LEED? WELL? Standards can seem overwhelming for the small to mid-sized project that is trying to do the right thing but just can't shoulder the up front costs and long-term resources required to adhere to a developed standard like LEED or WELL. These standards seem to take an army of polished green-ologists or building professionals that most small to mid-sized companies don't have and can't afford. Regardless, they want to do the right thing for their clients, employees, students, patients or tenants.
Enter the concept of Biophilic Design. This is something manageable that can be incorporated into a work environment immediately, in stages and most importantly, in a cost-effective manner. The underlying concept is simple: we are at our most symbiotic and balanced point as human beings when we are in a natural, outdoor environment. This is a long-studied fact internationally, and predominantly in Japan, where the effects of forest bathing, or "shinrin yoku” has been long studied to determine health benefits. The positive effect on our bodies, when exposed to nature, is indisputable. The challenge is the fact that we spend 90% of our time indoors. How do you take advantage of the benefits nature has to offer butted up against the challenge of the amount of time we spend indoors? The answer is biophilic design.
What is Biophilic Design?
Bolstered by its three main pillars: Nature in the Space, Nature of the Space and Natural Analogues. Biophilic design offers 14 overarching principles, that can be incorporated into a space to make it more:
These are all characteristics that workers, patients, students, tenants, clients, and employees want and desire in their environments. Based on your space, and your needs, you can use Biophilic Design principles to achieve these environmental goals.
For example, a hospital may want the hallways and common areas in the children's area to be vibrant, exciting and engaging, while the recovery rooms should be calming, soothing and pleasant. These traits can be achieved using the biophilic design principles.
Here are the 9 easiest ways to incorporate Biophilic Design into your space:
Torzo Surface in Denim
1) Get touchy. Textures are in. Like, really in. Getting your hands on a surface and feeling something besides a cold, polished slab is incredibly engaging. To sit at a counter, bar or walk across a floor with some level of texture is inherently more fulfilling than a glossy, crumb showing, streak revealing, pristine piece of faux nature. Warm, textured surfaces are key to getting those in the space involved in the space.
2) Get a fish tank. Seems easy, right? But Nemo will really bring a smile to the faces of the occupants. The natural effects of the water, the organic, non-rhythmic movement of the fish, and the inferred connection to the ocean are all biophilic principles in action. And all in that little bowl.
IceStone in Gothem Grey
3) Get some plants. Too easy, but we said Nature in the space right? The easiest way to get there is to add plants. There are many plant varieties that work well indoors, even if you don’t have the best natural light. Plants have the added benefit of purifying the air too!
EchoScreen by Kirei
4) Create some intrigue. The sense of mystery is apparently very appealing. Using partially shaded or patterned screens that create a sense of intrigue as to what lies beyond are a simple way to incorporate biophilic design. The heightened sense of intrigue creates a higher level of engagement and awareness.
Kirei Mura Wave Tiles "Ocean"
5) Fakin' it. Maybe you can't bring sandy beaches, oceans, palm trees and rolling clouds into a space but you can emulate them. Carpet, light fixtures and wall cladding all offer options that emulate nature, while not being the exact element, you are at least making an effort to get there.
6) Lighten up. It seems like everyone knows this, but the basic exposure to light is proven to be beneficial. Incorporating natural light into a space and giving views of the outdoors to people is an automatic win. It reengages them, connects them to nature and calms them. Multiple studies show the many benefits of adding natural light. Never mind that it usually cuts down on your electric bill!
7) It's a Breeze. Don't shut the door, open it! Let natural breezes flow when they can. It incorporates movement, unpredictability and scents and sounds that engage and interact with staff, students, workers etc. It can also be used to naturally manage HVAC instead of relying on costly equipment. Operable windows and open minds are key to letting nature do her work.
Colorful DURAT Sinks
8) Living Color. Color is not just a choice when you buy something, it occurs naturally and evokes different responses. The science of color is well known and documented. Just ask McDonald's. Those red and yellow colors actually make you hungry. Color evokes a response, and using it to engage, excite, soothe or calm your audience is a desirable trait. Look for materials that incorporate color to either emulate nature (greens) or evoke a desired response.
9) Shut the Front Door. OK, or quiet DeeDee over in cube 6 with the killer ringtone. Incorporating sound control into a space is super easy and can limit distractions. You can also do this in a colorful way, with some of the new products for acoustic control including both color and shape. (think acoustical blue and white clouds emulating a skyscape). Non-distracted, happy, inspired employees are far more productive, so foster them with healthier work environments.
Those are 9 easy ways, but there are hundreds more. But 9 or 900, you can start small and go big with Biophilic Design. That is the beauty of it. Well, that and all the materials that can be used to achieve it.