Regardless if LEED certification is your end goal, there is a player that’s gaining a lot of attention in the "Green Quest". Hardly a new entrant, nature, the very architect of Green, is a star whose benefits to the bottom line are not only measurable, they’re aesthetically pleasing and in tune with the human psyche.
Nature’s Powerful Effect
The healthcare industry was the first to prove nature’s effect by showing that tying the healthcare environment to nature dramatically improved patient outcomes—from faster discharge rates to reduced medications.1 The effect even extended to staff with decreased nursing turnover and an increase in the hospital’s market share.2 Pretty impressive results for bringing a little nature into the mix.
“Healthcare design is the leader, and commercial design could take a page from their book,” says Robert Cox, AIA, Workplace Strategist with Herman Miller. Many organizations are interested in developing workplaces that support and enhance cognitive performance that results in innovations for commercialization. And research shows that nature may hold the key.
The Root of Natural Attraction
Why are views of nature so important? “Biophilia” is the answer from sociobiologist E.O. Wilson, who defines it as “the tendency to focus on life and life-like processes.” He believes that we have developed a biologically-based attraction to nature and its diversity. “The evolution of the human brain in a natural setting built in powerful tendencies to pay attention to aspects of nature at one time had significant consequences for survival...”3
When it comes to what we need and want from the places where we live and work, it is all about survival—if only figuratively, anymore. And it affects why certain environments just feel “right.” The Savanna Hypothesis was coined by ecologist Gordon Orians to describe the strong preference of environments that remind us of the natural settings in which our earliest ancestors evolved and thrived.4 “Preferred habitats provide the ability to see what’s approaching—called areas of prospect—with areas of refuge, which provide a feeling of safety. That’s why environments that offer both a long-range view and some nearby cover are received more positively,” explains Cox.
Environments for Thriving
It’s about creating environments where people can thrive,” says Cox. “Connecting to nature, our minds are wired for certain kinds of environments. Recognizing that there are things in the built environment that can enhance or detract from it is the starting point in creating an ideal workplace where people can thrive.” Cox breaks it down into themes that an organization can use to affect productivity:
- Provide comfort. Create a space where people are more comfortable: reduce glare, enhance air quality and provide some user control.
- Reduce stress. Environments can reduce stress by incorporating daylight, nature views, and even images of nature.
- Create affinities for nature. Drawing on design principles of natural forms can include the use of natural patterns and textures in surface materials for flooring and walls, as well as the use of curvilinear shapes that relate to nature’s geometry.
- Acknowledge environment’s influence. Workplace design should be linked to nature and acknowledge influences of habitat selection, environmental preferences, and the evolution of psychological and emotional ties between people and places.
Giving Nature the Nod
While incorporating nature into working environments has typically been an aesthetically-pleasing and Green-achieving pursuit, its measurable effect on productivity gives organizations another compelling reason to give nature the nod. Whether pursuing LEED certification or just mirroring the LEED lead, Reel Grobman is committed to Green building and design practices and provides a full spectrum of architecture and interior design services that best suit your organization’s needs.