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Economic Benefits of Biophilic Spaces

Nearly 90% of an average company’s operating costs are its people. 

Especially when you consider salaries, perks, benefits, holidays, and more.

Now, what happens when these people aren’t able to work at their best? Or when they’re chronically stressed?

According to Gallup, unhappy, disengaged employees cost the US $450 to $550 billion per year!

What happens when they call in sick regularly?

According to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) poor worker health is 25-35% of their salaries down the drain!

What happens when an employee leaves due to dissatisfaction or boredom?

SHRM says that’s another 6-9 months of the employee’s salary wasted in recruitment and re-training.

The list could go on…

But how is this connected to biophilic design?

Ever heard of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)? Or a category called Building Related Illness (BRI)?

Probably not. 

These conditions aren’t often talked about. 

The sick building syndrome is a situation in which building occupants experience various damaging physical and emotional symptoms, due to the long hours spent in a certain building.

It is one of the leading causes of poor employee health, increased sick leaves, and lower productivity levels.

biophilic interior

This is where biophilic design can come to your rescue.

Research by sustainability consulting firm Terrapin Bright Green shows how. Their in-depth study found that biophilic design can make a huge impact on the bottom line of a company.

But let’s see how that works in different industries.

Economic benefits of biophilic spaces in offices

A 2015 paper, The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, concluded that:

Employees who work in offices that have more natural elements, like plants, water features, and sunlight:

  • report a 15% higher level of well-being
  • are 6% more productive 
  • are 15% more creative

That means reduced absenteeism, increased employee engagement, and better work output. All of which points to the same thing: higher profit margins.

So a one-time investment in good biophilic interior design at the workspace can save you wasted dollars for years to come.

biophilic office spaces

And before you start worrying about high maintenance costs, we’ve got a myth to bust for you… Biophilia doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated to maintain when done the smart way.

Think artificial plants and simplified design choices for a virtually maintenance-free workspace. 

  • Use artificial banana trees, acacia bonsai, or black olive trees in common areas. 
  • Use artificial boxwood hedges for partitions, green walls for a feature element. 
  • Bring in faux pothos, mönsterås, ferns, and dracaenas in the desk spaces and meeting rooms.
  • Energize crucial spaces with the sound of running water, with a simple tabletop water feature.
  • And finally, add skylights and open up your windows to maximize natural lighting. (This will reduce your energy consumption too!)
green walls - biophilic design office space

Pro tip: Modify your furniture placement to maximize outdoor views for every employee. This has been proven to improve efficiency further and reduce stress levels.

Economic benefits of biophilic design in retail

Ever seen someone leisurely walking and taking in the sights on a closed-off, narrow street, with dull street lights, gray walls on both sides, and no windows?

It’s because humans don’t feel comfortable walking on streets or in spaces like that.

In fact, according to research, even neat, well-lit business districts don’t fare too well for retailers.

On the other hand, bring in some natural daylight, large trees, lush plants and you’ve got the perfect retail set up to lure in customers and boost revenue.

Green “park-like” ambiance encourages visitors to linger, take their time while shopping. It also increases the perceived value of the retail space, and of the products being sold.

In fact, here’s some mind-blowing evidence discovered by scientific studies to back this up. 

  • When non-skylit stores installed skylights to bring in direct sunlight, they experienced a 40% increase in gross sales. 
  • Shoppers were willing to pay 25% higher for the same product (like a jacket or a watch), when in a greener mall or retail setting. 

So bring in the biophilia. 

  • Add strategic skylights near your prime displays, to catch people’s attention “naturally” and boost sales.
  • Lure in customers with a relaxed Mediterranean-vacation vibe, with faux lemon trees or olive trees outside your storefront. 
  • Or break the monotony with strategic fiddle leaf figs or faux ferns between displays.
  • When there are open plazas, liven them up with large shady trees.

Economic benefits of biophilic design in schools and colleges

In educational institutions, biophilic design is usually seen as just a way to cut energy costs. But it can do so much more.

  • A study estimated that adding biophilic elements to schools and classrooms can increase test scores by 5-18%!
  • In fact, children were able to progress through the curriculum 20-26% faster when studying in environments with higher natural lighting.
  • There was even reduced absenteeism noted in NYC school students after daylighting was introduced.
  • Plus there are all the psychological benefits of daily exposure to nature. Think lower stress, better social skills, and higher success rates in students.

All these together mean a better district, national ranking to make you a more sought-after school. And obviously an increased potential for higher revenue for the institution.

Now adding biophilia doesn’t mean an entire refurbishment operation. 

Small changes can make a big difference in educational institutions. 

  • Try moving flexible lessons outdoors, to be taught through experimentation.
  • Realign the classroom and library furniture layouts to maximize sunlight for students. 
  • Bring in faux plants for the indoor spaces, to avoid high maintenance efforts later. 
  • Use large, bushy trees like faux bamboo trees, mountain birches, or fake orange trees to spruce up common areas. 
  • Add a touch of green to indoor play areas, classrooms, and staff rooms with smaller potted plants or hanging plants. 

Use these strategies as your starting point to incorporate biophilia into your business. Then let your creativity and case studies inspire you to go further. 

You won’t have to wait long to start seeing the economic impact of biophilic design in your quarterly budget reports.