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Workplace Insight

Design Crush of the Week: Mother Nature

In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, we've gathered a few insights on nature-based design to share how it can help achieve the ultimate sustainable workplace.

April 21, 2017
Corporate Sustainability Efforts and Waste Elimination

Earth is an amazing place filled with so many different landscapes. Using the different scenes of our planet as design inspiration can have exponential benefits to our health and well-being, especially in the workplace.

According to a case study by Herman Miller, "Nature-Based Design: The New Green," combining LEED metrics with essential biophilic elements is arguably the best way to achieving a lasting, sustainable environment. Adding in nature-inspired elements can can increase the energy of your workers, while reducing the energy costs of your space.

Betty Hase is the Advanced Knowledge and Applications Lead at Herman Miller. A long-time proponent of “biophilic” design—creating built environments that “incorporate ideas of habitat selection, environmental preferences, and the psychological and emotional ties between people and places”—Hase believes we’re on the verge of being able to build a strong economic and environmental case for nature-based design. According to her, mimicking within built environments the features of the natural habitat humans prefer is a logical next step for the green design movement.

Related to this idea is the theory that because we evolved on the African savanna, that landscape remains the preferred natural habitat of human beings, regardless of culture or country. Though most of us now spend our days living and working in man-made environments, we still seek key features of our ancestral landscape that aided survival and enhanced our well-being.

Neocon Gallery Main 2
Mute tones and rustic textures with pops of greenery mimic the scenery of an African desert - the most preferred landscape according to Hase.

Stress-Reducing Design

Research increasingly shows that nature-based design has the potential to reduce stress in all kinds of built environments. Findings have developed recommendations for creating healthful places:

  • cultivate grounds for viewing
  • maintain healing gardens
  • light rooms with bright natural light
  • provide a clear view of nature outside
  • display nature photography and realistic nature

Where to Start

Hase suggests using textures and patterns that echo those found in nature. Incorporating textiles, architectural elements or furniture detailing the “difference within likeness” quality of nature can be simultaneously stimulating and restful.

Soludos Office by Office Environments
For a brand marketed to beach-goers with Mediterranean heritage, Soludos' blended the two landscapes with rich textiles and bright colors. (Photo by Julia Robbs; Office Lovin)

Related: See more of Soludos' beach-inspired office design

Hase also points out that, in nature, most animals don’t spend all their waking hours in one spot, but roam their habitats to select different settings for different activities. “As it happens, human work is becoming more activity based these days,” she says.

“When you come into work, you’re not always going to one spot to do everything you need to do. When you go into your workplace, you’re going to look around and see what spot is available that gives you the best conditions to get that work done. It might be a coffee bar or a project room or a place where you can plug your tablet into a big screen to share some graphic content with a group of coworkers. But you need to have choices, just like in nature.”

Etsy Brooklyn Office Design by Office Environments
Etsy wanted to incorporate a “Green Embrace,” the idea of bringing the outside in, of nature permeating and reclaiming the building of their new Brooklyn headquarters. They also gave their employees multiple spaces to work throughout the day. (Photo by Garrett Rowland, Office Lovin)

Related: Explore Herman Miller's Living Office

Every year new discoveries in the fields of neuroscience and endocrinology add to our knowledge of the role nature plays in human physiology and well-being. Betty Hase points out, with a little awareness of who we are and where we came from, designing with nature in mind can be instinctive. “To make a space that people will want to be in, create an environment that has elements of the natural preferred habitat. Make a workplace where people feel as calm and engaged as they do walking down a lovely nature trail, and you’ll get improved health, morale, performance.”

For more on this topic, read the full case study "Nature-Based Design: The New Green" from Herman Miller or contact our team to see how we can provide sustainable, nature-inspired design options for your space.