We all go to school to learn enlightenment—but in a school designed with bibliographic principles and natural elements, light aids enlightenment.

When US building energy efficiency consultancy Heschong Mahone Group conducted a study involving 21,000 students in three counties in separate states and compared those in classrooms illuminated by differing levels of daylight.

Students whose class windows allowed more luminosity scored up to 25 percent higher on standard tests, completed three-and-a-half days more of school annually and attained improved grades of five to fourteen percent.

Furthermore, pupils in academic environments with natural qualities may be better healthwise.

In Austria, a Johanneum Research study struck a comparison between the health of pupils in two classrooms manufactured from solid wood with those in two other classrooms built from standard material over a single year, with the use of heart rate monitors. The solid wood classrooms were discovered to lower heart rates by an average of 8,600 heartbeats daily.

Drawing upon examples such as these, Oliver Heath, Managing Director of Oliver Health Design and a leader in the field of sustainable architecture in the UK, proclaims the value that biophilic design can add to the quality of building projects.

In a webinar coordinated by international modular flooring and carpet tiling/resilient flooring firm Interface, Heath discussed the advantages of biophilic design, the varying patterns used in biophilic design, and biophilic strategies that can be adapted for different budgets.

Biophilic design aims to enhance the health, well-being and experiences of residents of buildings by devising a connection to nature.

Common biophilic features include nature views from or inside buildings; natural sounds and decorative touches (flowing waters, softly textured materials, etc.); the installation of water or direct sunlight; and the presence of natural colours, biomorphic shapes and nature-inspired patterns.

Heath says that benefits can be revealed throughout multiple building types.

In offices, the Human Services Report–released by Interface in 2017–surveyed 7,600 employees in sixteen countries. The report discovered that workers who labour in spaces accented by sunlight and greenery revealed 15 percent higher rates of well-being, six percent higher levels of productivity and 15 percent higher levels of creative output.

  • A Heschong Mahone Group study discovered that workers with the best window views performed ten to twenty five percent better in exams regarding mental function and memory recall.
  • In Australia, a study involving more than 1,000 office employees published in 2018 by Forest and Wood Products Australia discovered that 82 percent of those who could view eight or more wooden surfaces from the vantage point of their desk were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their work. This is in comparison with only 53 percent for those who could not see timber or wood. That study also revealed that those working in nature-inspired workplaces were more satisfied with their work environment, happier about the future, more confident, not as stressed, and were better able to concentrate and had higher productivity (These results were modified to delete discrepancies prompted by those working in more sizable companies in more authoritative roles).
  • In the hospitality field, an assessment of hotel rooms promoted on Hotels.com conducted by Interface along with Terrapin and Gensler discovered that those with water and nature views draw an 18 percent price premium in comparison with rooms lacking this view. The survey also discovered that 36 percent more hotel guests spent more time hanging out in lobbies which boasted biophilic elements. And their reviews frequently made mention of the nation-inspired design and décor of biophilic hotels.
  • In the medical field, a Chalmers University of Technology study printed in 1984 analysed recovery records of 46 patients in the wake of cholecystectomy in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital from 1972 to 1981 – 23 of whom witnessed an office view of trees and grass, while the other 23 percent viewed only a brick wall. Those possessing the natural view faced more abbreviated post-operative stays, got fewer concerned comments in nurses’ notes and ingested fewer potent analgesics.

Heath states that the presence of natural elements reassures building occupants—the presence of plants and greenery creating a picture of good, sustainable health.

Building designers, said Heath, can present the facts inherent within these reports to clients—thus building a business case that goes far beyond business, to impact the life and health of people and their planet.