Introducing Awestruck Biophilic Design - bringing the outdoors indoors through the exploration of wellbeing

How to Create Socially Distanced Spaces Through Biophilic Design?

Protective Office Screens byDutch Invertuals for the Post-Pandemic Workplace, Image Credit - The Design Sheppard

Since going in to a second lockdown and having to learn and adapt to living in a world pandemic of COVID – 19. With the population being put under various restrictions from only be allowed to go outside for essential items and only being allowed out once a day for an hour of exercise. This is leading to limited access to the outside world and nature. Although the one positive of lockdown is people have learnt to appreciate nature due to travel restrictions and learning to take a step back from our chaotic lives commuting into the city. To slowing down working from home and appreciating the natural surroundings we have around us. Since being restricted to one hour of exercise a day, there has been a noticeable increase in people taking up running and going for long walks. And even for people who have a garden are taking up gardening as a relaxing activity to do whilst being on furlough or working from home rather than seeing it as a chore they need to do at the weekend.

 

Spending time in the garden Image Credit - Pinterest
Spending time in the garden Image Credit - Pinterest 

Since being restricted and limited to the amount of time we can spend outdoors, we have begun to realise the importance and a new found appreciation for the benefits of nature can have on us. For example:

  • Improve our mood
  • Improve our physical health
  • Reduce the feelings of stress and anger
  • Helps us to feel relaxed
  • Improves our self esteem
  • Helps us to be more active
Going for Walks in Lockdown, Granchester Meadows Walk CambridgeImage Credit - © COUPLE TRAVEL THE WORLD
Going for Walks in Lockdown, Granchester Meadows Walk CambridgeImage Credit - © COUPLE TRAVEL THE WORLD

 

By beginning to introduce biophilic elements into your homes and spaces it can emulate the feelings of wellbeing. Biophilia has various benefits such as improving health physically as well as psychologically and improving our mood, to increasing productivity. This is great if you are working from home, reducing your stress levels and even helping with mental restoration and reducing fatigue levels. Whilst creating a feeling of safety and comfort within the home, which is something, we could all do with at the moment.

 

The Sanctuary designed by Architects Feldman Architecture - Image Credit : Joe Fletcher
The Sanctuary designed by Architects Feldman Architecture - Image Credit : Joe Fletcher
Uncommon’s 34-37 Liverpool Street, the City Image Credit - Knight Frank
Uncommon’s 34-37 Liverpool Street, the City Image Credit - Knight Frank

So, by improving our connection to nature within interior spaces this may help with the development and transition of going back to some sort of normal whether that be at work or even just being able to socialise again. Therefore the big question is, how can biophilic design help with creating social distanced spaces when living in a post pandemic world?

Zoning

Through zoning we can create rotational routes and zoned areas with the use of carpets that resonate the natural environments. We can use carpets to help signify the ways of social distancing which may be through queuing in centre areas/directions or creating pathways for people to travel socially distanced. By using carpet, we can add natural colours and textures to the space which will help to create liveable health and wellbeing within the workplace. This will even help with the transition of going back to work and learning to adapt to new and evolving restrictions of a pandemic.

Biophilic Socially Distance Office Zoning - Image Credit : Pinterest
Biophilic Socially Distance Office Zoning - Image Credit : Pinterest 

A great example of a company that offers this is Interface, whose speciality is in flooring that reflects nature and can be used to create zones within the workplace or hospitability. As well as offering to create seamless natural pathways to help guide employees and customers to move and follow a certain direction or route or even define certain areas. 

Biophilic Carpet Zoning - FLOR® by Interface
Biophilic Carpet Zoning: Image Credit - FLOR® by Interface
Luxury Vinyl Tile, Image Credit - Interface
Luxury Vinyl Tile, Image Credit - Interface

Plants

Plants are a great way in getting started with social distanced measures. You can use potted plants as dividers between areas or even create clusters of larger plants to help deter people from gathering in large groups in certain areas. Plants are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to employ direct forms of nature into a space whether that is in an office, retail or even hospitality to create some form of separation and implement social distancing.

 

Plant Dividers, Cubed Planted Image Credit - © 2014 lasfera Design und Vetriebs
Plant Dividers, Cubed Planted Image Credit - © 2014 lasfera Design und Vetriebs 

The plants we would recommend that you look at are the sub-tropical ones which are known for having bigger leaves and are the best for creating barriers between desks, creating zones and even separate out spaces. Plants can also be used to implement social distancing by making clear marks between spaces to encourage social distancing between people. For example, using plants to mark out a 1 to 2 meters distance between each other. This may be for queuing in a shop or even encouraging to social distancing within the office.

Biophilic Plant Dividers: Image Credit - articulturedesigns
Biophilic Plant Dividers: Image Credit - articulturedesigns

Another great way plants can be used for the new social distancing rules are through creating hedge mazes or living wall dividers that can be used as partial separation between employees around the office. They can even be used to create different work zones, boothing and seating.

Moving Hedge: Image Credit - Architonic
Moving Hedge: Image Credit - Architonic

Ventilation

Ventilation is a key factor to consider when living in a world pandemic. When heading back to work we need to reduce the air pollution within the office to help improve the health and wellbeing of employees as well as improving employee’s concentration and productivity levels within the office.

CHESTERFORD HOME, HAMPSTEAD - Designed by MWAI Image Credit : Alexander James
CHESTERFORD HOME, HAMPSTEAD - Designed by MWAI Image Credit : Alexander James

 

The best way to guarantee the correct ventilation is by using a simple extraction or commercial recovery units. These will guarantee you the removal of harmful pollutants effective and efficiently.

 

images courtesy of mohamed m. radwan / qworkntine
image courtesy of mohamed m. radwan / qworkntine

Another thing to consider when back at work is that desks and seating layouts may need to be altered. When it comes to you rearranging the office consider moving chairs and desks to near windows, if you have access to any. By placing desks and seating by windows you can gain access to the natural light that shines through. Natural light plays a key part in balancing of our circadian rhythms, which will help make us more alert during in the day. This may be a key thing to consider when going back to work.

Hoke Residence designed by Portland-based firm Skylab Architecture. Image Credit - © Skylab Architecture
Hoke Residence designed by Portland-based firm Skylab Architecture. Image Credit - © Skylab Architecture

But if you don’t have access to windows or ventilation units in the office, you could consider free standing air purifying units which help remove the carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide from the air.

Natural Materials

Lastly think about using natural materials, especially with the current situation which has led to changes of design within the workplace to help reduce the amount of people within one area. This will help protect employees and customers when in indoor environments such as shops and offices.

 

Office Space in Poznan Designed by ZONA Architekci. Image Credit - Krzysztof Strażyński
Office Space in Poznan Designed by ZONA Architekci. Image Credit - Krzysztof Strażyński

 

Although these changes may not be something that will last forever, it will be up to you to decide whether you want to install something that has longevity and maybe more expensive or install something that can be used as a temporary option and may be cheaper for you.

 

Office Design, Image Credit - Styles at Life
Office Design, Image Credit - Styles at Life 

 

When deciding on what materials to use we would also recommend that you look to using natural materials such as wood, stone or concrete if possible.

Wood is a great choice of material and good for both the environment, people and offices. Using wood surfaces within an office can help decrease employees blood pressure and heart rate as well as reducing stress levels. Through implementing biophilic elements you can create a greener building which will aid in promoting employee wellbeing and even help contribute to the (human-centred improvements in business performance).

 

B.S.R. Group Offices – Tel Aviv Designed by RUST Architects Image Credit - Office Spanshots
B.S.R. Group Offices – Tel Aviv Designed by RUST Architects Image Credit - Office Spanshots

 

In summary you can see that by using biophilic elements within the office and workplace can bring about many benefits such as making an environment which is safe and inviting enough for employees to return to work. Whilst also encouraging employees the feelings of greater health, a sense of happiness through improving productivity.

 

ARIEL - covid-19 response Image Credit - | © Nevins
ARIEL - covid-19 response Image Credit - | © Nevins 

 

As society slowly resumes back to some form of normality in a post- Covid 19 world, office layouts, building designs and social distancing guidelines are forever evolving and adapting to the latest guidelines. There is no better time than now to consider biophilic design for your home, office or space.

 

Multiplex offices in Perth | design by Woods Bagot Image Credit - Dion Robeson
Multiplex offices in Perth | design by Woods Bagot Image Credit - Dion Robeson

Harleen McLean is an international coach, writer, and Biophilic Interior Designer.  Her impactful designs and projects bring transformative Biophilic Design to homes and offices worldwide are available onher website