Biophilic Design - The Trend Towards Natural Wood Interiors
Posted on January 05 2021
Our love of time in nature has been called "biophilia" and it explains our innate human need to connect with nature, resulting in improvements in health and well-being. By extension, "biophilic design" focuses on enabling a human connection to nature in the built environment, where we live, work, rest, and play.
Research shows that the successful implementation of biophilic design principles, including the use of wood inside a building, has clear physiological and psychological benefits that mimic the effect of spending time outdoors in nature. The feeling of natural warmth and comfort that wood causes in people has the effect of lowering blood pressure and heart rate, reducing stress and anxiety, increasing positive social interactions and improving corporate image.
These benefits are particularly important for environments where it is difficult to incorporate nature indoors, such as hospitals, where strict health and safety guidelines can prevent the presence of plants, and office environments where the views from the window are of roads and buildings of neighboring concrete.
Generally speaking, people like the look, feel and smell of wooden interiors. This is a huge advantage for wooden buildings and interiors compared to synthetic alternatives.
A study commissioned by Forest & Wood Products Australia surveyed 1.000 people who worked indoors. Most of the respondents were dissatisfied with their physical work environment and described it with words such as "boring" and "closed".
However, those in woodworking environments were more satisfied, felt more connected to nature, experienced their workplace more positively, and took less time off. Additionally, workers in more exposed wood workplaces reported higher productivity, better concentration, and more positive overall mood.
Similarly, focus groups conducted in Austria, Finland, France, Norway, and Sweden found that professionals and laity prefer wooden interiors. The look and smell of the wooden interiors were associated with better well-being. The survey of Planet Ark Australians showed a strong preference for wooden furniture compared to plastic in office design. In addition, a survey of Norwegian hospital staff asked them to rate photographs of different hospital rooms, which ranged from no wood to all wood finishes. Respondents showed a preference for working in a room with a moderate amount of wood compared to no wood or all wood. This intermediate level of wood in a room was described as pleasant, natural, relaxing, and safe.
A recent study by organizational psychologists, Biophilic Design in the Workplace, surveyed 3.600 employees in eight countries. It found that employee well-being, productivity and creativity improved in a natural office environment. This study did not focus on the impact of wooden interiors themselves. However, it found that employees in some countries in the survey, particularly Germany and France, reported being more creative in offices with wood. Also, office workers in the UK were happier in woodworking environments.
The study does not explain these national variations in how workers respond to wood in their office environment, so future research will need to take into account national and possibly regional preferences for certain types of natural elements, including wood, in the office design.
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