LIVING WALL, Cacti, MOSS, FERN, Grasses, POT PLANTS, Pothos, PALMS, FAKE PLASTIC, Fake Grass……….They can all contribute to a biophilic working environment.
Connected to NATURE
I love being outside, I love plants and trees, basically anything green that was made by mother nature (well maybe not everything green…weeds are a right pain )
My fascination with foliage started at a very young age, who can remember Day of the Triffids?……I certainly can. This 1981 BBC adaptation of John Wyndham’s cult novel about killer plants was one of my fav’s, I was……. 6. How the heck was I allowed to watch that mother & father?! My sneaky skills of underage film/TV watching didn’t come into full swing until I was at least 8!
Living deep in the beautiful Norfolk countryside there wasn’t much to do other than running through grassy fields, climbing hay stacks and conducting snail races with my sister in our garden (sounds like utter bliss now I’m an adult!) ……You hardly ever see striped snails anymore do you? There was a definite connection with nature in my childhood, I’m sure the same can be said for a lot of 70’s kids, we survived just fine on 3 TV channels at the most and absolutely no computer games (unless you were rich) or mobile phones……Basically zero tech. We were at one with the wondrous outside world.
“LOVE OF LIFE”
Fast forward 40 odd years, and heavily discussed in the media is the fact that children and adults today are spending less time outside and more time indoors on ipads, mobile phones, consoles and computers. Our physical health is suffering as well as our mental health. We are working more hours and moving less when we are at work and when at home we are tending to do the same….thanks to Netflix and other wonderful screen worlds, and this is a real issue.
So what can help us feel happier, more peaceful, healthier, plus enhance productivity whilst at work? Well that’s easy….
SO what is Biophilia
Whilst looking up the meaning of biophilia I stumbled across this very simply put and to the point explanation (perfect for idiots like moi and just couldn’t have worded it better myself) by PLANTERIA GROUP an independent family run business of botanical experts with a fab website who specialise in biophilic design, and who unbelievably are not a million miles away in lovely Essex….. basically neighbours!
“The word biophilia originates from the Greek, ‘philia’ meaning ‘love of’. It literally means a love of life or living things. Humans have a deeply engrained love of nature which is an intuitive and natural drive imprinted into our DNA. Researchers believe this to be a reason that we have thrived as a species, helping us to locate the most fertile land, cultivate food and nurture new life. We have a physiological need to be in contact with nature and the natural world.” PLANTERIA GROUP
SO WHAT EXACTLY DO PLANTS OFFER US?
Lots! Plants are super clever and complex providing humans with:
oxygen through photosynthesis
delicious food and drink
shelter and shade
In return we humans expel carbon dioxide when we breathe and mostly without knowing it disperse plant seeds throughout the world.
A ONE WAY LOVE AFFAIR?
Biophilia is the innate love for the natural world, which is supposed to be felt universally by humankind. Sounds like the best partnership ever…yes? Not entirely, unfortunately in this modern world we live in “we humans basically and literally cannot live without our delicious helping of the green stuff mother nature has gifted us” (my words entirely this time )
But plants, insects and animals on the other hand could totally survive, would actually revel in life and flourish fully without us chopping down, polluting and destroying them and the world which we all share. Why would they miss us? Plants and all life were surviving just fine without us 66 million years ago…a sombre slice of food for thought isn’t it?
We need to celebrate plants and all that they can offer us, most of which is free!!
This statement could not currently apply to anywhere more than to the modern workplace …….
This is the exciting part where good old office plants come in and the “Biophilic design” buzzword can be introduced. Where people want to recreate something resembling the Amazon rain forest in their office……and that one chunk of plastic semi resembling a plant that’s shoved into a dark corner doesn’t really qualify.
“Biophilic Design is the practice of connecting people and nature within our built environments and communities.”
Unfortunately the spaces that we tend to spend most of our days in, workplaces, are generally deprived of most of their connection to the natural environment. Cue Biophilic design!
Various studies have found that we spend about 90 percent of our life indoors, scary! Recently a survey of 1,000 office workers commissioned by AMBIUS (a fabulous interior and exterior landscape specialist for offices, hotels etc) found that 35 percent of employees did not get more than 15 minutes of outdoor time during a typical working day….shocking when you think about it!
Incorporating plants in design and by simply introducing some greenery into your workspace points the way towards us creating healthy, visually pleasing and more productive habitats for humans. Just being able to see, touch and breath nature whilst sitting at our desks, chilling in a break out area or entering a reception area has been proven to increase motivation, creativity, clean the air, reduce noise and lower stress to name just a few positive points. This provides a more welcoming place to work, having huge physical and psychological benefits to employees…excellent,
lets get the pot plants out!!
Some of the advantages of biophilic design within our personal, working, education and health environments.
Offices – more productive staff
Hospitals – patients heal faster
Schools – pupils gain higher test scores
Home – improves relationships, as mental health is given a positive boost!
Biophilic Design is now and in the future responsible for creating healthy, visually pleasing and productive habitats for humans in our modern world.
So which plants do best in an office environment?
With some offices being small, stuffy and without natural light not all plants will be suitable to live in your workplace. Therefore you need to consider two main points,
How much daylight the space gets?
How often can or WILL they be watered?!
The best workplace survivors include succulents for example aloe and cacti, rubber plants and peace lilies.
Lets take a more in depth look at the main benefits of bringing foliage into your work space.
1. CLEAN AIR
Indoor plants will massively improve the air quality in your office = Healthier staff. Simple.
We breathe 10 to 20 thousand litres of air per day. Think for a moment about all that air being constantly recycled by you and your lovely co workers, especially in an open plan office environment. We are currently at the tail end of a mass cold/coughing outbreak in our office, you know the “one” that we have all been moaning about!
Anyway here’s how these magical green goddesses can clean the air in our offices.
1. They reduce lethargy & tiredness in staff by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. While humans need oxygen to survive, plants absorb carbon dioxide, a gas we don’t need and combine it with water and light to produce energy.
*For everybody including myself who cannot remember what they did last week let alone learnt at school in biology 100 years ago, this process is called photosynthesis.
2. They act naturally to regulate the air humidity in your office, leaving it not too damp or too dry. Dry air linked to air conditioning causes coughs, colds and dry skin.
3. They absorb harmful chemicals and pollutants given off by office equipment, printers, cleaning chemicals, carpets etc. These include formaldehyde, benzine, xylene, ammonia, and trichloroethylene.
With our modern day offices harbouring a whole host of pollutants in the air that we cannot see it makes total sense to introduce greenery that can clean it. These nasty chemicals can cause a whole host of health problems, for instance Formaldehyde is commonly found in curtains, glues, and coating compounds. Benzene is found in paint supplies as well as tobacco smoke, and Trichloroethylene which is used in adhesives, cleaning and other household products.
These have been linked to cancer but I guess at higher levels than what we are subjected to, even so they are still toxins that we do not want, and are just some of the irritants that can be found in the air we breath as well as other chemicals from furniture, detergents, air fresheners etc.
The Areca Palm
“Noted the very best of the air purifiers from a NASA study”
In the 1980/90’s NASA conducted a two-year Clean Air Study. The Areca Palm came out top and has since become a very popular office and household plant. Scoring very high in all categories it can purify all sorts of nasties including benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene from the air, takes in carbon dioxide and turns it back into oxygen and is a very effective air humidifier as well.
Here are the other plants that came top in their study. The Peace Lilly seen here being a very popular choice.
A more recent research led by Dr Fraser Torpy, director of the University of Technology Sydney Plants and Indoor Environmental Quality Research Group, found that indoor plants can reduce carbon dioxide levels by about 10% in air conditioned offices, and by about 25% in ones without air conditioning.
“We found palms beat everything else for carbon dioxide. But when it comes to volatile organics everything is the same, it doesn’t matter… A medium-sized plant (anything above about 20cm) in a room will make really big reductions to those particular chemicals.”
2. VISUALLY PLEASING
Just being able to see nature around you has been proven to increase moral, creativity and productivity = Happier more productive staff.
Having a portion of the green stuff on offer to look at even if its a little baby cacti can reduce stress, making us feel calmer and in turn more cheerful. We are hardwired to feel drawn to nature, so seeing something that mother nature has concocted instead of a big hulking photocopier has got to be positive. Green is a super calming colour, so adding it to your space is a win win situation even before it works its air filtering magic.
Image – Planteria group
Their visual appeal makes workspaces more attractive to job applicants.
“The benefit of design inspired by nature, known as biophilic design, is accumulating evidence at a rapid pace. Looking at a snapshot of global working environments, up to one in five people have no natural elements within their workspace, and alarmingly nearly 50% of workers have no natural light. Yet a third of us say that workplace design would affect our decision to join a company. There’s a big disparity here and one that hints at workplace design only recently rising to prominence as a crucial factor.”
Organisational psychology professor Sir Cary Cooper
Image Innerspace Cheshire – Naturemoss and Birch Bark
For me the most visually pleasing way to get a good chunk of the gorgeous green stuff into the world of indoors, be it your home, an office, restaurant or even retail shops is with MOSS!!
Our friends at Innerspace in Cheshire UK are an independent family run business, founded back in 2006. They hand craft materials for beautiful wall and floor coverings all day (and sometime night) bespoke to whatever design you wish, and as they are so in touch with the process they can be incredibly responsive and flexible……Take a look at their wonderful case studies full of Biophilic beauty and endless Moss Walls HERE
“We exist as a company to bring designers together with authentic, easy to use, MATERIALS FOR DESIGN.”
Image Innerspace Cheshire – Naturemoss – Rainforest – Reindeer Moss
Innerspace Cheshire created a fabulous Moss Wall (seen below) for a case study we did in collaboration with Canned Creative for TVM in Oxfordshire. Take a look at our case study HERE
Image Innerspace Cheshire – Naturemoss – Dragonfly
Wow Factor & Centrepiece Plants
3. NOISE REDUCTION & PRIVACY
Medium or large plants in pots or planters can act like screens giving privacy. They also absorb general office chatter, giving acoustic comfort to workers without using a solid barrier as these can sometimes block out light and make staff feel closed off from their co workers. By positioning pots in multiple locations and also in the corners of a room is also of huge positive benefit.
4. BOOST PRODUCTIVITY & CREATIVITY
The wellness at work that you can achieve by co existing with indoor foliage will no doubt have a knock on effect with productivity and creativity.
In 2015 the Human Spaces report found that employees whose offices included elements from the natural world received a score 15% higher for creativity than those who were working in an environment without. Reports show that a natural environment inspires workers to be more creative by straining the part of the brain that visualises organisational structures….The prefrontal cortex (getting all scientific now!)
So unlike a sterile space where this part of the brain can take over, biophilia can make you a bit more relaxed around a bit of creative mess if that makes sense?! A theory also suggests that the brain can be shifted into a different processing mode just by looking at nature, even images, making workers feel more content, relaxed and better able to concentrate.
A few year back a study suggested that minimalist offices produce miserable employees because ‘sometimes less is just less’
Phychologists have stated that “the most toxic space” a human can work in is an office devoid of pictures, souvenirs, basically a good old bit of normal clutter, tatt and distraction……..a sterile environment sucks!! But that’s not a green light for all you office hoarders. So an inspiring surrounding is vital for improved mood, focus, memory and general wellbeing and its clear that employees who have a positive mindset are going to be more productive, work harder and more efficiently than office workers who feel unhappy and stressed.
“Employees were 15% more productive when “lean” workplaces are filled with just a few houseplants, as employees who actively engage with their surroundings are better workers.”
Potted Plants (even tiny ones will work)
5. STRESS BUSTERS
The following statistics are incredible so if they do not inspire you to go to your nearest garden center for a potted succulent then give up reading now!
When plants are introduced to an office,
Feelings of tension and anxiety can be lowered by around 37%,
Feelings of depression or dejection can be lowered by 58%,
Feelings of anger and hostility can be lowered by 44%,
Feelings of tiredness and fatigue can be reduced by 38%
Its not unachievable either as just one plant per room can provide a huge boost to staff spirits.
Potted screen Plants
6. REDUCE STAFF SICKNESS
The Agricultural University of Norway conducted a small study in the 1990s which found that symptoms of ill health, such as concentration issues, fatigue, dry skin, nasal and eye irritation was reduced by 25%! Plants are basically amazing healers and have also been noted to reduce other unpleasant symptoms, such as headaches, coughing, and general malaise. Plants also magically reduce dust and mold…….but that’s not a green light to stop cleaning!
Artificial Grass and Plants
Should you FAKE IT?
Looking at the image above you wouldn’t think that this was all fakery would you? Not until you see the grass on the ceiling that is! Artificial plants mainly look and feel so real that it doesn’t really matter to our brains visually if they are real or not. The only downside is that they wont give you the benefits of cleaning the air around you but artificial plants can still be beneficial to your health as just viewing something resembling a natural landscape can greatly improve mood and concentration.
You don’t always need real plants to provide the biophilic effect!
Our very own “Vegetation Photo Shoot” was on the cards, so I gathered up this forest of fakery from all corners of our workplace and felt the instant calming benefits of being near plants (even if I was surrounded by a mishmash of pre-loved furniture in our second hand section upstairs) whether real or fake at work. These looked pretty, even if they are in need a good old dusting, and me too in fact!!
You CAN use items that look like PLANTS and FLOWERS too!
These absolutely gorgeous (I am totally smitten) Botanica Snowsound sound absorbing panels designed by Mario Trimarchi for Caimi Brevetti that we can now supply are perfect for adding a bit of beauty and sound proofing to your office space or even just at home…….on my wish list. Maybe we can get a sample set over? Pretty Please!! BOTANICA
Check this out! Employees at HOK London can look forward kicking off their shoes, walking on the soft grass and lunching on their very own picnic green which runs through a central corridoor at their headquarters……I want this!!!
In celebration of completing this blog I’m going to settle down on my kitchen window seat with a cuppa and look at the lovely view of my seriously overgrown garden, which I’m not sure is an all together calming sight. My view is of a lawn which last received a cut more than 5 months ago, evil weeds starting to make their springtime appearance and a hedge that is nearly taller than my house, the perfect place to hide a Triffid or two and obviously all for the good of the local wildlife of course!