Biophilic design: bringing nature into design with timber

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As many people head back into the office on a more permanent basis, is it time to take a more holistic view of what our working spaces should look like? Connecting the built environment to nature with the use of biophilic design can provide organisations and their workers with huge benefits – from wellbeing to productivity.

Credit: Kyungsub Shin

Bringing the outside in

Largely speaking, offices up and down the country can look and feel fairly similar. But many wellbeing experts are arguing that for millennia humans have evolved to exist in nature, yet this is at odds with modern life and the spaces in which we currently work. Spending eight hours a day indoors, surrounded by an artificial environment, can be jarring to mind, body and soul.

Repositioning the way we view such spaces can take away micro stresses and boost physical and mental wellbeing, productivity, motivation and overall happiness. There is a real business case for biophilic design, and the organisations that have already invested in biophilic office design are discovering the perks.

Take for example a 2018 survey called Workplaces: Wellness + Wood = Productivity, where employees working in an office with ample timber surfaces reported better mood, concentration, clarity, confidence and optimism. There was also a connection between employee absenteeism and the presence of wood in the workplace, as well as suggestions that there are health benefits to biophilic design even in rooms without windows!

Similarly, the School Without Stress study took four classrooms and clad half of them in timber, examining the physiological differences between the two sets of pupils. It showed that children studying in the timber classroom had a reduced and healthier heart rate, while their vagus nerve activity – which protects the heart – was better. Concentration was also on the up and these pupils made fewer mistakes!

 Biophilic design in practice

Image credit: Microsoft

While Microsoft’s treehouse office is a glorious example of biophilic design, it may be a tad impractical for those of us who work in industrial parks or busy city centres. Yet, the impact can be achieved by introducing timber into the building envelope with products such as cladding.

At International Timber, we can offer a range of timbers for internal cladding to suit every budget and taste. In particular, our Meranti timber and American White Oak both have FSC certification and provide a beautiful finish. Meanwhile, introducing a biophilic aesthetic on the external facade of a building can also help to blur the line between the indoors and outdoors, achieving a more organic flow throughout a workspace.

Not only does external timber cladding provide an attractive finish, but it also helps to add durability and an extra layer of thermal insulation. Ideal timber species for external cladding includes Accoya, Western Red Cedar, Siberian Larch, Thermowood Radiata Pine and Thermowood Redwood.

In addition to enhancing the building envelope with biophilic design, workplaces can use timber to provide finishing touches, such as pergolas or seating areas which provide a natural breakout space for colleagues to work.

Visit or speak to our experts for support in making your office a biophilic dream.

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