The trend of bringing nature into the workplace has been a popular trend in the Twin Cities. Not only are we seeing open, bright, collaborative and shared communal spaces, but we’re also seeing elements of nature existing internally as well as externally. Most companies are focused on productivity, and attraction and retention of their workforce. Creating offices with natural elements assists in creating a space that employees enjoy coming to and working in every day.
Companies in search of new office space are looking for larger exterior windows that promote light penetration deeper into the building core and prefer views of trees in lieu of parked cars. At the request of tenants, building owners are providing exterior balconies or patios and rooftop gardens as a part of their amenity package. Tenants are requesting their architect to utilize more natural finishes such as wood and stone and those design teams are answering with more organic finishes as well as curved walls and links connecting their design elements. We are seeing full walls made of plants, as well as an increase in landscape and nature photography used for the artwork.
Overall, the industry has become more conscious of how commercial buildings impact the environment and the value of sustainable design. Five years ago, it was all about LEED Certification, but now the focus is more human-centric with the introduction of the WELL Building Standard. The LEED rating system was devised by the United States Green Building Council to evaluate the environmental performance of a building and encourage sustainable design. A WELL Building is the world’s first building standard focused exclusively on human health and wellness. It marries design and construction with evidence-based research and how the development of a building can promote human health. LEED is still important, and often times the design elements that focus on nature not only raise the WELL score, but the LEED score, too.
Many of these design elements, which are frequently requested by tenants, promote the concept of biophilia. Biophilia, also being referred to as Biophilic Design, focuses on the connection between humans and nature and the impact on the overall well-being of the inhabitants. It suggests that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. These connections are created in a work environment that is open and easy to move through, but is also balanced with closed collaborative or private spaces with protection from interruption.
This layout mimics the natural landscape of open fields and enclosed wooded areas that animals live in around us. Design teams also incorporate cultural elements into the workplace in order to promote a company’s brand. These designs link people to cultural traditions, which is another form of Biophilic Design. This type of architecture does not have to come with a heavy price tag. By choosing the right building and assembling the right team of professionals early on, the cost of bringing nature into your workplace will be drastically reduced and most often does not cost anymore then the “standard”.
As the shift and focus of the built environment continues to be shaped more around the people who occupy these spaces, rather than the walls themselves, we’ll continue to see and hear tenant requests for nature in the workplace.