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The World Health Organisation expects stress related illness, such as mental health disorders and cardio-vascular disease, to be the two largest contributors to disease by 2020. As we spend 90% of our lives in buildings, this means our built environment can play a significant part in preventing ill health and promoting a positive approach to health and wellbeing.

Biophilia (meaning a love of nature) focuses on a human’s innate attraction to nature and natural processes. American biologist and researcher Edward O. Wilson introduced and popularised this hypothesis in his book, Biophilia (1984) defining this as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”.

Biophilic design uses these ideas as principles to create a human centred approach that when applied improves many of the spaces that we live and work in today, with numerous benefits to our health and well-being. Incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment have been demonstrated to reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity, creativity and self-reported rates of well-being.

At BRE we are now working closely with architect and interior designer Oliver Heath with a project to evaluate the value of biophilic design to the workplace environment. The project consists of a plan to take a tired and aging 1980s office building on the BRE campus and refurbish it according to biophilic design principles.

The project is named The Biophilic Office and will show how quantified improvements in productivity and wellness can bring rewards for landlords, occupiers, developers and all those concerned with the office environment. Researchers will carry out a year of pre-refurbishment and a year of post-refurbishment monitoring, evaluating the office environment for daylight, lighting, indoor air quality, acoustic, thermal and humidity comfort. Office occupants will undergo a confidential health evaluation, sign up to a series of online questionnaires and surveys and receive wearable technology to monitor key health metrics.

A design strategy will be developed including tiers of interventions in zones within the office. The products used will undergo laboratory evaluation to establish whether a health and wellbeing potential can be quantified at products level.

For more on the project and ways in which you can get involved go to www.bregroup.com/biophilic

Simon Guy
About the Author
Head of Marketing and Communications - Sustainability at BRE

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