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Budgeting Biophilia in Offices

Biophilic Design Makes Economic Sense

A common question asked by clients is what it will cost to incorporate biophilia in their office. Biophilic design can be considered a similar concept to that of incorporating solar panels onto a roof to harness energy, upgrading an HVAC system to improve performance and efficiency, as well as switching to low voltage incandescent light fixtures to save on energy bills. The up-front capital cost provides for the subsequent economic savings and benefits for the office as well as for the personnel. 

In terms of biophilic design, the upfront capital cost allows for subsequent enhanced wellbeing, which provides positive financial impacts for businesses. Terrapin Bright Green consolidated a body of research studies in their publication, ‘The Economics of Biophilia,’ demonstrating proven economic enhancements to productivity, attention, happiness, and health. In work environments that incorporate biophilic design attributes, there are reduced illnesses and absenteeism, improvement in staff retention and even faster healing rates. Furthermore, in many cases, up to 90% of an organization’s operating costs can be associated with salaries, employee benefits, and absenteeism. 

Our friends at Interface highlighted how investing in biophilia makes economic sense by using a business example that consider how investing in biophilia can potentially save an organization money: 

Example Scenario

$4,583,232 = Total Annual Expenses

$3,190,225 = Annual Staff Costs

“Employee salaries, benefits, and absenteeism (as measured in sick leave) add up to 60% of the organization’s annual expenses. In this scenario, if biophilic interventions in the built environment enhance just 3%*** of people costs for the organization, it could result in $95,706.75 in annual savings. From this process, we can understand the potential impacts biophilic design can have on us as individuals and within organizations”. – Bonnie Casamassima

Considering economic benefits and opportunities to decrease cost, we can budget for biophilia by understanding the long-term financial impacts to employees and staff. By investing up-front, the investment will pay off through productivity improvements, better focus of employees, enhanced well-being, and less absenteeism. Based on office size, companies can incorporate biophilia that considers their employee improvement and economic goals. 

Under $20,000

Biophilia can be integrated on a budget by applying plants to the interior landscape. This can be done with new and existing offices that seek to add a sense of nature into the interior space. Opportunities include wall coverings, plants, green walls, and updates to the color scheme to have natural tones.

Under $20,000 – $200,000

For medium-scale modifications, opportunities include minor spatial changes that incorporate biophilic design elements, large scale green walls, indoor trees, and a thoughtful planting design integration beyond strategically located potted plants. Biophilia can be integrated into existing furniture as well as used in conjunction with new furniture that have carefully designed biophilic integrations.

Over $200,000

For project budgets over $200,000, many opportunities exist. Such opportunities include architectural design/redesign of the building’s footprint, comprehensive spatial design that emphasizes the user experience and incorporating biophilic design components that include plants, natural materials, and imagery of patterns found in nature. 

Biophilically-designed furniture and fixtures allow for a holistic, nature-inspired experience for the office place.

Where Biophilia can be in the workplace

Within an office, there are several areas where biophilia can be applied. These areas include:

  • Lobbies
  • Collaboration areas
  • Individual work areas
  • Corridors and thresholds
  • Wall, ceiling, and floor surfaces
  • Eating areas

Each of these zones can incorporate elements of nature through added plants, biomorphic forms, natural materials, sunlight, water, fractal patterns, and views of landscapes. To learn more about incorporating biophilia into areas of the workplace, download our in-depth whitepaper.