In 2030, more than half the world’s population will live in urban environments. What does this mean for designers? The UN predicts that within the next 15 years 60 per cent of us will dwell in towns and cities. This seismic shift in population density from regional areas to the proverbial ‘concrete jungles’, combined with the fact that we spend a majority of our time indoors, raises the question: are we becoming disconnected from human nature? How can we mindfully design our built environments and interior spaces to stimulate wellbeing, productivity and even creativity?
Roadblocks to Wellbeing, Productivity & Creativity
Without the visual and mental stimulation of natural elements of greenery, colour and light, a vast majority of people begin to disengage from work. One-third of office workers say the design of a workplace influences whether or not they choose to work with a company. Considering we spend up to 90 per cent of our time indoors, the evidence points to the instrumental role our indoor environments play in determining our health, wellbeing and mental capacity.
Currently stress-related claims are costing Australian businesses millions of dollars annually . Extensive research has also found the single largest contributor to lost working hours is sleep-related fatigue. Whether this manifests as presenteeism or absenteeism, those lost hours not only impact business productivity, but indicate declining wellbeing and productivity in a vast majority of workers.
Engagement – or our lack thereof – is another key contributor to low productivity, with a staggering two-thirds of the workplace reported to be disengaged. That leaves just 31.9 per cent of people engaged while at work.
The Human-Nature Index
Measures_ Happy, inspired, enthusiastic
Impactors_ Stress, fatigue, low morale
Measures_ Focused, engaged, motivated
Impactors_ Presenteeism, absenteeism, functional comfort
Measures_ Stimulated, inspired, positive, calm
Impactors_ Environmental and visual stimulation (colour and light)
Benefits of Biophilic Design in Workplace Contexts
5 easy wins to positively affect productivity at work
_ Views outside to nature
_ Internal green space and indoor plantlife
_ Access to natural light
_ Accent colours of blues, greens, browns and yellows
_ Elements of water
5 ways to stimulate human-nature connections
_ Natural plants
_ Natural ventilation
_ Access to natural light
_ Natural elements like stone and wood
_ Textures that mimic natural materials
Biophilic design’s upward curve
>> 15% wellbeing
>> 6% productivity
>> 15% creativity
Percentage increase’s reported by those working in environments with elements of greenery and natural light, compared to those working in environments devoid of nature.
Building Better Human Nature Connections
Nature to Nurture
A deeper investigation of the natural elements known to impact our wellbeing, productivity and creativity in the workplace.
Humans’ evolutionary reliance on the natural environment for survival is hardwired into our emotional brain. As a result we feel calm and happy in a natural, healthy landscape where plants are in abundance. Plants, importantly, act as bio-filters to capture volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) and remove indoor air pollutants. The result is clearer air, which enables clearer thinking.
Headaches, fatigue, eye-strain and low morale are all indicators of poor lighting in our workplace. Sunlight, which is known to stimulate the production of vitamin D, is not only essential to the immune system but integral in regulating humans’ circadian rhythms. Studies have found a window view of nature helps to reduce the negative impacts of stress and improve wellbeing. Research has also found the right orchestration of artificial and natural light, working in harmony together throughout the day and into night time, contributes to better wellbeing and productivity.
Colour has the power to affect our emotions, physical perception and psychological responses. Blue and green hues are known to increase relaxation and engender a sense of spaciousness. Research has also found that green enhances our creativity and productivity, and positively impacts our sense of motivation and enthusiasm. Spaces which incorporate colour palettes that feel connected to nature are often perceived as being healthier, allowing us to feel both stimulated and calmed.
The human body has physically evolved to move regularly. Extended periods of sitting or standing can negatively impact our comfort. The implications of this are far-reaching. Poor functional comfort (often a result of poor living and workspace design) slows us down and limits our ability to perform tasks effectively and productively. Regular movement in the workplace is known to improve comfort and collaboration.
Functional comfort factors that impact human behaviour
_ Lighting and illumination
_ Indoor air quality
_ Aesthetic appearance of a space
_ Workstation dimensions, storage, enclosure and layouts
_ Access to collaborative and shared spaces
Design to Heal
An organic approach to reducing the impact of artificial spaces and improving human nature connections is achieved through the introduction of nature into the home and office, such as the Vertical Garden, designed by Joost Bakker. This practical yet decorative solution to indoor greening is aimed at improving health and wellbeing, productivity and creative performance in the workplace. A range of single and grid modules housing plants is designed to optimise the potential of any space. Vertical Garden addresses spatial, decorative and functional needs while simultaneously increasing greenery indoors.