Biophilic Workplace Design: Plants, Wellness and… Germs.

This article is part of our ‘workplace design’ series

There are various approaches to workplace design. Among the lesser known you’ll find sustainable and biophilic design.

Chris Garvin, founder of architectural consulting firm Terrapin, believes that the best design is the one that is responsible in the use of resources, and at the same time creates the healthiest and most productive work environment. Garvin calls this sustainable design, and it’s what his firm specializes in.

“Design and architecture can help in building and nurturing culture and community. I believe it’s about putting people in the spaces as the primary driver of design and its purpose. There’s a lot of workplace design focused on fun amenities, like ping pong tables and beer on tap. These don’t get used. People are looking for connections, so to me workplace design circles around how we  can create that, how we can encourage these types of connections in an authentic matter.”

Although Garvin admits that this is something that hasn’t been cracked yet in the coworking and workspace-as-a-service industry yet, he has a starting point that he believes is worth pursuing.

Biophilic Design

“Biophilic design remains a fairly new idea for many, but its benefits are unquestionable: reduced stress, improved productivity, improved recovery rates from stressful situations, improved air quality. Biophilic design improves one’s wellbeing overall. Though it can be subtle, this approach truly is about feeling and performing better in our environments.”

Garvin shares some easy ways to include biophilic elements in the workspace. Plants, like bamboos, are known to produce oxygen and improve the quality of air in indoor environments. You can also bring in natural materials, textures, and patterns (think wood furniture, artwork of natural themes, and natural views) to create an environment that feels welcoming and is relaxing.

You can also take it a step further and think about the materials you use in your workplace.

“All of the materials we use, whether for furniture, carpets, clothing, these all contain toxins that are released through various ways. At Terrapin, we are currently working with scientists on identifying products that aren’t toxic to humans, that way, when they are in the workplace environment, they won’t be releasing toxins that can affect the way we feel and perform.”

And that’s not all of it. Garvin tells us that there is a new emerging trend (or science if you will) in workplace design. He is talking about microbiome.

“When we share workspace and amenities with other people, we also share bacteria. The idea behind the microbiome approach is to find ways to get healthier and not sicker while in the workplace.”

There is still much research left to be done, says Garvin, but the idea behind it is closely tied to biophilia and sustainability.  “This means looking carefully at the materials and products used for construction, design, and management. It also means incorporating plants and soils that have ‘healthy’ germs in them that can help improve the health of people from a microbiome perspective.”

Garvin will be presenting at GCUC in New York City this year. His presentation will circle around sustainability, biophilic design, and how you can build a better community by sharing healthy germs with them.

OK… maybe not exactly that way, but he will delve into the topic of how sustainable design can help operators strengthen their communities.

“There is an explosion of coworking spaces all over, and the core value for them is their community; yet, this is often the first thing that dissipates as brands grow. I want to address this and see if through design, operators can find a way to grow their brands without losing their community and its identity.”

Be sure to check out GCUC this year—bring healthy germs only; we will take care of the plants.