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3rd November Journal Column

By Alison Nicholl, Associate Director, Constructing Excellence – ‎BRE

Earlier this year, BRE launched The Biophilic Office project – an office refurbishment project that will provide evidence that biophilic design will be beneficial to the health, wellbeing and productivity of office workers.

Biophilic Design is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. It’s all about bringing nature inside and when applied it improves many of the spaces that are lived and worked in, with numerous benefits to health and wellbeing.

We spend 90% of our lives in buildings which means our health and wellbeing is influenced significantly by the built environment. Incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment have been proved to reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity, creativity and self-reported rates of well-being.

BRE have partnered with designer Oliver Heath, who will lead on the design element of the refurbished building. The idea is that you take a tired and ageing office building and refurbish it according to biophilic design principles, such as natural lighting, ventilation and natural landscape features.

A number of core partners are involved to bring their industry expertise into the projects, each of the partners will be using the office and testing its facilities. They will carry out 6 months pre and post refurbishment, evaluating the office in terms of daylight, lighting, indoor air quality, thermal and humidity comfort. They will also undergo a confidential health evaluation and have wearable technology to monitor health metrics.

By creating a positive, safe and healthy environment for employees, you can increase morale, improve your employees’ work-life balance and, in turn, positively impact your business. In any industry, the desire is to have a healthy, productive workforce. The obvious benefit of having a healthy workforce is that healthier employees are absent less. In Great Britain, more than 130 million days are lost to sickness absence each year, which is certain to have a knock-on effect on productivity. Imagine if you could prevent that by making a few small changes to your work place?

Over the years, there have been a number of studies to back up the claims that biophilic design really does effect working life. Productivity in offices can be increased by 8%, in the hospitality industry guests will be willing to pay 23% more for a room with a view of biophilic elements and in education, rates or learning, tests results and concentration has been known to increase.

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the project and how everyone reacts, it won’t surprise me if all industries jump at the chance to get on board. Increased productivity, health, learning and sales, with the added bonus of having something nice to look at whilst at work certainly sounds good to me, it really is a win-win situation.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.

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