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Modern workplaces and modern society as a whole can be best described as ‘stressful’. Long working hours, 24×7 connected lifestyle, heavy workload, tight deadline, busy city living, all contribute to an enormous amount of stress. The solution? Connecting with nature. Studies have shown that daily contact with outdoor natural elements, settings, and processes is essential to living happy and meaningful lives. In fact, natural environments consisting of plants increase psychological well-being and other restorative benefits. To seek relief from stressful environments and to establish daily contact with nature, an increasing number of businesses are turning to biophilic designs to create indoor environments that reference nature in multiple ways. And the easiest way to start is by introducing plants in their design scheme. 

Role of Plants in Biophilic Design

The biophilic design framework stresses direct experience of nature in indoor environments referring to actual contact with environmental features. Greenery is one of the most successful strategies for introducing direct experience of nature in interior spaces. Plants, as an integral part of interior design, have shown to reduce stress, contribute to physical health, improve comfort, and enhance performance and productivity at the workplace. Biophilic principles also dictate that in constructed landscapes, vegetation should be abundant, ecologically connected and if possible, should feature local rather than exotic species.

What Plants to Use in Biophilic Design?

Plant life in the form of potted plants, flowerbeds, butterfly gardens, courtyard gardens, green walls, and vegetated roofs is known to establish a meaningful and direct connection. However, there are some specific types of plants and flowers that are known for their calm-inducing qualities and are ideal to have around. Lavender with its calming fragrance and beautiful lilac hue is known to be extremely relaxing whereas Peppermint has been found to lower frustration and aid in alertness. Bright beautiful flowers help in creating a happy environment by brightening the room, whereas living integrated green walls offer a bit of an escape and stress relief in indoor environments full of glass, wood, and concrete. No matter what greenery you include in your space, the visual presence of plants is directly connected to have a positive effect on well-being and health. 

Biological Response to Plants in Biophilic Design

According to studies conducted by Brown, Barton & Gladwell, 2013, van den Berg, Hartig & Staats, 2007 and Tsunetsugu & Miyazaki, 2005, stress recovery from visual connection with plants has been realized through lowered blood pressure and heart rate, reduced attentional fatigue, sadness, anger and aggression, improved mental engagement and overall happiness. A 2019 study in Denmark found that children who had been exposed to more greenery had 55% less mental health problems later in life as compared to children who weren’t exposed to nature. 

Biophilic design patterns are flexible and can be implemented under a range of circumstances to suit the user experience. Hence, if there are logistical constraints or regulatory factors and other circumstances preventing a project from creating a full-fledged indoor ecological environment, then you can employ parts of design applications as well. Having fewer plants indoors has also delivered promising results. A new Japanese study has concluded that plants in office spaces contribute to improving the mental health of employees at work. The study conducted by researchers Masahiro Toyoda, Yuko Yokota, Marni Barnes, and Midori Kaneko showed that people who kept a small plant on their desk had lower levels of stress and anxiety at the end of a four-week period.

Plants are a big piece of the biophilia puzzle and are essential to creating a vibrant, sustainable, and restorative indoor environment. They grab the attention in any space and make the overall design more stimulating and calming. Intimate, daily, and prolonged contact with plant life nourishes us. And this is the most obvious meaning of biophilia. Having plants around in the workspace reduces stress, fosters a refreshing feeling, and makes the entire setting feel more alive, active, invigorating, and comfortable.