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Examining colors and biophilic elements that elevate workplace efficaciousness

Too many chic words in the title right? Well, we are not at all being pretentious. Let’s first understand what biophilic design means.

The word ‘Biophilia’ was first coined by a psychoanalyst named Erich Fromm who said that biophilia is the passionate love of life and of all that is alive whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or a social group. Biophilic design is an offshoot of the biophilia discipline. It refers to the use of elements that seeks to connect to our inherent need to affiliate with nature in the modern built environment. Through the use of ample sunlight space, plants, vivid colors, and space, it aims to create a natural habitat in our built environment where we spend around 90% of our time. Just think about it – home, office, university, car, concert halls, hotels, we are trapped in the built environment. For crying out loud, the eight wonders of the world are a built environment. But, they are called wonders for a reason. The eight wonders of the world are a fantastic pre-set for our modern buildings to incorporate biophilic elements. Some are set in the natural habitat (Macchu Picchu, Great Pyramid of Giza), some are made of materials that reflect light and cool the temperature (The Taj Mahal) and some are the environment itself (The Grand Canyon).

Biophilic elements have a massive influence on humans for the very simple reason that humans have this innate affinity to connect with nature. It is a biologically normal instinct. Biophilic design can reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and expedite healing; as the world population continues to urbanize, these qualities are ever more important.

Now that we know what biophilia means, let’s move on to the characteristics of biophilic elements.

The question is what constitutes a biophilic element?

If a design element focuses on aspects of the natural world that have contributed over time to human health and productivity and still contribute to the age-old struggle to be fit and survive, it is considered biophilic.

Therefore, workplaces that flaunt mammoth aquariums and desert landscapes in the format of The Last Supper do so in ignorance, because such elements though natural aren’t biophilic since they haven’t contributed to the advancement of humans.

Similarly, any single or arbitrary occurrence of nature in the built environment cannot be called biophilic design. Nature doesn’t exist in isolation. Biophilic elements emphasize the overall setting or habitat and not a single or isolated occurrence of nature. Thus, simply inserting an object of nature into a human-built environment, if unrelated or at variance with other more dominant characteristics of the setting, exert a little positive impact on the health and performance of the people who occupy these spaces.

A third distinctive feature of biophilic design is that it warrants repeated contact with nature. Although we may be biologically inclined to affiliate with nature, for this contact to be useful, it must be nurtured through repeated and reinforcing experiences. The benefits of biophilic design depend on engaging contact with nature rather than occasional, exceptional, or ephemeral experiences.

To have a positive experience for workers, workspaces need to harmonize nature with corporate structures and ensure that biophilic elements are present everywhere so that it is harder not to look at them. Grass Walls, natural and plush colors, wood, and soil are some commendable examples.

What are the benefits of biophilic design?

Employees spend an overwhelmingly large amount of their time in their workplace. This is alarmingly comparable to situations in detentions or prisons where only about 20% of one’s day is spent outdoors. The stressful, competitive atmosphere, steered by boxy commercialized infrastructure create undermining health and social conditions. With almost 48 – 50 hours a week spent indoors in one’s workplace, there is an inherent need to obliterate this separation created between the built and natural environment.

Design components such as live green walls, moss walls, vertical gardens, terrace gardens, atrium spaces, common social zones, etc uplift the aesthetics along with the environmental quality of a place. Biophilia has a profound effect on increasing user productivity, attention span, and engagement. Though not quantifiable, the psychological impact of nature inclusive design has a significant impact on the efficiency of human resources engaging in the space.

What are the ways in which Biophilia can be introduced to commercial workplaces?
Varied and scattered plants in, or overlooking an office is a nominal design strategy often adopted in biophilic design. Potted plants in workplaces are the easiest way to incorporate the conception of green areas in indoor spaces.

Apart from greenery, biophilia is also associated with enhancing spaces through provisioning natural light sources through the incorporation of open areas or skylights, use of natural materials or natural colors in interior spaces, fractal patterns, proximity to water (natural or artificial), providing refuge/shelter areas for privacy, natural scents or sounds and providing spacious environments.


It is important to realize that biophilic design is more than just a new way to make people more efficient by applying an innovative technical tool. The successful application of biophilic design fundamentally depends on adopting a new consciousness toward nature, recognizing how much our physical and mental wellbeing continues to rely on the quality of our connections to the world beyond ourselves of which we still remain a crucial part.

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