any office peacekeeper handling a dispute over the best setting for the air conditioning.

However once the battle of the air con settings and comfort has been resolved, you still have the predicament of that glorious sunshine that staff look at longingly throughout their day. The answer? Biophilic office design.

‘Biophilia’

The concept behind biophilic office design is a simple one. By incorporating materials, textures, patterns and colours inspired by nature into our built environment, we can engage the senses and evoke an innate connection to the outdoors which ultimately improves the health and well-being for staff on a major scale. Such office design concepts can be implemented through the flooring, furniture, aesthetics and the internal and external spaces.

An exciting report by Human Spaces has identified that just as management styles and workplace structures can affect staffs mentality and efficiency at work, so can their physical surroundings. The research quantifies the benefits of biophilic office design, specifically for well-being and productivity, and also provides a practical introduction to how to achieve those benefits.

One of the pillars of the biophilic theory is to allow humans to have access with nature and things you’d expect to see outdoors, i.e. plants, deckchairs, trees, grass and animals (hence why start-ups have adopted office dogs!). All of these have incredibly positive effects on peoples’ physiologies which can be detrimental throughout the souring temperatures and during those office hours.

Biophilic design in practice

A fantastic example of biophilic design in practice is the atrium at Google’s London HQ designed by the Peldon Rose design team (see image above).

Google tends to favour office design that likens the aesthetics to the offices location. So for their office fit-out in London, Victoria, referencing the nearby St James’s Park was the perfect landmark. In Google’s large open space in the building’s light-filled atrium, the Peldon Rose team created the perfect park like scene, complete with trees, picnic tables and deck chairs arranged on a green lawn. There’s even a boat that Google employees can spend their break time playing about in!

Biophilic design brings offices to life, and goes far beyond the practical benefits of a single plant recycling air behind the reception desk of a high-rise building. Contact with nature and design elements which mimic natural materials have been proven to positively impact health, job performance and concentration, and to reduce anxiety and stress. There’s no denying it, mother nature rules again.

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