Revitalise your home office with biophilic design

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A lady working from home with lots of plants and greenery visible depicting biophilic design

As Australians continue to work remotely and make use of their homes as workspaces, it's no surprise that people are seeking innovative ways to create home offices that foster productivity and happiness.

Workers are progressively moving away from simply setting up at the kitchen table with a laptop. Traditional office design trends are now being applied to the home with greater recognition of the importance of ergonomic furniture and proper utilisation of space.

Biophilic design is just one of the many trends that are impacting workplaces globally, with both home and business owners adopting techniques to reinvent offices.

Here's everything you need to know about biophilic design and why it might impact how you set up your next office.

What is biophilic design?

As implied in its name, biophilic design is a technique used in architecture to provide a stronger connection between building occupants and nature. Biophilic design has been used for decades in the building industry and can be categorised into three key areas:

1. Nature in space: This is the direct presence of nature in a building. It can take the form of plants, water, scents, air, shifting light, and other natural characteristics in the interior.

2. Natural analogues: This is the incorporation of natural patterns, materials, objects, shapes and colours into building design, interior decor, facades and furniture. In other words, these are things that are reminiscent of nature but aren't technically living or natural.

3. Nature of space: A slightly more theoretical category, nature of space sees the integration of more abstract elements from nature, like expansive views, and places of sensory calm. As pointed out by JM Interiors, there is a distinct crossover between biophilic design and the Chines design principle of feng shui. Nature of space plays largely in this territory.

All three of these categories work towards the same goal of creating a better connection to nature.

Biophilic design in practice

As mentioned, biophilic design has seen growing global popularity and Australia is no exception to this.

For instance, in the heart of Sydney's CBD, the residential building One Central Park stands stark against its neighbours thanks to its plethora of beautiful, green vertical gardens.
Bringing nature to both residents and the surrounding area, the development has even won international design awards thanks to its use of biophilia.

The Northern Beach's Hospital, designed by architecture firm BVN, intentionally relied on the use of warm materials and natural light to foster a calm, welcoming environment.

The trend has even been used in public spaces, with Melbourne's Metro Tunnel stations using interior living walls, natural daylight, trees, gardens, and more.

But it's not just big-ticket items getting the biophilic treatment. In fact, Harper's Bazaar predicts biophilic design will be one of the biggest home interior design trends in 2023.

What are the benefits of biophilic design?

Discover the remarkable benefits of biophilic design, and explore three advantages that this design approach can bring to your space.

Physical

Within its 'Make it Wood – Nature Inspired Design' report, Australian not-for-profit environmental organisation Planet Ark argues that biophilic design elements such as wooden interiors can help to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels and even benefit our respiratory health through improved air quality.

This point on air quality is especially important, as Australians spend, roughly, 90% of their time indoors, according to the Australian Government's Department of Change, Energy, the Environment, and Water.

Mental health

Biophilic design can also improve our mood and wellbeing. As Australia's Open University highlights, it has proven positive effects in these areas by bolstering cognitive function and creativity.

These mental benefits further extend into workplace performance with nature-inspired office design increasing productivity by at least 15% according to Evoke Projects.

Environmental

Biophilic design has many environmental benefits. For example, by utilising natural and recycled materials in office design, waste is minimised and a reliance on natural lighting helps to cut back costs spent on electricity.

Reducing environmental impact is a massive part of biophilic design, incorporating choices in materials, and even technology.

For example, those looking to set up a biophilic office may intentionally recycle printer and toner cartridges, instead of throwing them out.

Brother is part of the Cartridges 4 Planet Ark program, meaning its cartridges can be donated for recycling and turned into new stationery, benches or even road surfaces.

Pitfalls of incorporating biophilic design

Like any approach, challenges do exist with biophilic design. Consider these crucial factors when implementing this design approach.

Cost

There's no doubt that incorporating biophilic design aspects can add extra costs. In some cases, the cost of natural materials, extra design, and complex construction can be prohibitive. However, adding greenery and foliage and utilising natural light remains a simple, cost-effective way to get on board.

Space

In many cases, biophilic home offices require additional space to bring in natural elements. This may not be practical for all workspaces, especially in the case of home study nooks. And for buildings with interior offices, it can be almost impossible to incorporate natural lighting.

Upkeep

Using more natural elements in the workplace requires extra maintenance, such as sweeping leaves, cleaning dirt and debris and watering indoor plants. If there's a lack of commitment to the undertaking, natural elements can decay and even become dangerous.

Allergies

While it's a health benefit for most employees, there's also the consideration that for some workers exposure to natural elements like flowers and plants can cause allergies. However, these can be easily rectified with proper ventilation systems and tools such as air purifiers.

8 simple ways to incorporate biophilic design into your home office

There are a multitude of ways that biophilic design can be deployed in your home office:

1. Consider natural materials

As Houzz points out, the incorporation of natural materials and textures into your home office is an easy way to incorporate biophilic elements.

Timber is an especially popular choice with common elements including curved or fluted timber lining boards, or 'wave' and 'ripple' boards that gesture to the calm sweeping motion of the sea.

Timber desks, shelves and more can achieve the same effect with less effort (although perhaps not to the same extent).

2. Use plants

Greenery is probably the easiest, and cheapest addition for the home office. Indoor plants are a great way to brighten up a workspace by placing them on desks, shelves and window sills. Peace lilies and bromeliads are a few of the popular varieties that can be easily tended in the office due to the low levels of maintenance required.

When it comes to how many plants you should have, it largely depends on the size of your workspace and the available natural light. As a rough guide, Better Homes and Gardens claim that just one plant in an average 4m x 5m room can make your air 25% cleaner, while five plants make the air up to 75% cleaner.

Again, this point on air quality can't be underestimated with leading bodies including Deakin University claiming that air pollution levels are almost always higher inside buildings than they are outside. Research also shows any decrease in indoor air quality directly impacts worker health and performance.

3. Take advantage of natural light

For interiors, improving access to sunlight for the home office can mean shifting locations to a room with a nature-facing window, or using skylights. Alternatively, there are artificial skylights that simulate natural light when the real thing is impossible.

Remember, sunlight can bolster mood and help with creativity and productivity, while also having physical benefits like relaxing eye muscles to help with easing fatigue. Warm-toned light versus white is a good way to mimic sunlight if you have no access to the real thing.

4. Set up your home office close to nature

Access to views of nature, such as shrubs, bushland, trees, greenery, and water, can have upsides for people's mental health and wellbeing. Using windows or alfresco spaces can deliver access to these views.

5. Utilise living walls

Living walls or vertical gardens are a fantastic way to reintroduce nature to the home office workspace and a great alternative for areas where a view to outdoor spaces is not achievable.

6. Are water features an option?

The sound of water has been shown to have a calming effect on people, making it a popular element of biophilic design for offices.

7. Think about ventilation

Cut the need for air-con by incorporating opposing, similar-sized windows into your home office so cool air can flow through. There are also double-glazing windows that can help keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer.

8. Elements analogous to nature

Natural colour palettes and textures provide a good connection to the outside world and are another important element of biophilic design.

Maximise your home office with biophilic design and Brother's technology solutions

Incorporating biophilic design elements into your home office is undoubtedly beneficial, but it is essential to recognise that they are only one component of an effective workspace. The right tools and technology are equally as crucial in facilitating productivity and efficiency.

At Brother, we understand the evolving needs of hybrid and remote workers. That's why we've developed a range of innovative solutions to support home-based workers. From robust printers and scanners to mobile-friendly apps, Brother offers a suite of tools that can help maximise your home office's potential.

With Brother's assistance, you can transform your workspace into a safe, healthy, and productive environment that is conducive to flexible working.

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