BIOPHILIC DESIGN-CONNECTING WITH NATURE TO IMPROVE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Benefits of Biophilic Design
The results of a research study conducted by the Healthy Building Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health sponsored by Stantec, a global design firm suggest that biophilic interventions can help reduce stress and improve creativity.
The study measured blood pressure, heart rate, heart rate variability, and the body’s reaction to stress while cognitive tests were administered to measure participants’ reaction time and creativity. Participants in the spaces with biophilic elements had consistently lower physiological stress indicators, as well as higher creativity scores.
“When people return to the workplace, they will be doing so with an understanding that the physical space will be safe and supportive of their holistic wellbeing,” said Heather Greene, senior associate and workplace leader at Stantec. “Prioritizing health and wellness in design is critical to teams reaching their full potential and maintaining a high level of engagement.”
What is biophilic design?
Plants provide a connection to the natural world, which is referred to as biophilia. Researchers found that our physical and mental well-being increases with the presence of natural greenery. Various studies have concluded greater productivity, creativity, and problem-solving are a result of having plants integrated into the workspace. Hospital environments with plants have shown increased recovery times and reductions in the demand of pain medication.
Plants purify the indoor air of toxins introduced into buildings with common building materials, such as flooring adhesives and paint, by trapping particulate matter and carbon dioxide gasses from the air and at the same time, releasing oxygen. Many of these toxins are known carcinogens, like formaldehyde and benzene. Other toxins may induce symptoms such as headaches, chronic fatigue, asthma, and other respiratory problems. Research conducted by Dr. William Wolverton of NASA indicated that many volatile organic compounds including benzene, toluene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and trichloroethylene can have their levels greatly reduced by even a few houseplants. Beyond purifying toxins from the air, plants emit oxygen through their natural process of photosynthesis. This increase in oxygen helps to keep us healthy and alert.
Reasons to keep indoor plants around:
- Plant-filled rooms contain up to 60 percent fewer airborne molds and bacteria than rooms without plants.
- People who work in offices with windows and plants are happier than others, according to a study of 450 office workers in Texas and the Midwest. In fact, 82 percent of the participants who worked with plants and windows said they felt “content” or “very happy,” compared with 58 percent in windowless plant-less offices.
- Plants seem to make people more contemplative and self-reflective, according to one ethnologist.