Rising relevance of Biophilic workplaces in India
Can biophilic design help in increasing occupants’ well-being in workplaces?
The concept of Biophilia conveys human beings have an inherent connection with nature due to their dependence on it for survival. Biophilic design is a concept that incorporates natural elements like vegetation, water, natural light, and ventilation into the built environment to increase occupants’ connectivity with nature. This can be achieved by harnessing direct or indirect experiences of nature. Direct experience of nature refers to tangible contact with natural features. In contrast, the representations of nature, like images, natural materials, colours, shapes and geometries, can create an indirect experience.
Figure 1: Pros and cons of biophilic design
Source: JLL Research, 4Q22
In the post-pandemic workplace, well-being and employee retention have become increasingly important for companies. Presently, the level of social contact between employees has reduced compared to the pre-pandemic period which can lead to reduced feelings of collaboration and increased anxiety. However, being surrounded by biophilic elements can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and steady the heart rate, with tangible results on an employee’s performance and daily functioning. Integration of biophilia with workspaces will have various benefits on health, well-being and environment which will in turn reduce the costs.
Biophilia and WELL Building Standard
Recently, the focus has shifted to a more holistic interpretation of sustainability that emphasizes how indoor spaces support an occupant’s well-being. The WELL Building Standard puts health and wellness at the centre of design and construction decisions, using biophilic design as a qualitative and quantitative metric.
Figure 2: Biophilia and WELL building standard
Source: JLL Research, 4Q22
Listed below are a few office projects in India that have incorporated biophilic principles in their design.
1. Gera Commerzone, Pune
Gera Commerzone is a leading office park in eastern Pune with a total development size of 4.2 million square feet, out of which 1.8 million square feet is completed. The campus is a new-age workspace designed for a millennial workforce. Some of the key elements used in the campus design are integrating recreational spaces with workspaces, reconnecting the millennial workforce with nature, environmental sensitivity and segregating vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The landscaped areas within the campus are designed using biophilia, including elements like vegetation, shallow streams and sand beds.
2. Bio Wonder, Kolkata
Bio Wonder is the first biophilic corporate park in East India, having a total area of about 0.24 million square feet. Architectural ‘offsets’ are provided in the structure, allowing each office within the podium building to have a terrace for tree plantation. The offsets also create shadow zones, cutting off scorching heat while facilitating rainwater harvesting and renewable energy production. The landscaping of the terraces in the building includes Xeriscaping, i.e., using drought-resistant plants to conserve resources and maintain economic efficiency.
Biophilic design is at a very nascent stage in India, where its long-term challenges are yet to be explored. Concerns like high installation and maintenance costs might limit developers’ ability to implement it at a larger level in indoor spaces. However, after weighing its benefits against the challenges, implementing biophilic design might have a long-lasting positive impact on the environment as well as occupants’ well-being in workplaces.