The Importance of Biophilic Design in the Workplace

Joanne Kelly Think Contemporary

Think Contemporary’s Joanne Kelly outlines the principles of Biophilic Design, an ethos based on the effect of contact with nature or lack of it in the workplace, and discusses the impact of this kind of design on employee health, well-being and productivity.


Most companies strive to increase their employee’s productivity and creativity to gain competitive advantage, and the environment that we work in directly impacts the way that we work. Studies have shown that people have an innate desire to be at one with nature in some way. It can be as simple as being able to view a park from their office window, access to natural light or access to living things within their office. This is biophilia.


Considered as one of the pioneers of biophilic design, Stephen R. Kellert, who was a professor of social ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, created a framework where nature in the built environment is used in a way that satisfies human needs.  Some of the most attainable attributes that define Kellert’s biophilic framework are below.

Direct experience of nature within the built environment.

Light: Allows us to orientate ourselves to time of day and season.

 Air: Variation in temperature and humidity promotes occupant comfort and productivity.

Water: Used in fountains and water features can decrease stress and increase health, performance, and overall satisfaction.

Plants: Abundance of vegetation in exterior and interior spaces of a building provides a direct relationship to nature and proven to increase physical health, performance, and productivity and reduce stress.

Animals: Not obviously easy to achieve in a built environment, but aquariums, gardens, animal feeders, and green roofs provide interaction with animals which promotes interest, mental stimulation, and pleasure.

Weather: Weather can be observed directly through windows and transitional spaces, and promotes awareness and mental stimulation.

Natural Landscapes: Landscape can be incorporated into buildings through ‘borrowed’ landscape, i.e. views and vistas of exterior landscapes, and/or direct interactions such as gardens.

Fire: Somewhat difficult to incorporate into a building, although anything is possible with a carefully considered design. Fire provides colour, warmth, and movement, all of which are appealing and pleasing to occupants.

Kellert also outlines elements which incorporate indirect experience of nature, i.e representations of nature into the building: images of nature, use of natural materials, shapes and colours, complex layered environments, the use of organic materials which change or weather over time giving a sense of nature and time passing.  This is just a basic outline of some of the tenets of biophilic design, for more information you can reference The Practice of Biophilic Design,,  Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life by Stephen Kellert or the many other publication available on the subject.


One of the leading organisations promoting this way of living is a nature-minded carpet tile designer and manufacturer, Interface, who recently launched a website called Human Spaces  dedicated to this discipline ( Studying offices and workers from all over the world allows them to compile evidence that proves bringing nature into the workplace has many benefits. One study carried out by Human Spaces showed that there are five key things that employees want in order to enjoy their work environment.

  1. Bright colours.
  2. View of the sea – it was also mentioned that a view of nature or green spaces was acceptable.
  3. Quiet work space – open plan offices are almost becoming the norm, but it is still important to incorporate quiet space.
  4. Indoor plants.
  5. Natural light .

The employees taking part in this survey all indicated that having these key items improved their overall sense of well-being and health, both physical and mental. The evidence shows that employees really want to have that connection to nature within their workspace and 33% of people interviewed said that the design of the office space would strongly influence them in their decision to work somewhere.

Within your own office space here are the key benefits to embracing nature:

  • – Increased productivity
  • – Increased creativity
  • – Better overall health

But if I was to hazard a guess, I would say that only a very small percentage of offices are incorporating biophilic design and this does need to change for our health, well-being and productivity. So, there is no reason why you shouldn’t embrace biophilia in your workplace. If you would like some help with your biophilic needs, then all you have to do is contact the Think Contemporary team for your consultation.

Barbara EganThe Importance of Biophilic Design in the Workplace

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