Biophilic design – a new mantra for business success

Biophilic design – a new mantra for business success

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When IL&FS, the troubled non-banking finance company, announced it inability to pay debts, many had informally approached the company about the availability of its building in Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai. Apart from its central location and massive floorplate measuring 400000 square feet, it is the unique design that makes the building attractive. The building, built in 2005, houses many MNC’s offices. Unlike other corporate offices, this building is designed with an open air atmosphere which allows free movement of natural air and light inside the office which is a rare thing to see in Indian offices

As humans go far and far away from nature, architects make all the attempts to bring them back where they belong to. Due to urbanisation, today nearly half the population is living in cities and towns. Movement from village to urban areas also resulted in humans moving away from nature. Today, we spend most of our time within four walls of our house or office and we rarely get exposed to open air, daylight or greenery. This is partly due to our lifestyle, professional requirements or unhealthy outside environment. At the same time, studies have found humans happiest when they are in the midst of nature.

Thus, absence of nature in our day-to-day life is the greatest drawback of our modern-day life adding further stress which often leads to deadly diseases.  Studies have proved that an environment devoid of nature can have a negative effect on health and well-being. Biophilic design is an approach to architecture that seeks to connect building occupants more closely to nature. It works to enhance the individual’s connection with nature in the environment in which we live and work every day It focuses on bringing experiences of nature to us in the built environment. This can include living plants, water, daylight, natural materials, fractal patterns, and spaces that support prospect views or provide a refuge condition. It brings about an element of caring to building occupants in its design. The concept has been evolved based on the assumption that the spaces we inhabit have distinct physiological and psychological impacts on us and by bringing about changes in the design of spaces we can effect both physiological and psychological improvements. Tests have shown that biophilic design can reduce stress, improve cognitive function, and enhance mood and creativity which in turn can improve health and wellbeing and enhance productivity.

A single biophilic design element cannot bring about all the desired changes but each element has different outcomes – some may help to reduce stress, others may help with cognitive function. So, in order to get the best results, it is always better to choose the desired outcomes first which can help you to determine which design elements will be the most effective.

Some of the findings of the various studies done regarding the factors influencing employees’ performance are:

  • Noisy environment negatively influences employees’ performance. Employees normally love to work in a quiet environment with little bit of room for their privacy.
  • Office spaces overlooking sea, lakes, parks and natural greenery are dream places to work.
  • Employees are also influenced by the colours around them. People normally like to see those colours that remind them of nature such as blue, green and white.
  • Indoor plants are one of the simplest ways to bring outside in. People love to work with greenery around them and indoor plants are the best way to achieve that objective.
  • Studies have shown that the people with only interior light and no natural light can suffer more illness and are more frequently absent, less productive and less creative.

When IL&FS, the troubled non-banking finance company, announced it inability to pay debts, many had informally approached the company about the availability of its building in Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai. Apart from its central location and massive floorplate measuring 400000 square feet, it is the unique design that makes the building attractive. The building, built in 2005, houses many MNC’s offices. Unlike other corporate offices, this building is designed with an open air atmosphere which allows free movement of natural air and light inside the office which is a rare thing to see in Indian offices.

Concerns are raised about the impact of biophilic design on the overall cost of the project at the time of execution and also on maintenance of various features of biophilic design later on. But the arguments do not have much weight in them as there is not much cost difference between a biophilic design and conventional design. Also, unmeasurable benefits in terms of employee performance make the design preferable than the conventional design.

Its often believed that biophilic designs are best suited to large workplaces and small work places have to do with conventional designs only. But biophilic design elements can be incorporated in any space irrespective of its size.

Various studies conducted in USA and UK show that biophilic designs have positive impacts on the occupants. It was found that the workers entering natural environments are much happier and inspired. Research has also proved that connections to nature can have a positive effect on an individual’s stress levels. Further, such an environment can also help to increase the perception of well-being. A UK study has revealed a direct link between productivity and the design. For those organisations who are aiming to become the leaders biophilic designs are a must as it not only helps in attracting good talents and retaining them while helping the employee well-being, improved productivity and strengthen the overall competitive advantage.