British Columbia

Biophilic design brings nature and increased production to the workplace

Imagine your office becoming a semi-garden. One local designer in pushing for biophilic design across workspaces.

Research indicates that employees are more productive in a green workspace

Indoor living walls are part of the shift towards biophilic design. (Getty Images)

It may not be a mainstream term, but biophilic design is an idea that is gaining momentum in architecture and design circles and a proponent living and working in B.C. is hoping to the concept will soon become commonplace in urban offices.

"Biophilic design is introducing nature back into architecture inside of the building in many forms," Ron Schwenger told the CBC's Jennifer Chen.

Schwenger is the head of Architek Green Building Solutions and specializes in what he calls creating living building systems.

Biophilic design can be as simple as incorporating a sunroof in a building to bring in more natural light, installing a green roof partially covered with vegetation, or as complex as creating a living wall (a wall that consists of grass and other plant life).

According to researchers, people who live in biophilic spaces stand to gain a lot. In addition to the added oxygen and better air quality, production levels also increase.

Schwenger says biophilia in architecture is part of a global push to build  with people in mind and not just the environment.

"Air quality has a profound effect on the way we behave. There have been some landscape architects that have installed experimental living walls in their space and measured the air quality with a profound difference."

Design being used locally

While not necessarily a new concept (Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Fallingwater residence built in 1935 falls under living design), biophilic design is being constructed in places traditionally opposed to such ideas.The new BC Women's Hospital project currently under construction will include a lot of green spaces — a big change from the idea that hospitals need to be closed off and sterile.

Ron Schwenger's company Architek specializes in creating living building structures such as green roofs and living walls. (Jennifer Chen)

Schwenger is currently working on a building at the UBC Okanagan campus that is adding a green roof, and he says he is including a similar design on the PNE prize home this year.

While he's enjoyed seeing the design concept grow in popularity, he says it's up to employers to understand the importance nature can play in creating a better physical work environment.

"Everything in North America is driven by economics. I think we're slowly coming to realize it isn't everything."

"Our health and quality of life is equally important. Progressive employers understand that humans are not machines and there's a need to create a healthy, productive environment."

To hear more, click the audio labelled: Biophilic design adds green to the workplace.



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