What is Biophilia? – Use of colour, materials and planting for wellbeing & acoustics
‘An innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world’ (according to a theory of the biologist E. O. Wilson)
Why should organisations incorporate biophilic design into their physical environments?
Biophilic design has been shown to have economic, health, cultural and environmental benefits. Recent research from the field of neuroscience and endocrinology, show the crucial role that experiencing nature has for our well-being. Five to twenty minutes in a biophilic environment can trigger a positive restorative response. These reactions are swift, automatic and unconscious include:
• Decrease in blood pressure, heart rate and the stress hormone
• An increase in self-esteem and mood
• Enhanced cognitive function, concentration and memory
These biophilic restorative responses are based upon the nature-health relationship. These restorative responses are rapid, automatic and unconscious.
Illustrated above a scheme designed by Levitt Bernstein and fitted out by Select Interiors where planting is incorporated with partial screening / Reception desk
How can this (abstract) theory be applied and be relevant to office design & the workplace?
It is not just simply the presence of nature (planting), but fabrics, colours, textiles, textures and materials used within a scheme. The design team at Select Interiors embrace the visual connection with nature by incorporating not only interior planting / green walls but a ‘touchy feely’ approach to materials specified for a scheme.
A recent case study is an enquiry from the rapidly expanding Push Doctor Group Ltd. The company provides an online doctor consultation service that currently has over 7,000 GMC registered GPs available for patients to connect to via a secure online video. The company offers a range of health-related services and their new offices needed to reflect the company ethos and retain and recruit their growing workforce. Current plans for expansion are for new 4000 sft in central Manchester & a similar floor-plate in Birmingham. Our design strategy was to ensure as many workstations were orientated to maximise views towards the outdoors and natural light. We incorporated interior planting / green walls and desk top plants. We have specified an organic palette with wool mix fabrics, natural Marmoleum, bespoke waxed Oak screens and furniture. All the materials and finishes have a ‘feel’ quality, the waxed Oak and Marmoleum have an earthy scent from linseed oils and compressed peat, tactile and warm looking. We have mixed a selection of earthy colours to give a unique exciting visual vibrancy complimented by bespoke wall graphics and lamp lighting.
Image of mood / finishes board for the proposed roll out for Push Doctor Ltd brand
A holistic nature inspired palette in context with the proposed greenery / planting and organic materials Oak, wool, Marmoleum and cork The scheme balances and layers a selection of complementary and contrasting tones, textures and natural materials
Three main elements of Biophilic design theory are incorporated within the scheme;
- Visual Connection with Nature. A view to elements of nature,
- Living systems and natural processes
Example; the interiors planting and desk top gardens and green wall boxes see illustrated on plan layout
- Biomorphic, patterns and textures and form associated with organic arrangements that exist in nature
Example; The carpet design mimics random natural forms dappled light and the textural Entropy designer fabrics for occasional seating see illustration from Mood Boards above
- Material Connection with Nature. Materials and elements from nature
Example; The flooring natural Marmoleum, Oak furniture and Cork walls as illustrated on the plan layout
The Interiors team at Select Interiors Ltd have strived to incorporate all the elements above by incorporating planting / green walls, textured and printed fabrics inspired by nature and incorporating organic materials. The space planning and meeting both formal and informal have glazed fronts or are open with either high backed booths for intimacy or ‘camp fire’ lounge ‘home from home’ styles seating with dropped pendants to create a flexible, fluid and harmonious working environment
What research is available to support the theory that Biophilic design benefits the workforce?
- A study in the Netherlands showed that every 10 per cent increase in exposure to green space translated into an improvement in health equivalent to being five years younger (de Vries et al 2003), with similar benefits found by studies in Canada (Villeneuve et al 2012) and Japan (Takano 2002)
- The proportion of green and open space is linked to self-reported levels of health and mental health (Barton and Pretty 2010) for all ages and socio-economic groups (Maas 2006), through improving companionship, a sense of identity and belonging (Pinder et al 2009) and happiness (White et al 2013)
- Roe et al (2013) show that high salivary cortisol levels (a stress marker) are related to levels of lower green space
There is more specific research relating to office greenspace:
- Dr Chris Knight from Exeter University concluded that employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces are filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers. http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_409094_en.html
- Improved office air quality makes you cleverer too! https://inleaf.co.uk/harvard-research-improved-office-air-quality-smarter/
It’s important to note that biophilic design has wider benefits than the purely aesthetic. Ultimately the fundamental driver for businesses are the overall gains in productivity which will repay the investment. Even the simplest of interventions can have economic benefits, there are recorded examples of biophilic interventions having a near 300% return on the outlay.
Other benefits include acoustics, when soundwaves strike a flat surface such as masonry, marble or plasterboard, they are reflected uniformly and in a straight line. Planting and greenery diffuse the sound waves breaking up the uniformity and concentration of the frequencies and scattering them evenly around a room’s area. As plants and shrubbery are naturally uneven, and when sound waves hit their surface, they are reflected around any given space more evenly, reducing echoes and the intensity of sound.
The use of green in office design, its links to nature often seen as a response to the ever-growing role of technology in the workplace. Also, the increasing use of pastel colours is a response to the ‘homely’ office trend
The example below of a design and fit out by Select Interiors for Dutch recruitment company Brunel incorporating bespoke desk height planters and a selection of succulents
‘’If it resembles an office we’ve utterly failed’’.
-Brunel Managing Director
Before & After Video – Design & Fit out for our client Brunel
See the image below of the scheme Brunel in Spring Gardens that literally marries the green link with nature and ‘homely’ office concepts (Change image below to Brunel that shows plants ie yours)
Office design above for Dutch recruitment company’s HQ designed and fitted out By Select Interiors Ltd
“People will always have different reactions to colour, so using the vibrant and complimentary colours to refresh and stimulate staff is ideal for the workplace culture of recruitment companies. The scheme is ‘busy’ and the environment we have created dovetails perfectly with the often pressure of a results driven business like Recruitment. In conjunction with the soft wool and complimentary colours and natural Oak of the upholstered seating and interiors planting we have strived to marry the industrious nature of the business with comfort and feel of natural materials for meeting spaces”
– C.P. Brown , Managing Director, Select Interiors Ltd
As follows a few examples of before and after images illustrating various recent schemes completed by the Select Interiors Ltd team:
Before images of Grade II listed building in Barton Arcade for the rapidly expanding GBM Apple Resellers and Business Systems specialists
After Completion images of Sync store
Before images of a conversion of Warehouse to offices and showroom for international fashion brand Boardmans in Trafford Park, Manchester
After Completion images of Boardmans
Before images of 5th Floor, Tower 12, Spinnigfields an office design and fit out by Select Interiors Manchester Ltd for Strategic People
After Completion images of Strategic People
Before images of showroom for the North’s answer of Osborne & Little, Clarke & Clarke.
After Completion images of Clarke & Clarke
The upmarket manufacturer awarded Select Interiors Manchester Shop-fitters the project which was completed in 4 weeks from order to completion. The scheme was designed by internationally recognised design practice Judge Gill. Scope of works included fully bespoke metalwork display units, bespoke joinery, decoration, electrical and bespoke LED lighting
It is one of the biggest questions for all UK businesses, how can companies make their office somewhere that attracts and retains rather than dissuades staff? Tech companies are leading the way but companies from all sectors like Brunel, Levitt Bernstein Architects, Sync, Boardmans, Push Doctor, Biz Spaces and Clarke & Clarke are investing in their working environment. The benefits this brings can often be difficult to measure. Select Interiors Ltd Manchester Office Fitters will unlock the potential of the space with creative and cost-effective options for companies looking to move or refurbish.
Other recent Select Interiors news;
Select Interiors are near completion on a Cat A Fit out for the mighty Castlefield Estates
Select Interiors have been awarded and design of a major innovative ‘Nasa’ type workspace for the rapidly expanding Miller Vanguard in Bury (Survey image below).
Image of 3D design model created by Select Interiors for Miller Vanguard
Slightly different view of the above, 3D model currently in development
We at Select Interiors Manchester know It makes sense to create office environments that not only make the most efficient use of space but that incorporate a sense of fun and unique bespoke elements to every scheme
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Talk to the experts about how an engaging fit out can improve productivity and wellbeing to help attract & retain motivated staff call the Select Interiors design team on 0161 445 4040