A biophilic design is a 100% natural design or almost. "When we go back to the office, when I go back, employees will look at an office in a different way. Plexiglas will disappear, but much more attention will be paid to air and water quality, lighting and acoustics".
Speaking is Joseph Allen, Director of the Healthy Buildings Program at Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In an interview with the American news channel CNBC, he explained the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the office landscape.
Improving employee health and productivity
First there was the lockdown, with almost empty offices and classrooms. The relaxation of these measures gradually filled those offices with plexiglass, adapted ventilation, social distancing and temperature measurements. After the pandemic, we may not be going back to the office full-time, and with that science in mind, architects are already working on "biophilic" office design. This means that the design of an office brings health benefits from the outside to the inside, combined with lower energy costs and a better health and productivity of employees.
American architects are currently receiving a lot of requests from companies to refurbish their offices. "The basic theory of biophilic design is to enjoy the richness and complexity that nature brings to us and the use of a great ecosystem to reduce stress and make our lives more enjoyable," says Rick Cook. He is CEO of the Manhattan-based architectural firm CookFox, specialising in the design of sustainable and green spaces in buildings. Examples of biophilic design include green walls with plants that purify the air, use of natural materials such as wood, running water sources and circadian lighting that follows our internal biological clock.
Energy-efficient ventilation remains a challenge
Not only will the layout of the offices and buildings look different, their construction will also continue to evolve. Architects, for example, will provide more working space in the open air, more terraces, more space for storing bicycles, and employees should be able to breathe in the open air easily from their offices. The construction of offices using sustainable materials, such as wood, will gain in popularity. More attention will also be paid to fresh air in offices. The challenge here is to do this with as little energy as possible. But there is no ready-made solution yet, especially since most large office buildings have hermetically sealed windows. "The real estate market must feverishly look for a sustainable solution to this problem," says Marta Schanz, vice president of the Greenprint Center for Building Performance, an American institute that studies sustainable building techniques.