Biophilic Design | A Naturally Beneficial Workspace

While you may not be familiar with the term ‘biophilia,’ you have undoubtedly witnessed its role within workplace design. Simply put, biophilia describes the intrinsic relationship humans and nature share and addresses the notion that we perform at our best when connected to the other. This relationship has a profound impact on how we design our interior spaces, where studies have shown we spend a vast majority of our time. With undeniable psychological and physical benefits, including boosted productivity and engagement for employees, we’re outlining how biophilic design can be maximized within every office.

CDI Features Biophilic Design
CDI Office and Showroom

Connecting to the Outdoors

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans spend over 90% of their time indoors. The United States Department of Labor goes on to report that we spend an average of 8.9 hours per day at work, often tethered to our office or desk. With increasing rates of urbanization and a diminished connection to nature, the human body has less opportunity to recuperate mentally and physically. Biophilia and its role within the workplace, where we continue to spend a considerable portion of our week, are of utmost importance. Biophilic design utilizes and mimics the elements of nature within the built environment. With proper planning and execution throughout architectural and workplace design, employers can harness a plethora of natural benefits for enhanced employee health and well-being as well as workplace productivity.

CDI Features Biophilic Design
Image Source: Office Snapshots, Digital Media Company HQ – NYC

Natural Light and External Views
Natural light is an aspect of biophilic design that plays a profound role in employee health and performance, as outlined in CDI’s previous blog post on the topic. The benefits of adequate exposure to the external natural environment are far more than meet the eye, with one of the most significant positive effects being the regulation of a body’s biological, mental and behavioral functions. A study conducted by the World Green Building Council (WGBC) and co-sponsored by JLL reported that office employees with windows in their workplace slept an average of 46 more minutes per night, roughly 280 more hours per year, in comparison to their windowless colleagues. Natural light deprivation can lead to memory loss, slowed psychomotor reflexes, depression and shortened attention spans, all of which result in decreased productivity and costly absenteeism and presenteeism within the workplace.

When thoughtfully planned and implemented, building and window orientation, interior design and even furnishings are all elements through which workers’ access to natural light can be maximized. For those with the financial and architectural means, integrating expansive windows into a floor plan is one of the simplest solutions to maximizing an external connection. Outdoor patios and natural landscapes allow employees the opportunity to have physical contact with nature, rejuvenating their bodies and minds with a breath of fresh air during the work day. Even simple outdoor views provide visual breaks that help relieve stress, boost moods and keep the mind focused. For existing facilities that are unable to make drastic changes to their office architecture, breaking down or lowering cubicles allows natural light to flow freely within the space. Relocating employees closer to existing windows and using interior spaces for shorter meetings is also an effective tactic.

CDI Features Biophilic Design
Image Source: Office Snapshots, Crawford Hoying Offices – Dublin

Plants and Living Walls
One of the most obvious elements of biophilic design is plant life. Research has shown that the simple addition of plants within the office can lead to a happier staff and increase productivity by as much as 15%.  Employees are more physically, cognitively and emotionally engaged in their work, leading to a more profitable workplace. Indoor plants also serve as air quality controllers, filtering the office atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other harmful environmental toxins to improve employee health and function.

Living Walls, which have gained enormous popularity within the last few years, are a method for growing plants vertically on indoor or outdoor walls. Affordable new technology has made integrating living walls possible for any building interior. These natural systems can be as small as a few square feet or as large as an atrium. Neocon 2017 attendees may have witnessed Kimball’s living wall in their Chicago showroom, which added a refreshing touch to their café area. Corporate Design Interiors has also incorporated various biophilic touches within its showroom, including a living wall in its entryway. Take a virtual tour of CDI’s showroom below.

CDI Features Biophilic DesignClockwise from Top: Honest Company – LA via Office Snapshots, CDI Office and Showroom, Kimball Chicago Showroom


Natural Textures and Graphics
Products designed with natural materials or those that closely mimic them all contribute to positive biophilic responses. Designers and end-users have the opportunity to create a symbolic connection to nature and can choose from a variety of rich colors, textures, patterns and graphics to incorporate within a workspace. The positive associations of these materials elicit a heightened sense of creativity, focus and improve productivity levels.

  • Colors: Colors representative of the natural world, such as greens, blues and browns, have been shown to trigger biophilic responses. Bright colors such as reds, blues and greens are also conducive to higher focus and task accuracy. Use of such colors help to stimulate creativity, focus and higher energy levels.
  • Textures and Patterns: The incorporation of natural and simulated materials and textures can evoke feelings of comfort and positively stimulate the senses. Wood and stone used within furniture pieces and wall coverings, soft wool woven throughout chairs and rugs, nature-inspired patterns on upholstered pieces, as well as simulated tree bark and grass integrated into artwork are all examples of materials and textures that can be blended into workplace and furniture design.
  • Graphics: If external nature views are not readily available, depictions of natural patterns, materials and landscapes through graphics can be utilized on wall coverings, artwork and various furniture pieces in order to evoke healthy responses.

CDI Features Biophilic DesignClockwise from Top Left: Gullsten-Inkinen Design Architecture – Helsinki, CDI Office and Showroom, Vodafoneziggo Offices – Rotterdam via Office Snapshots

Reaping the Benefits

While employers hope their employees are productive every hour, functioning at 100% efficiency is unlikely. Understanding the drivers of absenteeism and the resulting direct and indirect costs of deficient employee productivity however, can positively influence strategies for workplace design and strengthen an organization’s ability to attract and retain workers. The incorporation of biophilic design elements into the built environment has been demonstrated to produce an abundance of physical and physiological benefits, which, in turn, powers a more productive and innovative workplace. Benefits include, but are not limited to, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, reduced attentional fatigue, sadness and aggression, as well as improved mental engagement, attitude and overall happiness. Scientists are also exploring how regular exposure to nature might account for long-term health effects such as lowered risk of depression, obesity, diabetes and cancer.

In January 2017, the American Society of Interior Designers’ (ASID) 8,500 square foot headquarters building in Washington, D.C., became the first ever space to achieve both Platinum Level Certification for the WELL Building Standard™ (WELL™) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), under the LEED ID+C rating system – the highest recognition awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the International WELL Building Institute™ (IWBI). The building integrates some of the most innovative sustainability and biophilic design strategies, which play an impactful role in becoming WELL certified have been proven to positively affect engagement, retention and productivity. Visit the CDI blog to learn more about the process of becoming WELL certified. Take a virtual tour of the new building and learn more about how ASID is setting an inspirational precedent for healthy, human-centric design.

Building a Healthier Tomorrow

As our world becomes increasingly urbanized and our connection to nature gets lost, we must bring the outdoors and its undeniable benefits inside. Increased levels of productivity, enhanced innovative potential and a greater ability to attract and retain employees have proven that the incorporation of biophilic design within the workplace is a sound economic investment. While the integration of some biophilic features may require significant modifications in office design and implementation, even modest improvements can enhance working conditions for employees. Let the research speak for itself and allow biophilic design build a healthier future for our workspaces.

Image Source for Top Featured Photo: Office Snapshots, Allegro Homelike Offices – Warsaw

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About CDI

CDI is a cutting-edge commercial furniture dealership that believes thoughtful design and strategic planning are critical components in the success of every project. We can help companies achieve their business vision and goals and help maintain your workplace investment. CDI creates functional and inspiring interiors designed to foster employee well-being, productivity and engagement.

CDI is a “Select” Kimball Office dealer. The “Select” status is Kimball’s premier dealer designation, which demonstrates dealership excellence in sales, service, financial stability, business processes and more.

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Corporate Office & Showroom:
1711 Paramount Ct., Waukesha, WI  53186
P  262.521.1010