Bringing the Outside In

In 2001, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory published a survey funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that found the average American spends only 7.6% of their time outdoors. Seventeen years later, wifi access has greatly improved, more people are using laptops, tablets and advanced phones, it would be interesting to see if this number has increased or decreased. Regardless of the percentage change, humans still spend a large portion of their life indoors and away from the elements of nature that played a key role in shaping our descendants.

To help bridge the gap of human time spent outdoors, architects are turning towards Biophilic Design to introduce elements of nature to indoor environments. With the rise of green, sustainable building and design plus programs like LEED certification, Biophilic Design is the next step towards creating healthier environments, both physically and mentally. 

Biophilic stems from the term biophilia hypothesis, that according to Encyclopædia Britannica “suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life”. The practice of Biophilic Design is an attempt to reconnect humans with those elements of nature that have played a role in our health and productivity. 

Simply placing plants throughout a cubicle filled office does not qualify as Biophilic Design as there are several elements and conditions that must be met to achieve this practice. For an in-depth look at these requirements, we recommend The Practice of Biophilic Design” by Stephen R. Kellert & Elizabeth F. Calabrese.

The Rise of Living Walls

For those looking to redesign their workspaces to incorporate Biophilic design we work with several manufacturers that offer elements of this practice that bring the outdoors in such as living walls. 

“Living Walls”, “Green Walls”, “Vertical Gardens”, “Botanical Bricks” whatever term you use (and for the sake of conformity in this blog, we will stick with Living Walls) these concepts are rapidly finding their way into modern design. 

But this trend is hardly new and can be traced back to 1938 when a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois, Stanley Hart White, filed a patent for his “Botanical Bricks” described as “vegetation-bearing architectonic structure and system”. Unfortunately for Mr. White, his concept was ahead of his time and it would be several more decades until his vision took hold.

Numerous studies have shown that gardens and greenery help reduce stress and contribute to healthier well being. Most hospitals are incorporating gardens for not only patients but staff. Reflecting back on the time my daughter had to get an ultrasound, I definitely felt some comfort sitting in the outdoor garden that was placed in the center of the hospital building. Had I been sitting in a waiting room amongst other people, I don’t think I would have found the solace I did in that garden.

For more information on some of these studies check out this great article How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal” from Scientific American

Besides helping to reduce stress levels, the introduction of Living Walls to your office space will help improve air quality as plants naturally remove carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, in addition to filtering the air by absorbing pollutants. 

Not only are living walls beneficial to the well being of your office, they also act as three-dimensional artwork creating an inviting space to work in. Hopefully all of these elements will lead to a happier, more productive workspace.