Offices around the world are increasingly turning to natural design elements to populate and beautify their spaces. In addition to being easy on the eyes, decorating with natural elements is well-known to boost the health, productivity and happiness of employees.

“Biophilia” is the human attraction to nature that we use to interpret environmental cues about our perceived safety or peril. The word literally means “love of nature” and it recognizes the intrinsic link between humans and how we relate to the environment we’re in.

By creating biophilic spaces that naturally stimulate and energize employees, companies across the world have increased their overall productivity and bottom lines.

Biophilic design includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Access to natural light
  • Products which are made of or look like natural materials
  • The inclusion of living plants inside a space
  • Lighting which mimics natural daylight

So, how can you use biophilic design to make an environment that subconsciously understands, supports and nurtures your employees? Let’s discuss.

How Does Biophilic Design Boost Productivity?


Besides being visually interesting and stimulating, biophilic installations serve to orient, soothe and calm us.

In a study conducted by the Department of Environment Health at Harvard, subjects were exposed to environments with biophilic design elements using virtual reality. They were then evaluated to measure their physiological and cognitive performance traits experienced within this more natural environment compared to a traditional, non-biophilic space.

The study found that participants emerged in the biophilic space experienced:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Short-term memory improved by 14%
  • Participants later reported a decrease in negative emotions and increase in positive emotions while in the biophilic space

Thus, the environments offer the possibility of reducing stress and improving cognition.

Because of these affects, corporations, higher education and healthcare facilities alike have been implementing biophilic design strategies to promote the behavioral health of their employees.

As the competitive landscapes for employee retention, recruitment of top talent and the ongoing efforts to increase efficiency and production continue, more and more organizations are choosing to create a work environment that transcends employee expectations and helps blur the lines between the office and home, indoors and outdoors, and work and relaxation.

How to Build a Natural Environment Indoors

By traditional thinking, once your office is built, you decorate the walls to add atmosphere to your space. But art is subjective. To one person, a painting of wild horses can be beautiful, but to another it reminds them of being trampled at a petting zoo when they were 8.

With regards to behavioral health facilities, designers and architects have found increasingly stronger arguments to implement natural surroundings when designing for the indoors. The key to creating a biophilic installation that provides the nurturing benefits of nature is to pull from your location. Like any good design or architecture, biophilic design will utilize the local colors, textures and materials of where your building is located.

In our work with Embassy Suites, we developed Chicago’s largest indoor garden to help develop their “farm to plate” initiative and to breathe life into their open atrium lobby. Using DIRTT’s breathe indoor planting system, we scattered herbs throughout the space and installed LED monitors within the freestanding structures to mimic circadian light rhythms.

Color, Light, Texture, Technology


The beauty of biophilic elements is the way we’re able to seamlessly blend ancient, natural elements with modern day technology that makes a workplace tick.

Breathe by DIRTT is a simple system for incorporating plants into new or previously installed DIRTT Walls. It mounts to the tile layer of your wall, can be retrofitted on existing DIRTT walls with tiles, or can be mounted to any flat, vertical building surface, including: gypsum, concrete, stone and more.

Breathe is scalable and easily expands from one panel to a monolithic wall of plants. Designers can incorporate Breathe living walls or interior plant-scapes to bring nature indoors.

High levels of pollutants common in building interiors contribute to illness and lower rates of productivity in the workplace. To address toxic elements circulating in the air and render it fit for human use, most buildings condition air through a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. However, the use of air conditioning requires energy, further contributing to greenhouse gas production and building operations costs.

Plant landscapes are known to remove harmful environmental toxins found in building interiors and can lighten the load of the HVAC system by removing many of these pollutants, resulting in less energy use in buildings. Studies confirm certain types of indoor plants reliably reduce total volatile organic compound loads by 75%, to below 100 ppb.

Serving to ease the environmental footprint, lower building costs and increase employee health and happiness, it’s no wonder companies like Amazon have built entire indoor terrariums in their headquarters. Although biophilic design has only been around for less than 40 years, we expect the trend to take root and expand further into work, health and learning environments across the world.

To learn more about how Accelerate can bring new life into your office or refresh your current environment, contact us to set up a free consultation.