The Biophilic Office Refurbishment

A Design Assembly Presentation by Flavie Lowres

On Friday, October 19th we brought Design Assembly South Wales back to Cardiff for the second year running.

Featuring renowned experts in the world of workplace design and commercial interiors, these insightful events have become popular dates in the diaries of architects, facilities managers, interior designers and interior architects.

Design Assembly South Wales 2018

For anyone who couldn’t make it on the day, we’ve been summarising the presentations that you might have missed. After Neil Solanki from Dyson and Jeremy Palmer from Honeywell, we ended the morning with Dr Flavie Lowres sharing some insight into the BRE’s Biophilic Office Project.

Building a better world together

BRE (Building Research Establishment) is the world's leading building science centre.

At Design Assembly South Wales 2017, Dan Rossiter from BRE spoke about BIM Level 2 and you can find out more about the organisation in last year’s blog.

This year, Dr Flavie Lowres, Associate Director & Coordinator of the BRE Wellbeing Project, looked at the progress of the BRE’s Biophilic Office Project and the impact biophilia can have on employee wellbeing.

Flavie Lowres, Associate Director & Coordinator of the BRE Wellbeing Project

What defines a great indoor environment?

Flavie opened the presentation with a look at the defining factors of a great indoor working environment.

Currently, while a workplace might meet the required standards for aspects like air quality, lighting, noise levels, heating and ventilation, that won’t necessarily mean that it’s an inspiring space.

This fails to recognise the importance of the occupants.

Buildings and people

The United Nations suggests that 66% of the developed world will be urbanised by 2050.

Add to that the fact that we spend around 90% of our time indoors and it’s hardly surprising that, in the UK alone, 11.7 million working days were lost due to stress.

Which goes some way to explain why the World Health Organisation is forecasting that stress-related illness will be the primary cause of sickness by 2020.

One way to offset this increase in urbanisation and the stress that accompanies it is the introduction of biophilic design in the workplace.

The global impact of biophilic design in the workplace

Biophilic design puts people first

At last year’s Design Assembly, Oliver Heath’s presentation looked in detail at the benefits of biophilic design; the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.

He helped to work on The Human Spaces report, “The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace”, which found that 66% of workers in the UK said they had no access to natural light.

The benefits of introducing elements of biophilic design into the workplace have been well documented.

The World Green Building Council Report on Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices highlighted a few, including:

  • A 15% increase in reported levels of wellbeing
  • A 6% increase in productivity
  • A 15% increase in creativity
  • A reduction in absenteeism

Natural light and plants

Many of these biophilic features proved to be amongst the top 5 elements most wanted by employees, including:

  1. Natural light
  2. Indoor plants
  3. A quiet working place
  4. A view of the sea
  5. Bright colours

While offering a view of the sea is going to be unlikely if you work in a landlocked workplace, the rest are more than achievable with a few tweaks.

The BRE Biophilic Office Project

To put the theory to the test, BRE decided to launch their own biophilia project as a live office refurbishment on their Watford campus.

Supported by a range of partners in lighting, flooring, furniture, green walls, paints & finishes and acoustics, the Biophilic Office is a long-term research and demonstration project from BRE and Oliver Heath Design.

Deepening the evidence base for biophilic design and its positive impacts on office occupants, the project will gather indoor environment and occupant data before during and after the refurbishment.

You can find out more in this video…

The first year

At the beginning of the project, staff were asked how they felt about the office.

Since it was a less-than-inspiring, unmodernised building from the 1980s, no-one was surprised to learn that the overall opinion was that it was “just okay” but nothing to be particularly proud of.

The project will then undertake a three-tier biophilic redesign with a detailed lab room to test materials and technologies in closer detail.

Green or living walls are just one way to add biophilic elements into an office

Following the refurbishment, the office team’s reaction to the upgraded space will be monitored.

In the long term, BRE hopes to demonstrate the influence that biophilic design will have on the occupants and have plenty of evidence to support the benefits that being exposed to nature can bring to employees.

If you’d like to find out how we can introduce elements of biophilic design into your workplace, get in touch with Paramount today.

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Categories: Design Assembly South WalesOffice Design

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