By Steve Upham : altspace Coworking, Altrincham

Biophilia can be defined as the urge for humans to seek connections with other forms of life and nature (1).  There’s been a lot of coverage of the topic recently as it’s now recognised as a key design feature for home and office design.  Space planners and designers are increasing being influenced by nature following recent studies highlighting the associated benefits to wellness and productivity.

One recent UK study ‘ The relative benefits of green versus lean work space’ (2) highlighted that workers who were exposed to nature were 15% more productive compared to those with minimal contact.  The reasons for this include enhanced air quality, improved concentration levels and a greater variety of work areas to utilise. Other pieces of research have highlighted a number of benefits associated with a green office as listed below.

  • Increased concentration levels
  • A better creative environment for workers
  • Enhanced wellbeing for employees
  • Better staff retention

The first two factors in association with improved productivity are universal to all workers from sole trader to corporate employees.  This could be one of the factors why coworking spaces have led the way in offering a level of biophilic design for remote workers and freelancers.  The aligned objectives of empowering workers and enhancing wellness certainly fits together well to help smaller companies thrive in a flexible, open environment.

There are some amazing modern offices now in Manchester that clearly adopt elements of biophilia. Companies including Autotrader and UK Fast have considerately designed HQ’s that offer design touches as below.

  • Bringing the outdoors in by adopting plants and living walls
  • Making the most of light and when it’s not in abundance contriving skylights and even sky ceilings
  • Considering natural wood finishes.  Many offices now also utilise plant prints on wallpapers and feature walls.
  • Encouraging use of outdoor space.  This is straightforward in an office that has terrace or roof space.  If this isn’t available some companies encourage staff to get out into local parks or public spaces during the working day.

The office design at altspace tips its hat to biophilic designs through the consideration to natural light that we benefit from.  It’s been a pleasure to introduce more plants to the space over the last 18 months adding colour and purifying the air in our space.  Finally we have favoured the use of soft woods including birch and beech in our desks and finishes to give a contrast to the greenery on evidence. We’re really happy with the results and would recommend these simple considerations to others looking to create inspiring workspaces.

1)Edward O Wilson – Biophilia 1984

2)Researchgate 2014