The integration of greenery in the work environment is not just a trend: research into interior greening confirms the positive effects of natural elements on human health, wellbeing, and feeling of comfort.
In 1984 Edward O. Wilson introduced the concept of biophilia – with the hypothesis that we humans have an instinctive urge to live in harmony with nature. Later Keller and colleagues created a link to biophilic approaches with so-called biophilic design, which concerns the integration of natural elements such as water, plants, or sounds in building design. The goal is to create a natural environment in interiors.1
Many studies confirm that people feel most comfortable in a natural environment. In the past, many jobs were still performed outdoors, while nowadays daily work takes place predominantly indoors as a result of the changing work environment. For this reason, biophilic design principles are also applied more and more frequently in the office environment. The integration of natural objects has a positive impact on the psyche and health of office employees.2 3
Plants are living organisms and create a lively working atmosphere in the office, which is perceived as being very pleasant by employees. Certain plants species are able to filter pollutants out of indoor air and help to increase humidity in the room. Many plants, however, are required to increase indoor air humidity adequately. For this reason, extensive wall greening, using e.g. hedge elements and green walls, is an ideal solution for interiors. Together with water walls, an optimum combination is created to achieve a comfortable indoor climate which has a positive impact on employee concentration and performance.4
Research results from the Green Office Study 2014 conducted by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO also confirm that economically efficient and resource-conserving construction and operation of office properties is constantly increasing in Germany. Green buildings increase the users' feeling of comfort and stand out due to their healthy effect. In addition, particular attention is given to ecological interior fitting when designing sustainable office landscapes. Green building is in great demand and will become even more important in the future.5
Although 43% of all office employees still do not have any greenery in their workspace, there are also some positive examples of companies which inspire their employees with a green office.
A study conducted by BMW AG proves that a green office promotes employee health and increases personal wellbeing. The reason for conducting the in-plant study was that especially employees at computer workstations had complained about health problems such as respiratory illness, tenseness, or dryness. The employee survey revealed the climate to be the main point of criticism about the typical open-plan office. Especially the negative properties of air conditioning such as air drafts, poor air quality, low humidity, electrostatic charging as well as seasonal temperature fluctuations were always perceived as annoying. The complaints can actively be reduced through systematic office greening.
The result spoke for itself: employee wellbeing increased significantly, and the green office received a lot of positive feedback from the staff.
- More than 93% of the respondents said they felt better as a result of the planting. In addition, the sound level is noticeably reduced
- The degree of relaxation increased as a result of the greenery in 47% of the employees, motivation in 29%
The employees noticed a significant improvement of air quality in the green office. Scientific studies on the parameters CO² and germ load, acoustics, temperature, humidity, and concentration of hazardous substances confirmed these personal impressions. In addition to the positive influence of plants on indoor temperature, they help to optimize humidity when used extensively. Compared to reference offices without plants, a 70% lower germ load was determined in the green office. Plants are able to reduce hazardous substances such as acetone, benzene, nicotine, or formaldehyde. The acoustic measurements in the green office also yielded very positive results. The sound absorption area in the green office was almost 50% higher than the minimum requirement for acoustic comfort defined by law.6
1 Gesundheitsförderung Schweiz (2014), Gesundheitsförderliche Büroräume
2 Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin (BAuA), (2010), Wohlbefinden im Büro – Arbeits- und Gesundheitsschutz der Büroarbeit
3 Grinde, B.; Grindal Patil, G., (2009), International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Biophilia: Does Visual Contant with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being?
4 Hauptverband der gewerblichen Berufsgenossenschaft (2007), Gesund und fit im Kleinbetrieb
5 Fraunhofer IAO (2014), Green Office Studie 2014
6 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Hydrokultur e.V.