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Can plants reduce absenteeism in the workplace?


Having a healthy pool of employees is critical to any well-run business and absence through illness can be costly. Whilst there is an endless list of factors that will determine the health of an employee, there is mounting evidence to show that plants can play a key role in reducing absenteeism in the workplace. 

Air quality and respiratory illnesses 

The Office for National Statistics found that minor illnesses, which excludes Coronavirus, accounted for over a quarter of all employee absences in 2020. These minor illnesses include coughs, cold and flu which are often caused by VOCs found in busy indoor spaces which hold a lot of recycled air.  

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are harmful gasses that are emitted from everyday materials typically found indoors such as paints, disinfectants, air fresheners, and common office appliances like photocopiers and printers. Short term exposure to VOCs can cause eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, vomiting and dizziness – with long term exposure potentially having more severe consequences such as liver or kidney damage and even cancer.  

 

“The average adult, when resting, inhales and exhales about 13kg of air per day. This compares with around 2kg of food and 3kg of fluids we consume yet health advice on breathing is dwarfed by the volume of guidance on what we should eat and drink.” BESA (Building Engineering Services Association)  

 

With 82.9% of Brits now living in urban areas and spending an average of 90% of time indoors we are more susceptible to these types of illnesses than ever before. 

To minimise the occurrence of these illnesses within an office, plants can be used to help remove VOCs from the air whilst simultaneously making an office more aesthetically pleasing. Their effectiveness in purifying the air has been backed by various studies, most famously by NASA’s Clean Air Study.  

NASA scientists placed plants in chambers and pumped in harmful chemicals like ammonia, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene, trichloroethylene, and benzene. After 24 hours they tested the air quality in each chamber and concluded that some plants were able to remove up to 90% of the harmful chemicals.  

 

“If man is to move into closed environments, on Earth or in space, he must take along nature’s life support system. Plants.”  Dr. Wolverton, principle investigator of NASA’s Clean Air Study 

 

These findings were supported by further research carried out by the Agricultural University of Oslo, who conducted a study across 51 offices and reported a reduction in fatigue, headaches, sore/dry throats, coughs, asthma and dry facial skin in offices with sufficient greenery.  

Mental wellbeing 

Beyond improving indoor air quality and reducing respiratory illnesses, plants have also been proven to positive impact on our mental wellbeing which can help to reduce absenteeism.  

The University of Technology in Sydney conducted a study that found plants in the workplace were crucial for reducing stress and other issues including: 
– 58% decrease in depression/dejection 
– 44% reduction in anger/hostility 
– 38% fall in fatigue 
– 37% fall in tension and anxiety 

This comes as no surprise as we have an in-built affinity with nature, and green spaces communicate to workers that their employers care about them and their welfare. 

The importance of maintenance 

When using plants with the intention of improving air quality, boosting wellbeing and ultimately reducing absenteeism; it is crucial to ensure they are well maintained, as a dying plant can have the opposite effect.  

Providing they are healthy and well maintained, all plants will purify the air to some extent. They do this by taking harmful gasses out of the atmosphere and sequestering them in their roots and cells. Some of these chemicals are broken down by fungi in the soil and others are stored in the plant. Plants with a larger leaf surface will generally do a better job of eliminating harmful gasses from the air than those with small leaves, and the volume of plants used will make a difference.  

We can assist with providing creative solutions to maximise the potential of your space, as well as a full maintenance service that ensures our plants stay vibrant all year round.  

 

Additional measures

Plants are just one method of reducing absenteeism in the workplace alone and there are various further measures that can be taken alongside introducing more greenery into a workspace: 

  • Ensuring good standards of ventilation 
  • Reducing sources of pollution and using an indoor air quality (IAQ) monitor 
  • Maintaining safe working conditions and equipment 
  • Regularly reviewing processes 
  • Providing access to exercise facilities/cycle to work schemes  
  • Promoting a healthy lifestyle outside of work   

 Further studies

Although these studies have overwhelmingly shown that nature can improve workplace absenteeism, there is still a lack of research which quantifies the monetary value of having plants in a workplace.  

At the time of writing, we are due to begin collaboration on a landmark research study: The Value of Biophilic Design 

During an in-house pilot study, 6 participants will carry out their daily work at a designated workstation in a 30m2 office space at London based PLP Architecture. Over the course of 8-weeks the environment inside the office will be changed from an average office space into a multi-sensory experience by providing rich, natural stimuli to the participants such as lush, green, living planting provided by Benholm Group, as well as access to natural light and outside views, new natural décor, patterns and colours, plus sounds from nature – a scenario that will be an immersive, biophilic ‘wow’ space. 

 

To add an extra layer of protection to your workspace get in touch to obtain a free quotation, call us today on 01324 861300   

 

 

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Interview with James Martin – Tsunami Axis

In this exclusive interview we talk with James Martin, Head of A&D of global Commercial Workplace Consultants Tsunami Axis, with whom Benholm Group have collaborated with by providing bespoke planting solutions for multiple projects including their new Glasgow & Edinburgh showrooms. We find out what its like to work with Benholm on a new project, the importance of including plants in the workplace as part of biophilic design and how Tsunami Axis are choosing to lead the way with planting solutions in the workplace.

 

How did your partnership with Benholm Group begin?

We initially brought Benholm in on a commercial project for Royal London’s Wilmslow office. We were really impressed with how forward thinking Benholm were, they took our ideas to the next level and pushed our vision, thriving on the challenges we posed.

 

 

How do you find the design process with Benholm?

Benholm are easy to work with. They listen and collaborate rather than telling you what you need and are flexible – no matter how blue-sky our ideas they have always found a viable solution. The thrive on a challenge rather than shy away from it, and produce high quality, versatile planting designs.

Benholm are also able to appreciate the different architectural features of each of our buildings and offer planting solutions to enhance them. For example, our previous Edinburgh showroom was on the ground floor so Benholm created a large, branded, Nordik Moss wall that can also be seen at street level – we often got passers-by commenting on it and stopping by out of intrigue.

At our new Glasgow showroom, there are some light limitations and security shutters that need to be closed daily, and Benholm were able to rise to the challenge and install a variety of greenery including a statement living wall, planted using their own peat-free Enviroculture system, with special irrigation and integrated UV lighting to keep the plants vibrant and healthy in their environment. It really looks stunning, adds warmth, lifts the space and importantly, is a sustainable solution. We can’t wait until visitors can come inside, discuss new projects and be inspired by this fantastic space.



 

How did Benholm understand and create a brand identity for Tsunami Axis across your global offices and showrooms?

All our briefs are so different; our Glasgow showroom is quite contemporary, our Edinburgh showroom was more of a de-furbished theme, and Benholm have managed to create a statement piece in each building.

Each area that features planting has been noticeably elevated to promote the areas function and purpose. This was achieved with both real and artificial planting solutions based on the natural light available across the foot plate.


How important is it to include planting in the workplace?

Planting has such a positive impact on a workplace. Many clients are now driving wellness in the office environment and want to include planting to improve air quality and humidity. Benholm are able to advise us and to specify plants that will thrive in any indoor space. 

Your team took part in one of our CPD training days – what was this like?

Excellent. Benholm came and presented to us in 2018, talking about the positivity of plants. As a direct result of this presentation, we actually stripped all existing planting out of our office and employed Benholm to totally replace the planting.

 

 

 

How are Benholm supporting you on an ongoing basis?

Benholm offer us fantastic support – especially during the pandemic when our showrooms were closed; their maintenance technicians accessed our offices to keep the plants alive and fresh. They are always on time, well presented, smiling and professional – just really nice people with a 5-star service.

What is the response like from colleagues and visitors to the planting in your showrooms?

It’s been very positive. Herman Miller in particular were really impressed with their logo made from Nordik Moss – they really enjoy seeing their brand represented in an innovative way and this was something totally new for them.

 

 

Learn more about Biophilic Design: benholm.com/biophilic-design

Learn more about Tsunami Axis: tsunami-axis.com

 

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Research study ‘The Value of Biophilic Design’

We are delighted to share with you details of our upcoming collaboration on a pioneering 8-week research study to understand the value of biophilic design. 

Biophilic Design – the use of plants in providing cleaner air and connecting us with nature, coupled with natural light, certain colours, acoustics, and fragrances – has long been proven to have a positive effect on both mental and physical well-being. For over 25 years, we at Benholm Group have pioneered the use of plants for interiors, not only as an eye-catching focal point, but also to promote the natural health benefits that being surrounded by plants can bring. 

This concept has now been brought to the forefront of a new research study led by Sustainability Lead + PhD Researcher, Joyce Chan-Schoof to question if we can apply a social and economic value to biophilic design; Can biophilic design add value to the workplace – not only through improving air quality and aesthetics, but can it have a tangible impact on employee productivity, retention, absenteeism, satisfaction, engagements and up-skilling?  

During an in-house pilot study, 6 participants will carry out their daily work at a designated workstation in a 30m2 office space at London based PLP Architecture. Over the course of 8-weeks the environment inside the office will be changed from an average office space into a multi-sensory experience by providing rich, natural stimuli to the participants such as lush, green, living planting (all provided and maintained) by Benholm Group, as well as access to natural light and outside views, new natural décor, patterns and colours, plus sounds from nature – a scenario that will be an immersive, biophilic ‘wow’ space. 

Our experienced design consultants will bring the office space to life with lush greenery, ensure that all plant species thrive in the climactic conditions of the room, and contribute to creating a healthy and relaxing environment for the participants. We have carefully selected a variety of living plants for the study including trailing plants, floor standing and desk-top planters and a living wall. Plus, our specialist maintenance technicians will be maintaining all greenery throughout the study to ensure they remain vibrant and healthy.

Fellow collaborators are Sustainability Lead + PhD Researcher, Joyce Chan-Schoof, PLP Architecture and their in-house research and development team PLP Labs, Biophilic Design Consultant Alexander Bond, and lecturer, author and expert in multisensory design, Professor Derek Clements-Croome. Together we will measure indoor environmental quality objective data throughout the testing period, and participants will complete questionnaires after each scenario change.

Our very own Adrian Byne, who has had the pleasure of working closely on the upcoming study, says:

“At Benholm Group we have long understood the value that plants can bring to every space. To have the opportunity to collaborate on a research study which will prove the social, economic and environmental benefits of biophilia for the built environment is a fantastic opportunity, and we look forward to seeing the results in a few weeks’ time”.

The research study is set to begin in May and will conclude in July 2022, after which time the findings will be launched during a special event and publication that we can’t wait to share with you all.

Why not get in touch and find out how Benholm Group can incorporate our vibrant variety of plants into your interior space – from offices to restaurants to luxury hotel rooms, being surrounded by plants will delight and revitalise. Be sure to keep updated on our social channels and sign up to our monthly newsletter filled with inspiration, tips and upcoming trends. If you have an idea brewing, we’re ready to bring it to life.

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Joyce Chan-Schoof, Sustainability Lead at House of Commons & PhD Researcher

As Benholm Group prepare to join forces with Sustainability Lead & PhD Researcher, Joyce Chan- Schoof on new research study the ‘value of biophilic design’, we speak with her about her passion for biophilic design and how she hopes to prove the social and economic benefits of biophilic design in the workplace.

Can you tell us about your professional background and how your interest and passion for discovering the benefits of biophilic design began?

I have been working in the architecture and design industry for about 20 years. Currently, I am the Sustainability Leader of the UK Parliamentary Estate, developing a (Social) Value framework for the built environment. My interest in biophilia began when I led a research team in commercial architectural practices; one of which was PLP Architecture – they then became my collaborators.  I know the team there very well, and alongside my PhD supervisors (Dr. Vicky Lofthouse and Dr. Robert Schmidt-III from Loughborough University), and my mentor Professor Derek Clement-Croome, we initiated this collaboration – it explores the value of biophilic design and well-being. This has all come full circle.

 

When we talk about biophilic design, people often just think about having indoor greenery, but actually it’s a much broader concept – it’s about creating a connection with nature” – Joyce Chan-Schoof

Tell us about your research study the ‘Value of Biophilic Design’. Why are you undertaking it and what are your main objectives?

As an expert in sustainable design, I was keen to include Benholm Group in the study. I have been really enjoying Benholm Group’s input – they’re not just an indoor plant supplier, they have become part of the design team.

Benholm Group are super proactive and I like the way they initiate design solutions and help out with graphics; visualising the space is an important step to understand how biophilic experience can be produced. They’re working really closely with our design team from PLP Architecture on getting the right type of experience, they are open-minded with our suggestions, and they understand the dynamic of space as a formal workplace.

Benholm wants to highlight that the planting needs to be integrated into the whole experience (not a flower show), and some of those decisions are very fundamental. If you miss the opportunity in the early stage of the design, it’s very difficult to create an immersive experience in the later stage of the development.

How are Benholm Group supporting you on the ‘Value of Biophilic Design’ research study?

As experts in designing with plants for biophilic benefit with sustainable design, I was keen to include Benholm Group in the study. I have been really enjoying Benholm Group’s input – they’re not just an indoor plant supplier, they have become part of the design team.

Benholm Group are super proactive and I like the way they initiate design solutions and help out with graphics; visualising the space is a really important step to understand how biophilic experience can be produced. They’re working really closely with our design team from PLP Architecture on getting the right type of experience, they are open-minded with our suggestions, and they understand the dynamic of space as a formal workplace.

Benholm wants to highlight that the planting needs to be integrated into the whole experience (not a flower show), and some of those decisions are very fundamental. If you miss the opportunity in the early stage of the space’s design, it’s very difficult to create an immersive experience in the later stage of the design.

 

As experts in designing with plants for biophilic benefit, I was keen to include Benholm Group in the study. I have been really enjoying Benholm Group’s input – they’re not just a supplier, they have become part of the design team” – Joyce Chan-Schoof

What ‘value’ are you hoping to get out of this study? What does the word value mean? 

For this research study, it’s the value of good design and the value of sustainability. In terms of value, we are trying to quantify quality which is something that hasn’t been done before in such a manner – smart technologies come into play. We want it to be a robust process and, a the same time, it should be easy to understand.

For example, we are trying to translate the value of well-being by design – if you have a view from your office to the outside – a view nature – that could be the equivalent of say, £500 per person per year. If we can introduce a creditable valuation process in the background to be able to link with financial proxies, we may be able to monetise the quality of good spaces in a way that encourages clients or project teams to start thinking about biophilic design from the very start of their projects. In the real estate industry, we are very good at putting things in numbers, but because design and well-being of people is a very qualitative area, sometimes biophilia is missed out.

We are hoping to make a more direct link to the upfront, budget planning stage and in the design brief. It will win half of the battle for designers because you don’t have to negotiate this after the design is done – it should be an integral part of the process. I’m not saying that this is necessarily the only way to do that, but it helps to create a plan that finance teams can comprehend quite easily. We often cut the budget we need to allow for good design through value-engineering exercises, which does not give us any value in the end if we do not understand the value of well-being.

How important do you think planting is as part of biophilic design?

I think it depends on how you use the plants. If you just put a potted plant in front of your desk, it may not make a difference, but if you plan it in a way where plants are integrated with the space and specific to the group of people, then the multi-sensory design may benefit them.

For example, it may be good for the retail industry to have a more ‘out-there’ design with plants and flowers that are quite celebratory in the space, whereas for a workplace you may want to keep a very clean, calm and maintainable environment. You may also create an immersive experience for a destinated social space, and that’s why I think it’s really important to have this conversation upfront because design strategy should be very specific to the type of well-being effect.

If people say that plants don’t help to improve well-being, it’s not because they’re not good or impactful, it is because they aren’t being designed for the specific context and culture.

How do you plan to share the results of the study and what do you think will happen afterwards?

The expected outcome will be from a mixture of sources. We are using some smart technologies to creating a ‘value spatial map’. We will be assessing physiological changes, and more conventional Indoor Environmental Quality data to capture the indoor temperature and humidity. Then we will be questioning the participants.

The participants’ experience, i.e., how they feel about the space or what behaviour has changed in different biophilic settings and the other way round. It is quite a complex project, because it’s not easy to triangulate various types of data to a single monetised value. I hope the study will be useful for both designers and commercial decision-makers.

Learn more about Biophilic Design: www.benholm.com/biophilic-design 

Connect with Joyce Chan-Schoof: www.linkedin.com/joyce-chan-schoof

Connect with PLP Architecture: plparchitecture.com

 

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Interview with Alexander Bond, Consultant at Biophilic Designs

As part of our involvement in the ‘value of biophilic design’ research study, Benholm Group were delighted to speak with a fellow biophilic consultant, Alexander Bond about the importance of biophilic design in the built environment, and to ask his for some quick fixes that everyone can try in their own workspace.  

Can you tell us about your professional background and how your interest and passion for discovering the benefits of biophilic design began?

I have been running a specialist Biophilic Design company for the last four years whereby our focus is on innovative office schemes and as Biophilic Design consultants. My personal interest in the subject started way back in my childhood whereby I was encouraged to enjoy the great outdoors by my parents (thankfully no smartphones back then!). Fast forward 20 years and I found myself working in a corporate environment devoid of the most basic connections to nature, i.e., plants, natural lighting, natural materials etc. and it was at this stage that I felt compelled to focus my efforts on raising awareness on the benefits of keeping a connection to nature in the built environment and this was when Biophilic Designs sprung to life. 

Tell us why you believe it’s so important to include biophilic design in the built environment?     

Because modern human beings have only been living a ‘modern’ lifestyle for a fraction of time when you consider the great timeline of our evolution. If you consider that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were wandering the planet half a million years ago, it is obvious that we are much more predisposed to being outdoor creatures than stuck indoors in front of a screen. It is for this reason that it is incredibly, and intrinsically, important to maintain our connection to the natural environment because it’s quite literally in our DNA.  

We have not yet fully adapted to our modern lives so it’s important to design our modern spaces to be more human-centric. There is a wealth of science and data out there explaining why human-centric spaces are better for productivity and the general health and well-being of the people who use them. Though when we think about it, it’s quite obvious, which is why we generally enjoy walks in the park, holidays in nature etc. it’s a natural instinct so to speak.

There is a wealth of science and data out there explaining why human-centric spaces are better for productivity and the general health and well-being of the people who use them” – Alexander Bond

What do you believe is the future for biophilic design in the workplace?

Our working spaces will hopefully be much more inclined to use natural materials, with lighting systems that are complementary to our circadian rhythm and planting schemes to maintain that connection to nature. I also think that we will (and should) try and bridge the gap between the indoors and outdoors utilising roof space etc. in a further effort to allow humans to roam freely outside of the box. 

Tell us about the research study the ‘Value of Biophilic Design’. What is your involvement and what are your main objectives as a biophilic designer? 

My role is to act as an independent advisor on the layout with a focus on the use of natural materials in order to create the best possible biophilic environment. 

Can you recommend some quick fixes for a novice who wants to introduce some biophilic design elements into their own office or home-office space but doesn’t know where to start?   

The best thing about biophilic design is that the first step can be a simple one. This could mean a potted plant or a change of desk to a nice sustainably produced wooden one (getting rid of the unnatural melamine desks that we are all so used to). The first step might just as easily be going for a walk at lunchtime or making a point of being close to a window so we have a vista of the outdoor world. Biophilic design isn’t just one thing, it is a number of different ways in which we interact with the natural environment so it really depends on the space you have and then making small steps in order to create a space which retains an important connection to the outside world. 

Are you currently working on any exciting projects that you’d be willing to share?

We are working with two London based tech companies which are due to be complete in mid-June. I can’t wait to share it when it’s finished. 

Learn more about Biophilic Design: www.benholm.com/biophilic-design  

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Interview with Professor Derek Clements-Croome BSc, MSc, PhD, CEng, CPhys, FICE, FCIBSE, FRSA, FASHRAE, FNSP, DSc (Hon) Emeritus Professor

As Benholm Group prepare to landscape a London office space as part of a new research study into the ‘value of biophilic design’, we speak to the lecturer, author and expert on multisensory design, Professor Derek Clements-Croome about the study and the wider benefits of plants as part of biophilic design.   

Can you tell us about your professional background and how your interest and passion for biophilic design began?   

Well, it’s been a long career to date. I began aged 16, working in the heating and ventilation industry, and after 11 years I went to work at a university, where I was quickly promoted to develop courses and research in architectural engineering. I then joined Loughborough University, and then Bath University working in teaching and research besides collaborating with Buro Happold which was quite influential on my development. Then in 1988, I moved to Reading University as a Professor of Architecture & Engineering, again, doing teaching and research but collaborating with industry.    

My key interest now is in user-centric multi-sensory environments which are good for health and well-being. Just talking about comfort is not good enough, we have to delve much deeper to understand how we perceive and respond to the environment over the day, including transient as well as steady-state conditions which can give the brain mini-breaks from intense single-focused activities. For example, I am now looking out of the window at the sunshine and trees having been glued to my computer screen. When the eye muscles are taut but focused on outside views those muscles relax and give my brain a mini or micro break. I am looking at much more dynamic design methods using a Flourish Model described in my 2020 book Designing Buildings for People.   

Tell us about your involvement in the upcoming research study the ‘Value of Biophilic Design’ led by PhD scholar and employed as Sustainability Lead at Parliament, Joyce Chan-Schoof. Why are you undertaking it and what are your main objectives?   

I work very closely with the industry and met Joyce, who is leading this research project, as part of her part-time doctorate at Loughborough University. Joyce was an advisor at UCL as was I, which is how we initially met. Independently of this, PLP Architecture had asked me to go along and talk to them about my work on designing multi-sensory environments, and that discussion resulted in a very positive collaboration between the three of us to develop a research study on the value of biophilic design in the workplace.    

We are just finalising the various arrangements of the office for the study, and alongside Benholm Group and Biophilic Consultant, Alexander Bond, we are going to take an office environment, which has got nothing biophilic in it and compare it with one which is very biophilic. We are going to do that by doing various measurements, using wearables, questionnaires and interviews to assess people’s reactions and how they differ between the two situations. The work will test my flourish model of multicentric design which Joyce is using in her thesis besides evaluating the power of biophilic design.   

 

“The study is about multisensory design, using the biophilic response, as a focus in this particular case. This study is really thinking outside the box – it’s stretching things a lot more – to really study how people react” – Professor Derek Clements-Croome

What are you hoping to learn from the research study to inform your future projects?

The work will test the strength of biophilia as a design variable by comparing a non-biophilic setting with one which is a highly biophilic setting where there is lots of landscaping. As I have said we will be doing interviews, questionnaires and physical measurements.    

It is a very client-driven study because it is a study to see how people are reacting at an individual level, not just at an average level. When we have that data, we can see how a multisensory model works and determine how effective it is, and do we need to modify it.    

So, the study is about multisensory design, using the biophilic response, as a focus. This study is really thinking outside the box – it is stretching things a lot more beyond comfort – to really study how people react to the environment around them.   

How important is it to include planting as part of biophilic design?

I think it is very important. By planting people might just think “I’ll get a potted plant to put on my desk”, but what we have really got to talk about is landscaping your office. Plant density is important for several reasons including the visual impression but also the physical impact plants can have if the density is sufficient. I did some work with Putney High School and an architect team on planting in classrooms and the impact of plants on student well-being, for which the team received a Gold Medal at the Chelsea Flower Show 2021. The students there were quite sure that the planting affected their learning in a positive way; they felt happier, and happier people are more highly motivated in general to work better. The plants contributed to this positive feeling.  

Photo Credits: Putney High School

Have you seen Biophilic Design become more prevalent in recent years and if yes, why do you think this is?

Well, first of all, people across society recognise the need to connect with nature a lot more than we have been. There is a lot of work about wellness across society – we see more healing; yoga and meditation approach are being advocated like forest bathing, for example. We have also seen how Covid has emphasised the importance of gardens and green space: the waiting lists for allotments have grown even more.    

Greenspace has been acknowledged as being important. The influence of green spaces on decreasing crime rates and loneliness (of which there is a lot in the UK). Green spaces basically encourage physical activity; you want to go out and have a walk in the trees or even just vies out onto greenspaces can be calming.   

There are physical benefits to green spaces. They bring fresher air, and absorb some CO2, as they can act as a carbon sink and this on a large scale can affect climate change. Then there is the heat island effect in cities; I was measuring brick surface temperatures in the hot season last year, at about 40 degrees Celsius. The adjacent leaf surfaces were 30-32 degrees Celsius, so they are much cooler. If you have a building facade with lots of greenery, it will be cooler, and that is going to affect the surface temperature of the building (which is going to be lower), and therefore the requirements for things like air conditioning are going to be less, thus saving energy.   

Then we can go a step further. The BIQ building in Hamburg has algae tanks on the facade. The algae grow and shade the building, then they are harvested for use as a biofuel and the algae grow again.  My biomimetic colleagues in Spain are experimenting with designing streets without electric lighting by using the chemo-luminescent properties of lemon trees.   

Greenery contributes in a very physical way to saving energy and therefore has an impact on climate change. The point is that we have been disconnected from nature for far too long, and not thinking about it deeply enough – people just think of pretty flowers and things that are nice to look at, but it is much more than that.   

 

“The more we learn about plants and their benefits to our climate, it’s amazing – David Attenborough stuff – it’s really quite amazing! I find it very inspiring” – Professor Derek Clements-Croome 

Photo Credit: GreenSpaces.com

How do you think that this study will impact workplace design in the future?

If a biophilic environment positively affects you, and you’re happier to do your work, then you’re going to be more productive. The individual is going to feel better; their company is going to do better because they are going to be more productive.    

Indirectly, nationally, you’re going to save costs on the health service, because people are going to be healthier. There is a lot of absenteeism in the workplace, sometimes due to stress, and when you work in green spaces, you tend to be calmer and tend to be less stressed. So, if you can save on the things that cause a lack of productivity, you’re then indirectly helping the health of the individual and saving on the NHS – prevention is better than cure. 

Discover more about Biophilic Design: www.benholm.com/biophilic-design 

Learn more about Professor Derek Clements-Croome: derekcroome.com   

Latest Publications: Clements-Croome, D. J. (2020). Designing buildings for people: Sustainable liveable architecture, The Crowood Press Ltd.    

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Benholm to collaborate on research study ‘The Value of Biophilic Design’

We are delighted to announce that Benholm Group are collaborating on a pioneering 8-week research study to understand the value of biophilic design. 

 

Biophilic Design – the use of plants in providing cleaner air and connecting us with nature, coupled with natural light, certain colours, acoustics, and fragrances – has long been proven to have a positive effect on both mental and physical well-being.  

This concept has now been brought to the forefront of a new research study led by Sustainability Lead + PhD Researcher, Joyce Chan-Schoof to question if we can apply a social and economic value to biophilic design; Can biophilic design add value to the workplace – not only through improving air quality and aesthetics, but can it have a tangible impact on employee productivity, retention, absenteeism, satisfaction, engagements and up-skilling?  

During an in-house pilot study, 6 participants will carry out their daily work at a designated workstation in a 30m2 office space at London based PLP Architecture. Over the course of 8-weeks the environment inside the office will be changed from an average office space into a multi-sensory experience by providing rich, natural stimuli to the participants such as lush, green, living planting provided by Benholm Group, as well as access to natural light and outside views, new natural décor, patterns and colours, plus sounds from nature – a scenario that will be an immersive, biophilic ‘wow’ space. 

Benholm Group’s experienced design consultants will bring the office space to life with lush greenery, ensure that all plant species thrive in the climactic conditions of the room, and contribute to creating a healthy and relaxing environment for the participants. Benholm Group are providing a variety of living plants for the study including trailing plants, floor standing and desk-top planters and a living wall. Plus, Benholm Group’s specialist maintenance technicians will be maintaining all greenery throughout the study to ensure they remain vibrant and healthy.

Fellow collaborators are Sustainability Lead + PhD Researcher, Joyce Chan-Schoof, PLP Architecture and their in-house research and development team PLP Labs, Biophilic Design Consultant Alexander Bond, and lecturer, author and expert in multisensory design, Professor Derek Clements-Croome. Together we will measure indoor environmental quality objective data throughout the testing period, and participants will complete questionnaires after each scenario change.  

Adrian Byne, Sales & Marketing for Benholm Group comments: 

“At Benholm Group we have long understood the value that plants can bring to every space. To have the opportunity to collaborate on a research study which will prove the social, economic and environmental benefits of biophilia for the built environment is a fantastic opportunity, and we look forward to seeing the results in a few weeks’ time”. 

The research study is set to begin in May and will conclude in July 2022, after which time the findings will be launched during a special event and publication.  

London Research visual 2
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7 key elements of biophilic design in commercial interior design

 

At Benholm we mainly contribute to biophilic design projects through our creative planting solutions – but there is so much more to this complex design method than just plants! 

Below we have detailed 7 of the key elements biophilic design encompasses and why they are important for interior designers to consider.  

When these elements combine effectively, it should create a nourishing environment that not only looks great but also enhances the physical and psychological wellbeing of the inhabitants these spaces. 

Natural materials

Using natural materials, often locally sourced with minimal processing, is a key component of biophilic design.  

Terrapin Bright Green’s 2014 publication: 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design articulates the symbiotic relationship between human biology and natural materials in the built environment. The whitepaper references a series of studies which found that having a material connection with nature decreased diastolic blood pressure and improved comfort and creative performance in participants.  

Natural materials such as wood, glass, wool, and cotton all tap into our in-built affinity with nature and strengthen our connections with the outdoor world.  

Plants

Perhaps the most recognizable element of biophilic design is the use of plants to enhance any setting. Beyond being visually appealing, plants can have a measurable impact on the overall wellbeing of those who occupy green spaces.   

The Human Spaces report: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace found that those who work in environments with natural elements report a 15% higher level of well-being, a 6% higher level of productivity and a 15% higher level of creativity than those who work in environments devoid of nature. Separate studies have also shown that plants can improve interior acoustics and help to reduce absenteeism by purifying the air of harmful pollutants.     

From small potted houseplants to large living walls, there is a planting solution to suit most spaces and budgets.  

 

 

Presence of water

Water may not be as synonymous with biophilic design as plants are, however, its presence has also been proven to boost both physical and psychological wellbeing.  

Moving water, in particular, can create multisensory stimulation which Dr Wallace J. Nicholls explores in Blue Mind: The surprising science that shows how being near, in, on, or under water can make you happier, healthier, more connected, and better at what you do. The 2014 publication offers quantifiable evidence of how the presence of water can boost both physical and psychological wellbeing. 

Despite being central to our survival, opportunities to interact with water is largely limited in urban areas, with watering systems typically hidden within building infrastructure. “Aquatecture” addresses this problem by exposing water works to improve our connection with the water cycle.  

Prospect views

Incorporating uninterrupted ‘prospect’ views that allow us to gaze into the far distance is another way interior designers can maximise the biophilic potential of their project. 

The theory of prospect-refuge was first introduced in Jay Appleton’s 1975 book, The Experience of Landscape, which argues that we derive feelings of safety and pleasure from inhabiting environments that offer both views and a sense of enclosure. This is because the ability to see far into the distance conveys a sense of control and supervision of our surroundings. This primal way of thinking can be traced back to our ancestors, who settled in areas with prospect views allowing them to anticipate danger and approaching predators. Luckily, we can appreciate prospect views primarily for their beauty than for safety reasons.

Hospitality venues have capitalised on this theory as demonstrated by research carried out by Oliver Heath Design, which revealed that hotel guests are willing to pay a 23% premium to reserve rooms with views of biophilic elements. 

 

 

Light

Lighting is another key consideration for interior designers when creating a space with biophilic design principles in mind. 

Artificial lighting has made us a more productive species able to work throughout all hours of the day, but what impact does this have on our wellbeing? 

Most artificial lighting lacks the dynamism of natural lighting and will a deliver a static, consistent level of light. This type of lighting together with inadequate exposure to natural light can throw our circadian rhythm out of sync which is essential in helping to regulate body temperature, hormonal activity, immune function, and sleep cycles.

For this reason, biophilic design places a real focus on making use of natural light where possible. 

 

 

 

Organic shapes

Biophilic design avoids rigid, straight lines and instead encourages the use of ‘fractal’ patterns. Fractal patterns can be best described as identical shapes that endlessly repeat across different scales – like those seen in pinecones, snowflakes, tree branches and seashells. 

Studies carried out by Psychology Today found that exposure to fractal patterns can reduce stress levels by up to 60% and can even accelerate post-surgical recovery rates. They reason that this is due to an in-built familiarity we have with naturally occurring shapes found throughout nature which foster feelings of calmness and serenity.  

 

 

Biophilic colours

A biophilic colour palette, like the ones seen above, consist of more than just greens and offer a wide variety of tones inspired by nature that will complement most settings. Sally Coulthard neatly categorizes these colours as Sky, Sea, Plants and Earth in her 2020 book Biophilia: You Nature and Home. 

Simulating the colours found in nature can have a positive impact on our mental health which Dulux recognized when selecting “Bright Skies” as their Colour of the Year for 2022. A panel of international design experts wanted Dulux’s 2022 colour to “understand the mood of the moment” describing it as a “light, airy and optimistic blue that’s good for the soul.”   

 

 

We work throughout the UK to bring the benefits of biophilia to businesses of all sizes. To talk to our team and find out more information, or to get a free tailored quote, call us on 01324 861300.

Resources

The Experience of Landscape

14 patterns of biophilic design

Human Spaces: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace

Wallace J Nichols – Blue Mind

DforDesign

Psycholgy Today

Sally Coulthard

Dulux – Colour of the Year 2022

We hope this article has given you a better understanding of some of the key components biophilic design and the psychology behind why we react positively to them. If you found this article helpful, feel free to share it with your network using the icons provided below.  

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Who are the best plantscaping companies in Scotland?

Every year, our team at the Benholm Group meet with hundreds of businesses throughout Scotland, including many interior designers, to discuss office plant rental, plants for restaurants and hotels, or plant and floral displays for almost any type of organisation.  

Because we have been providing interior landscaping services for almost 30 years and many of our designs and projects are well recognised, we sometimes get asked who else provides plantscaping services in Scotland.   

We’re never ones to shy away from being blatantly honest with respect to competition, and we want our customers to be as informed as possible.  Due to the wide range of plant and floral displays we provide, some of our competitors include niche companies such as florists, exterior landscapers, and even garden centres.  

Here is an alphabetical list of some of the companies that provide a range of interior landscaping services and have a solid plantscaping history in Scotland. 

Ambius

Ambius is part of Rentokil Initial plc and is a global company with head quarters in USA and local branches throughout the UK including Scotland. They have experience in the supply and design of workplace plants, scent marketing, exterior & interior landscaping, and Christmas decorations and displays. 

Fleurtations 

Fleurtations have been around for many years and are based in Longniddry, east of Edinburgh.  They create and install interior and exterior seasonal or permanent plant displays, window boxes and hanging baskets. They also provide Christmas displays and event planting. 

GD Menzies 

Graham D Menzies has been around for a long time and is based in Glasgow.  They operate across Central Scotland offering interior and exterior landscaping services for commercial customers as well as domestic exterior landscaping 

GP Plantscape 

GP Plantscape is a family owned and managed business who have operated from their nursery in South Lanarkshire for many years. They provide office plants and maintain exterior grounds for businesses and their range of services also include gritting and snow clearing as well as festive displays. 

Greenwood Aberdeen 

Greenwood are based in Aberdeen and work for many types of customers throughout the north-east of Scotland.  They supply and maintain interior and exterior plant displays, artificials, flowers and Christmas displays. 

Nurture Landscapes

Nurture are a large landscaping company with their head office in Surrey and several regional offices throughout the UK including Scotland. They specialise in grounds maintenance, winter gritting and interior and exterior plant display services, mainly to the corporate sector. 

Phs Greenleaf 

Phs Greenleaf are part of Phs Group, a hygiene service provider in the UK, Spain, and Ireland.  They have their head office in Wales and provide planting and landscaping services to businesses from depots throughout the UK including Glasgow, Scotland. They offer a range of services including indoor planting and outdoor planting, artificial and live planting, living walls, grounds maintenance services and Christmas decorations. 

Urban Planters 

With franchises throughout the UK, including one in Livingston, Scotland, Urban Planters offer indoor and outdoor plant displays, grounds maintenance, green walls, and Christmas decorations to a wide range of organisations.

 

 

So there are a few companies you could consider if you’re looking for quotes for office plantscaping in Scotland. 

 

You may also like to take a look at some of these useful resources: 

What to expect as an interior designer when working with Benholm

Why is biophilic design important in commercial interior design

What are the best plants for improving air quality in an office? 

Is biophilic design important in my restaurant? 

Common challenges for interior designers to overcome when specifying living walls and what to do about them

To talk to us about arranging a free quote click here

Finally, if you’d like to visit our showroom in Falkirk, Central Scotland please get in touch to arrange a time (commercial projects only).  We’re approximately half-way between Edinburgh and Glasgow and have ample free parking and free coffee. 

 

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