Biophilic designs enabling wellbeing in built environment

biophilic designs can improve workplace productivity and creativity
Biophilic designs enabling wellbeing in built environment
Dr Harpreet Seth, Associate Professor at Heriot-Watt University Dubai

 The ability to enhance the human experience by creating a stronger connection between people and nature and supporting resilience in human health and the built environment contributes to the increasing popularity of Biophilic designs. As humans spend more time indoors, especially in urban man-made built environments, they become disconnected from the natural world, leading to negative consequences such as stress, anxiety, and poor health. The idea behind the biophilic design is to incorporate natural features and systems into the built environment to provide humans with much-needed exposure to nature. It includes natural elements such as plants, water features, and natural light to create a more calming and inspiring environment that promotes physical and mental well-being.

Some of the UAE-based buildings which are worth mentioning include Smart Dubai Government’s headquarters. The leading governmental establishment has integrated biophilic designs in the workplace. The UAE’s natural features, such as the ocean, dunes, and desert oasis, were effectively portrayed in the design of the space. Another example is of Heriot-Watt University’s Dubai located at knowledge village which has effectively established a distinct identity and provided students with a distinctive link to the heritage of the historic Scottish university. Notably, traditional Arabic elements, such as an interpretation of the classic Mashrabiya screens, are incorporated into the design. The Mashrabiyas allow for porosity within the design and light quality that is comforting.

Biophillic designs

Biophilic design and well-being in the workplace


In addition to the health benefits, biophilic designs also provide aesthetic appeal and can improve workplace productivity and creativity. As people become more aware of the importance of sustainability and environmental conservation, biophilic designs offer a way to reduce the negative impact of buildings on the environment while also improving human well-being. The increasing academic and organizational interest in biophilia and biophilic design is driven by the positive outcomes that it can help create for individuals and businesses. The significance of the work environment in promoting employee well-being and performance has long been acknowledged. Still, it has mostly been regarded as a basic requirement or a ‘hygiene factor’. If organizations fail to provide a suitable work environment, it can only lead to negative consequences. However, contemporary employers have realized the importance of creating environments that foster collaboration, creativity, and personal growth and thus have adopted a different approach.

Read: Saeed Al Abbar on the inflection point for project sustainability

Roadmap to sustainable environments


Implementing biophilic design can have several benefits, such as increasing biodiversity, reducing carbon footprint, and aiding in the conservation of natural resources. Using sustainable and natural materials while incorporating biophilic designs can considerably reduce carbon emissions.

One way to achieve this is by incorporating natural elements such as green roofs, plants, trees, gardens, and courtyards in and around buildings. Natural elements create a relaxing and energizing space and support the environment by cleaning the air and reducing carbon emissions.

This approach can help manage and filter stormwater runoff as green spaces allow water to seep in and recharge groundwater levels, which is not possible with water-resistant surfaces like concrete. Furthermore, adding green facades and roofs can naturally cool the surroundings and reduce cooling and heating needs while protecting buildings from sun damage. Additionally, green roofs can foster biodiversity by providing a habitat for various birds, bees, and butterflies.

Biophilic design enables a holistic, inspiring, and nature-inspired infrastructure by incorporating natural elements at the blueprint stages. It is high time for humanity to align its infrastructure, built environment, and overall journey with nature. As a society, we will have achieved significant progress when our architecture is not only aesthetically inspired by nature, but also incorporates its functionality in the design of buildings and communities.

For more on sustainability, click here.

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