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Biophilic Design

1.12.2020

The phrase ‘biophilic design’ has become a bit of a buzz word lately. At Bright Green we often find ourselves referencing this term in our client presentations because it really sums up the work we do. But what is it all about? Well, biophilia is the innate attraction that human beings have for nature and biophilic design encourages this connection between humans and nature to support cognitive function, physical health and psychological well-being. Simply put, by incorporating natural materials such as planting into the modern built environment you can create spaces that make people happier and healthier. But it’s more than just the addition of a potted plant or two on your desk, natural light, foliage, living walls, natural textures and materials along with views of nature can have a massive positive impact.

There is no doubt that plants can enhance the overall appearance of a space adding warmth and style but they can also make us feel good too, especially when there is a global pandemic and we are spending much more time indoors. Let’s look at the science-backed benefits to incorporating plants into your design schemes.

Plants reduce stress
Many work environments can be incredibly stressful places to be. Live or artificial planting can actually help to lower stress levels and more workspaces are choosing to create green environments for their staff. Research has shown that bringing plants into office environment can improve productivity, wellness and reduce sick days. A recent study in Japan explored the impact that indoor plants can have on the mental health of employees in real office settings. It found that their pulse rate lowered significantly when they were able to see and even care for a plant when they felt fatigued. Clearly demonstrating the calming impact that plants can have.

Retail spaces can get a boost from biophilic design too, incorporating planting into their design can have a huge positive effect on customers’ perceptions and their willingness to stay and spend. Customers are prepared to spend 8 to 12 % more for products in shops that have plants in.

 

Artificial High Level Hanging Plants

 

Plants increase productivity and creativity
Creating a colourful and relaxing environment which reduces stress can in turn increase concentration and improve productivity. Researchers in UK and The Netherlands compared “lean” offices to “greener” work environments monitoring productivity levels over 18 months. They discovered that having plants in the office significantly boosted employee’s satisfaction and levels of concentration, improving productivity by 15%.

Plants can improve air quality
Pollution is part of everyday life, and the air we breathe. It has been argued that indoor plants absorb harmful toxins, reducing the amount of dust, mould and bacteria we breathe. In fact, NASA claimed that houseplants could remove up to 87% of air toxins in 24 hours. However, NASA’s experiments were conducted in densely gaseous chambers in the lab, which didn’t represent the typical household or office environment. In reality you would need a forest in your flat to impact air quality. But the fact remains that plants do absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, adding something positive to the room not matter how negligible that contribution is.

The bigger picture
Researchers at Surrey university produced a review paper on the restorative qualities of biophilic design, looking at the which attributes help foster recovery of stress and mental fatigue. They found that although nature is multisensory the vast amount of existing research only examined the visual aspects of nature. More research is needed into other areas of restorative environments such as the impact of natural light, natural materials and the senses. Perhaps in the future biophilic design will encompass a multisensory approach with the sounds and smells of nature infiltrating our interior spaces. Scientists have already proven that plants with the highest restorative impact were those that were slightly fragranced.

It is clear from this wealth of research that exposure to natural environments and features have a positive impact on human health and mental state. You can certainly establish live planting inside to bring green, living nature indoors but living landscapes aren’t always suitable for all spaces. Particularly if you have little natural light in your building, limited access to water or even air-conditioning that creates big changes in temperature. You might also be concerned about the added costs or investment of time needed to maintain a live planting scheme. This is where artificial planting can provide a practical solution. Gone are the days of fake foliage with papery plastic leaves and flowers with lurid colour combinations. Artificial plants are now indistinguishable from the real thing providing year-round colour and mood enhancement in commercial spaces without the need for soil or watering. You can enjoy all the benefits of live planting without the maintenance. Take a look through our case studies to see the artificial landscapes we have designed and installed.

Live or artificial, plants have a key part to play in tapping into the inherent connection we have with the natural world and ensuring we feel this connection whilst inside. They are integral to creating fabulous spaces that provide an opportunity for wellbeing and happiness.

Artificial green wall on staircase