August 19, 2019
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Why more offices are taking up an ecological approach to design

Stock Photo | Pixabay
Stock Photo | Pixabay

Sure, the Nature Conservancy state office in Brunswick might look like it’s right at home in Maine, but there’s a well-designed reason for its seamless integration into the landscape. After all, the curvilinear walls are made from yellow birch sustainably harvested from the St. John River Valley, and the carpets are made from recycled fishing nets.

In other words, the Brunswick Nature Conservancy lives and breathes Maine.

Buildings that are consciously designed to be a product of their place are known as biophilic, a practice that is becoming increasingly common in architecture, especially of work and commercial spaces, according to Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of International Living Future Institute and author of the book, “Creating Biophilic Buildings.”

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“The opportunity of biophilic design is to connect to the particular ecology of the place, to its culture, history and beauty and to create a building that will regenerate life,” Sturgeon said.

There are more than just touchy-feely reasons to focus on biophilic design. For one thing, science has proven that humans are much more productive after a mere hour in nature. “I would argue that the monotonous cubicle farms that we have become used to as offices are not exactly stimulating,” Sturgeon said.

And she has a point.

Biophilic buildings make such an impact on how workers feel that qualifying structures get stamped with a WELL standard, “a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council. Administered by the International WELL Building Institute, the standard necessitates certain greenery and structural standards focused on boosting employee wellbeing and mood.

The Nature Conservancy outfit in Brunswick meets these stringent qualifications and from all indications, and so will many workplaces in the near future. But right now, it’s only one of two projects that meet the WELL standard in Maine. The second is listed as private.

Reconnecting building occupants with nature through a variety of pathways including plants, sounds, texture, is a primary goal of biophilic design — and that is good news for all of us.

This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s April 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.



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