The Benefits of Biophilia: Health and Business
Large urban centers not only impact our environment but they also have significant impact on the health of the people who live in and around them. Research shows that when urbanites have regular contact with nature it improves their health, leading to substantial reductions in financial costs for businesses.
In Baltimore City, we are fortunate to have an abundance of nature close by. Within the city limits, there are approximately 200,000 street trees, 4,600+ acres of parkland, 262 parks, and there is direct access to the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore’s harbor. Given this proximity, Baltimore clearly understands the importance of meshing the built and natural environments. At Furbish, we are committed to improving our health and the health of our environment by elegantly blending form and functionality to develop and deliver living systems that make sense for every building. Our products have obvious benefits, such as superior storm water management and air quality control. Beyond this, our solutions support and are a testament to the growing movement of Biophilia as a function of city planning. First proposed by Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia is “the tendency of humans to focus on and to affiliate with nature and other life-forms”.
Lasting psychological damage is a major challenge resulting from prolonged exposure to urban environments. Biophilia is one solution to this challenge. Regular contact with nature does wonders for our minds and bodies. In his writing on Biophilia Tim Beatley states that “Nature enhances cognitive performance and mood (e.g., Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2012; Bratman, Hamilton, Hahn, Daily, & Gross, 2015) and is a significant antidote to long-term chronic stress experienced by many urbanites” (e.g., Roe et al., 2013). Much research on this topic has come out of Japan. “Findings from the work around Japanese ‘forest bathing’ show that a walk through a forest or greenspace has discernible mental health benefits, for instance reducing stress hormone levels and boosting immune systems” according to Beatley(e.g., Wang, Tsunetsugu, & Africa, 2016). This improvement in health, both physical and mental, carries with it economic benefits.
Prolonged exposure to urban environments leads to decreased productivity in the workplace, resulting in significant costs to businesses, annually. According to The Economics of Biophilia “today productivity costs are 112 times greater than energy costs in the workplace”. Any solution to improve productivity in the workplace would result in decreased costs to businesses. Absenteeism is a major driver of decreased productivity. The Economics of Biophilia states “the US Department of Labor reported an annual absenteeism rate of 3% per employee or 62.4 hours per year per employee lost” and “10% of employee absences can be attributed to architecture with no connection to nature”. Offering employees regular biophilic opportunities in their daily lives would decrease absenteeism which would lead to reduced costs for businesses.
Presenteeism, “the phenomenon in which workers clock in for work, but are mentally removed from the workplace”, is another major force driving increased cost in businesses. All businesses deal with managing the number of nonproductive hours among their employees. Research has compared presenteeism rates between employees that have views of nature and those that do not. According to The Economics of Biophilia, “researchers concluded that those with views of nature handled calls 6-7% faster than those with no views”. The possible economic benefits associated with biophilic building design are substantial. When considering physical benefits, psychological health, and economic advantages, the need to incorporate biophilic design into the urban environment is indisputable.
Heal the environment! Heal your mind! Heal your bottom line!
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