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NeoCon: Biophilic Design in the Workplace for Health and Happiness


Adobe office. Photo by Emily Hagopian Photography.

At the Chicago trade fair NeoCon, such professionals discussed how to incorporate nature into our built environments, notably the office setting. Here are some approaches and effective case studies from completed projects. 


Biophilic design interprets our love of life and the living world, but it’s not about throwing a single plant on a desktop, according to the panelists at the Chicago trade fair NeoCon in June 2018. 

Check out the NeoConversations Podcast Episode 2: Designing a Healthy, Sustainable HQ.

With nine years of experience working as an ambassador with the International Living Future Institute( ILFI), Teknion’s Director of Sustainable Programs Tracy Backus is all too familiar with projects that aim to achieve the Living Building Challenge certification

“BD (biophilic design) is different for everyone. It isn’t just a plant on a desk but a strategic design approach that takes knowledge and planning. Integration is actually fairly simple. Pattern, color and shapes are all a basis of interior design for any space.”

Make them more natural in application and think about the relationships of humans to nature much as you would the relationships of space to each other. 

What’s important to be noted about BD is the importance of natural cycles and systems; therefore, visual and non-visual connections with nature are to be introduced. Visual and sensory materials such as stone or weathered wood are good examples. While aspects such as airflow and thermal variability can also be focused on either naturally or artificially. Sunlight directed to focal areas or considerations of hydrology like fountains or alternative forms of running water and capturing systems are biophilic. 

There are many opportunities to include a visual image of nature if you can’t get a literal one. Technology is a great way to include an image in high definition of nature

Yet, visual attention doesn’t have to be focused on a nature scene. It can also be patterns that display the complexity of order within the organic world as well as shapes and even references to the animal kingdom. 

How can we be sure these design implementations have real effects? 

There is actually a lot of evidence that is proving that there are measurable outcomes with employee satisfaction performance, retention and attraction which are all making the conversation with corporations take an interest.

The Biophilic Design Initiative and ILFI are building this research. The International Living Future Institute has brought together leading experts in the field to form an Advisory Task Force that will lead the initiative through collaboration and inclusion of existing resources.”

barbican introduces biophilic lighting designs.

During the presentation, they provided a resource page that had references to over 30 resources and data facts, including International WELL Building and ILFI. 

“We are seeing compelling research that is validating the claim but it’s more than that: We want to love where we work. People don’t like fluorescent lights, blank walls and a lack of natural light. Also, major companies such as Adobe, Clif Bar and others are proving you don’t have to break the bank to integrate these design elements so it’s a good ROI.” 

Clif Bar

Clif Bar & Company, a maker of organic food and drinks has completed construction of an environmentally progressive bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho. The bakery is over over 300,000 sq. ft. located on a site that is 80 acres of land in an agricultural area on the outskirts of the city where farms and other food manufacturing facilities exist. Clif Bar developed an architectural plan with LEED certification goals, sustainability and people’s well-being in mind.

Tracy has also seen the changes before her very eyes, such as a measurable change in test scores, performance, days away from work and attraction and attention, which are game changers. 

I am surprised by how long it has taken us to make the course correction to include nature into our working spaces.

About the Author

Erin Gigl is a freelance design and travel writer, editor and artist.

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