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Last year we published a blog with the message that the market has learned a lot about designing buildings that are healthier for the environment and that the next step is to think about office environments that are also healthier for humans. The question here is to what extent office buildings can contribute to the health, the well-being and comfort of the user.

Biophilic design by Amos Beech is seen as one of the ways to contribute to the welfare of the users of the building. In order to better understand this design strategy, Chantal McKormick, Facility Management student at the Edinburgh University, this month completed her thesis report entitled: ‘designs according to nature, a research on biophilic design in office environments’. Its report came about through a combination of literature and practical research.


During the field studies focused on the current role of biophilic design in the development of modern working environments. Internally, several interviews with the staff and a number of realized work environments studied for which Amos Beech workplace consultants has developed and/or been involved in design guidance. The market has been in the research represented by five external organisations, where stakeholders interviewed and the Office environment is observed and analyzed.

Biophilic design in a nutshell

Kellert & Calabrese (2015) describe that the concept of biophilic design arises from the concept of biofilie. This is the inherent human tendency to connect with nature, something even in the modern world still is essential for human well-being. The Terrapin Bright Green (2014) has a design framework for a successful application of biophilic design. This design framework consists of fourteen patterns that are divided into the following three categories:

Category 1 ‘ natural environment ‘ means the direct, physical and ephemeral presence of nature in a room or place. This could include elements such as plants, animals, water, wind, sounds and smells. Examples of applications are a plant wall, subtle changes in temperature and dynamic lighting.

Category 2 “natural analogues”: organic, non-living, indirect experiences with nature. This includes objects, materials, colors, shapes and patterns of nature brought back in the built environment through elements such as a work of art, decoration, furniture, interior design and textiles. Examples of applications are the use of natural materials such as wood and stone, geometric shapes and acoustic panels in the form of a sheet or honeycomb.

Category 3 ‘ Natural of space ‘: This category is based on the innate and learned ability of people to be able to look out on our immediate environment and the need for adequate protection. Examples of applications are the use of glass to long sight lines and shielded alcoves in which people can sit.

Important outcomes of the research

Biophilic design has several benefits for the good of the users of work environments. According to the American researchers Kellert & Calabrese (2015) leads application among other things to lower blood pressure, less disease symptoms, greater satisfaction, less stress, more attention and concentration and better social interaction. The international investigation of Human Spaces (2015) shows that employees in an Office environment with natural elements 6% 15% more creative and more productive and level of well-being increases by 15%. The available literature gives still insufficient insight into the extent to which different elements of biophilic design should be applied in order to achieve the desired effect on the human well-being. Additional research in this field would be more understanding.

From the field studies showed that biophilic design currently unconscious is especially used when designing modern office buildings. This enables schemes from the occupational health and Safety Ordinance, such as accession of daylight and views to the outside, as a result of the presence of certain measures which also fall under biophilic design. Because many applications of biophilic design can be created by the exterior around the property also plays an important role; is there outdoor space where users can get incentives from nature? In addition to the aforementioned factors especially the extent to which an organisation pays attention to sustainability a major influence on the elements of biophilic design in the office environment. This is an ambition in the field of sustainability along with applications such as a healthy climate system, lighting that adapts to the intensity of the daylight, the use of transparent materials and creating a sustainable look through large elements of internal landscaping. Finally, it was found that the added value and applications of the more abstract elements of biophilic design for the participating organisations are not known yet. Examples are feeling a breeze, sounds with unexpected intervals, incentives by certain smells, the use of organic shapes and materials with a reference to nature such as cork and bamboo.

Amos Beech will bring the results from this research on biophilic design in the development of healthy work environments for its clients. Soon pops up on our website a new blog in which follow-up is given to the theme ‘ well-being within the physical work environment ‘. If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Sam James.

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