The Biophilic Resolution – As Nature Intended

The Biophilic Resolution

As we move towards the end of the second week of January, some of us may already be struggling to adhere to those well-intentioned resolutions we so earnestly invested in on New Year’s Day. So if denying yourself chocolate, or that glass of wine in the evening is just too unbearable a prospect by now, there is another resolution you could look to make to improve your all-round health – The Biophilic Resolution.

A common theme of New Year’s Resolutions is about improving our wellbeing, be it physical or psychological. These are incredibly important aspects of our lives. We all know that if we feel strong in our minds and our bodies then we generally feel happier and enjoy life more.

For many of us we’ll have returned to work after a holiday season recently. Some may, or may not, have been welcoming that return. It’s undeniable that our experiences at work can, and do, effect both our minds and bodies. Given we spend so much of our lives at work it’s impossible to avoid being affected by it. Therefore, improving our wellbeing during our time in the workspace would likely have a cascading positive effect on all areas of our lives. This is where biophilic design can help.

Living walls at Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square, PA designed and installed by GSky

Green vs Biophilic

When thinking about how to incorporate biophilic design into the workplace, we need to start by defining the difference between ‘green’ and ‘biophilic’. Although both play a part in the evolution and development of architecture, they are different principles. ‘Green buildings’ are focused on the impact the architecture has on the environment, for example, how efficient the building is in terms of heating and water usage. Or, how much pollution the construction process, or the building itself produces.

‘Biophilic design’ is focused more on the positive effects of connecting the building’s inhabitants with nature. Humanity has grown up in the great outdoors, surrounded by nature. However, these days it’s estimated that we spend up to 90% of our time in built environments – sometimes with little or no exposure to nature. Given our background it’s easy to imagine that we have an almost biological need to be connected with nature. Biophilic design intends to fulfil that need.

Natural Causes

The introduction of natural elements, and even those that simply mimic nature, within a workspace has been shown to have significant positive effects. On increasing productivity, morale and health whilst reducing anxiety, stress and absenteeism. 

Imagine for a moment that you’re stuck in a room with no natural light and only processed air to breathe. Professor Stephen Kellert, author of ‘Building For Life – Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection’, identified that we would react to this situation by experiencing fatigue, low morale, sweating and an overwhelming need to escape. He estimates that we would be able to endure only two days in an environment such as this before it would begin to damage our health.

Research led by Professor Sir Cary Cooper contributed to the publication of the Global Human Spaces Report in 2015. This study explored the relationship between psychological well-being, work environments and employee expectations. They surveyed 3600 employees across eight countries where most respondents worked within a town or city environment, and most worked between 30-39 hours a week. Of the extensive findings the report highlighted, these are the key findings:

  1. Natural light was a crucial determinant of all three employee outcomes – well-being, productivity and creativity.
  2. Most commonly, it was views of greenery, water and wildlife that had the strongest impact upon these factors.
  3. Having no window view was frequently predictive of lower levels of creativity.
  4. Office colour schemes that incorporated accents of green, blue and brown were more predictive of employee happiness, productivity and creativity than blank white walls. However, the particular colours associated with these outcomes appear to differ between countries.


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Woods Bagot introducing natural elements and forms to the design of 700 Bourke Street, Melbourne.


But if you’re thinking ‘It’s all rather nice in theory. What about the cost?’, it’s worth considering the financial impacts of biophilic design on companies. For most companies staff costs are often the most significant outlay. Therefore, for example reducing energy costs, although providing a not insignificant financial saving doesn’t match up to the overall saving of reducing lost employee hours through sickness/absenteeism.

There is also the potential for increasing profits. If you have a workforce that is 10 or 20% more productive/motivated as a result of their environment, that is only going to increase overall profits. A workspace that connects its employees to nature is also known to help both attract and retain talent – resulting in a reduction of recruitment fees, which can be considerable with a high turnover of staff.


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250 West 57th Street Building, designed by Cook & Fox architects, NY.

New Year – New Change

When it comes to improving your workspace environment through biophilic design principles, it doesn’t need to mean expensive architectural rebuilds. There are simple, and cost effective measures companies can take that should start to have significantly positive effects very quickly.


  1. Access to natural light – workspaces that have access to natural sunlight are likely to see an overall increase in the health and workplace satisfaction of its employees.

    biophilic, cobus, The Sky Factory
    Natural light flooding in through a giant ceiling skylight from The Sky Factory
  2. Use of natural materials – real woods, stones, naturally derived metals, water features etc all contribute to a sense of well-being in the workplace. The added bonus of using natural materials is that they tend to age/wear over time which often enhances the aesthetic appeal even more.
    biophilic, cobus, philippe nigro
    The Saturnia Bench designed by Philippe Nigro is made of natural stone and incorporates real grass


  3. Colours – using colour palettes that reflect the tones found in natural settings can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels of employees, whilst providing something more stimulating to look upon each day. We have highlighted the importance of colour in a previous blog post.
    biophilic, cobus, Las Galias
    Breakout and lounge area from the offices of Las Galias in Bogotá, Colombia | design by Arquitectura en Estudio (photo credits – Juan Fernando Castro)


  4. Refuge/space to be at peace – the trend towards flat hierarchies in companies has led to more open plan workspaces. The introduction of zoning within the open plan space however supports a more agile working approach where employees don’t feel tied to their desks for 10 hours a day. People also sometimes need a space to be alone, to focus/concentrate or deal with private matters. For these instances its a good idea to provide refuge space where employees can work in a more agile way.

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    The Haven Sofa by Allermuir as used in a Cobus project
  5. Natural shapes and forms – straight lines and harsh right angles are regular features in built environments. To take a more biophilic design approach would be to introduce curves and disruption. Think of arches, domes and staggered textures.

    biophilic, cobus, Elephant-Parade
    Wooden, curved staircase at marketing agency Elephant-Parade’s office in Beijing. Design by CUN Design. Photo credit: Wang Jin & Wang Jin
  6. Views of the outdoors – to be able to look out of a window and connect with nature is a very powerful asset for any workspace. The view alone can help to make employees feel more inspired, boosting creativity and reducing stress levels. Unfortunately, not all of us are blessed with sprawling countryside views outside our buildings, but in those instances it’s possible to recreate external views internally with the use of natural elements.
    biophilic, cobus, vertical arts architecture
    Stunning views from the boardroom of Deer Park Road Corporation in Steamboat Springs. Design by Vertical Arts Architecture. Photo credit David Patterson


    biophilic, cobus, sisecam
    Bringing the outdoor views indoors at the Istanbul offices of Sisecam. Design by Bakirkure Architects. Photo credit Gürkan Akay.

All of these elements can be introduced without the need for extensive building work.

A resolution to stick to

If you’d like to learn more about how to boost productivity, morale and the wellbeing of your workforce through the use of smart, biophilic design don’t hesitate to contact us to see how we can help. Improving your long-term psychological and physical health, or that of your staff is one resolution worth sticking with past January.

To find out more about the topic of this blog post, or any other, don’t hesitate to call us on 01452 418789.