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Biophilic design: Why it mattersSeptember 2019

We invited Kayley van As from PlantCare to tell us how employees health and wellbeing can be enhanced by having biophilic plants in their workplaces.

What is biophilic design?

Biophilia is defined as ‘an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world’. Simply put, we as people feel happier when in natural surroundings rather than man-made environments.

However, rapid urbanisation in recent times has meant that more and more people are living and working in cities – it is estimated that we spend 90% of our time in enclosed buildings.

And as most buildings are not designed to have any connection with nature, this is having a big impact on people’s overall health and wellbeing. In fact, as many 1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental health problems, and 72% of workers said that they felt their physical or mental health had been negatively affected by their workplace1.

Biophilic design is a way of bridging the gap between our workplace environments and nature by incorporating elements such as natural materials, water features, plenty of natural light, and interior planting.

How can it help?

Studies found that when interior plants were present, workers:

  • Were at least 15% more productive2
  • Felt 50% less stress or anxiety and 30% less general fatigue3
  • Showed fewer symptoms of minor health issues (such as colds) and took less sick leave4
  • Felt a 13% increase in overall wellbeing5

This clearly shows that the inclusion of just one of the elements of biophilic design can help employees to feel happier and more relaxed, with a greater sense of wellbeing, thus increasing their productivity.

Not only that, but UK businesses currently lose 6.9 days a year per employee due to absenteeism, costing the British economy £100 billion. Reducing the amount of sick leave taken using interior planting and other biophilic elements has the potential to save employers significant amounts of money.

How to do it

Here are some ways you can incorporate biophilic design in your workspace:

Use natural materials and finishes – such as wood panelling – which are softer on the eye than bright colours. It’s important to make sure that employees have adequate natural light, and proper ventilation. Scents and sounds such as birdsong and running water help employees to feel more relaxed.

Incorporating plants is perhaps the easiest way to implement biophilic design – and there are lots of exciting ways to use planting in workspaces.

Interior trees can really imbue a space with a sense of the outdoors; they also significantly reduce noise levels and improve the air quality. If you don’t have room for trees, smaller plant displays can be used. A great example is Pukka Herbs’ offices in Bristol, which include bespoke planters made of reclaimed timber, galvanised planters with Kentia Palms and other air purifying plants, as well as beautiful hanging planters with trailing plants. Green walls and moss walls are a great way to add greenery without taking up floor space – the same goes for small desktop planters.

The possibilities are endless.

Investment for the future

By embracing the concept of biophilic design, we have the opportunity to significantly improve our working environments, which in turn will lead to people being healthier, more productive and feeling a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing in the workplace. It goes without saying that this will bring economic benefits to businesses too through reduced employee turnover, increased productivity and reduced absenteeism. Furthermore, by creating spaces which bring the outdoors in, we will also be forming sustainable workplaces for future generations.

About PlantCare

PlantCare was established in 1976, and has grown to become a leading supplier of exceptional interior planting and top-quality plant maintenance services. PlantCare’s reputation is built on uncompromising customer care in delivering services tailored to your needs.

1 Oktras
2 Study by Dr Craig Knight (psychologist) et al. University of Exeter
3 Study by New University of Technology Sydney
4 Study by Prof. Dr. Tøve Fjeld, Agricultural University of Norway
5 Interface research quoted in Forbes


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