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Biophilic Healthcare design blog July

So what is Biophilic Healthcare Design and do you need it?

It’s a fancy name and a little hard to say, but biophilic design is popping up everywhere! Healthcare and medical interior design company Evoke Projects examines this popular design strategy.

What is biophilic design?

We know that nature sustains and supports our well-being, which leads to better physical and mental health. The term biophilia was popularised by Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s; it means “love of living things”. The increasing recognition that our health and well-being are connected to our environment saw biophilic design applied to workplace strategy with great success.

Some aspects of biophilic design appeal to the emotions (e.g. we associate nature with relaxation), while others are grounded in physical health (e.g. fresh air).

What benefits have medical and healthcare practices seen from biophilia?

Looking at medical and healthcare practice design, a study showed that biophilic elements resulted in patient’s post-operative rates of recovery reducing by 8.5%, while pain medication was reduced by 22%.1

Other interesting results from the same study:

  • Within office environments, productivity can be increased by 8% and rates of well-being increased by 13% through exposure to natural elements. Healthcare practices have offices as well as clinical areas and waiting rooms, so these results are worth noting.
  • Within the retail sector, the presence of vegetation and landscaping has been found to increase average rental rates on retail spaces with customers indicating they were willing to pay 8-12% more for goods and services. Healthcare practices often have retail areas such as pharmacy or café facilities where biophilic design can encourage patients to spend more time and money.
    Other workplace design studies have also shown reduced absenteeism and better staff attraction and retention.

Ten ways to implement biophilic design in your medical or healthcare practice

  1. If you have an outside area, consider a communal herb garden for staff.
  2. Improve air quality with an air filtration system, opening windows and natural plants. One plant for every ten metres is a good guide. Spider plants are low maintenance and look fantastic in pots or hanging baskets. Peace lilies are another easy interior plant.
  3. Natural plants do more than absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They evoke an emotional response because we associate them with being outside and enjoying leisure time. They are also visually appealing, which will be welcome in a healthcare setting.
  4. If your staff listen to music or you play music in the waiting room, natural sounds such as a babbling brook, bird song or raindrops promote a connection with nature.
  5. Artwork with pictures of animals, coastal scenery and rainforests are biophilic and can be very evocative.
  6. Increase the opportunity for views and natural daylight exposure in your next healthcare or medical fit-out. Window blinds offer the flexibility to have light without glare at different times of day.
  7. Natural textures make such a difference to healthcare interior design. If the budget is tight, consider wood-effect flooring and faux stone tiles.
  8. Elements that remind people of nature, such as natural patterns and shapes, are biophilic. You could include a leaf pattern or cloud shapes in your wall coverings.
  9. Nature-resembling colours such as green, blue and brown can positively impact patient and staff well-being. A study showed that 67% of respondents felt happy when walking into bright interiors, while calming colours are better for quiet or social areas.2
  10. Recuperation and relaxation make us feel close to nature. Provide breakout spaces within the healthcare interior design so that clinicians can have some downtime during the work day.

However you approach biophilic healthcare design, try to do it in an authentic way. A few pot plants do not equal biophilic architecture. Focus on improving the connection between people and nature in the healthcare design through a holistic approach to biophilia. Patients and staff will thank you!

Evoke Projects can help you plan your next medical fit-out or refurbishment with biophilic design elements to improve well-being. Please call our healthcare design team on 1300 720 692.

1. https://makeitwood.org/documents/doc-1624-pollinate-health-report—february-2018.pdf
2. https://www.buildings.com/news/industry-news/articleid/21800/title/biophilia-study-employee-health-wellness

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