As the benefits of bringing nature into the built environment becomes increasingly well documented, Janet Lowe, Head of Marketing UK and Ireland at Forbo Flooring Systems, discusses the soaring trend of biophilic design in the workplace and how the latest innovations in flooring can help to create spaces that reconnect employees with the great outdoors.
The term ‘biophilia’ refers to the ‘love of life and living systems’ and dates back to the early 1980s, when biologist, Edward O. Wilson, suggested that humans have an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. With rising rates of urbanisation, we are becoming increasingly disconnected with the outside world, but by incorporating elements and influences of nature into the places where we live and work, this can help end-users to re-establish their connection to the outdoors. Biophilic design has been a central force in the UK office sector over the past few years – and this trend is only set to continue.
On average, it is reported that we spend around 90% of our time indoors, where eight hours per day are typically spent at work. Association with the outdoors is therefore key for a well-designed office space, as studies have shown that connecting humans with nature can have a significant impact on wellbeing. Indeed, the notion is that biophilic design in the workplace can relieve stress, blood pressure and heart rates whilst boosting productivity and reducing absenteeism . Therefore, to this end, blurring the lines between the outside and inside can contribute to creating positive and healthier indoor environments.
However, when it comes to incorporating natural elements into office interiors, there is a common misconception that this just means adding lots of plants and shrubbery into the workplace. While this is perhaps the most simple and obvious solution, biophilic design is in fact, far more complex than that. Integrating indirect elements such as materials, textures, patterns, shapes and colours that mimic nature can also contribute to bringing the outside in, whether that is in the form of textiles, artwork, furniture or starting from the ground up, with the flooring.
The floor is typically one of the largest surface area inside an office building, and it is the surface with which employees will encounter constant contact. Therefore the choice of floor coverings can have a huge impact on how the office makes people feel. From vinyl to linoleum, carpet tiles to flocked flooring, flooring manufacturers are developing effective solutions that have been inspired by the natural environment to aid with biophilic design and reconnecting end-users with nature.
Whilst a real wooden, stone or ceramic floor certainly brings a natural beauty and timeless appeal to office interiors, a hard floor may not always be a practical or cost-effective option, depending on the desired application and use. Loose lay and adhesive free luxury vinyl tiles (LVT), which are installed without the need for a permanent or any adhesive, provide a perfect alternative, offering convincing, authentic visuals and excellent functional performance for busy office spaces.
Thanks to technological advancements and product innovation invested by vinyl manufacturers, the latest collections in LVT comprise more colours and design choice than ever before. Choose beautiful, realistic wood and stone effects, which feature a natural colour variation and in-register embossing structures to emphasise the texture of the planks for a truly authentic aesthetic, as this will help to effortlessly evoke the beauty of the natural world.
For areas that require a warmer, more tactile solution, the unique construction of flocked floor covering offers a desirable solution for where both style and performance are key. Due to the continuing strong demand for wood aesthetics, there are now a wide range of highly realistic wood-effects available that have been carefully crafted using digital printing technology.
From traditional timber to more contemporary shades, along with new plank structures, there is bound to be a natural colourway that will complement any overall office interior design. Be sure to look for products that benefit from the Allergy UK ‘Seal of Approval’, too.
Finally, carpet tiles are often the go-to solution for office spaces and there are some beautiful solutions in the market that have been inspired by the natural environment, yet still offer high levels of acoustics and comfort.
There are new designs that represent the patterns, textures and colours found upon the canvas of the earth, with colourways comprising a mix of complementing shades to create a varying and seemingly infinite surface design. A heavily textured composition, combined with a natural organic design, creates a warm and inviting surface that will seamlessly complement the biophilic trend.
Biophilia in office design is continuing to rise - and for good reason - but this doesn’t mean that facility managers need to turn workplaces into a greenhouse. With the latest technological advances in manufacturing, which reflect the most current trends, incorporating indirect elements of nature, such as floor coverings that are inspired by the natural environment, can contribute to creating inspirational interiors that re-connects employees with nature, naturally.