Including plenty of living plants, like in this lobby, are a great way to introduce biophillic design to your space.

Commercial Office, Interior Design, Retail

How Biophillic Design Can Help Your Commercial Space

As humans, we love nature, and studies show that access to nature or natural elements is actually beneficial to our health. As a design theory, this is called biophilic design. Here are a few reasons why it’s worth it to incorporate nature into the design of your commercial spaces.

June 20, 2019

Here at Board & Vellum, we look for various ways to implement sustainable practices into our work. From green technology to recycled materials, we are not only advocates for design, but for the planet. One of the ways we have green in mind is through incorporating biophilic design.

Humans are wired to seek out nature — we are attracted to it, and many people find it provides therapeutic value. But, within the last couple hundred years, many people have lost their connection to nature as we spend much (or all) of our time in large urban environments. And, this trend is only increasing. A study in 2001 showed that we spend 90% of our time indoors. It is also estimated that by 2050, 65-85% percent of us will live in urban environments. So, we have to do something to reconnect ourselves with nature.

Biophilic design theory is based on the principle of connecting humans back to nature within our built environments by promoting positive interactions and emotional connections using nature and its elements in design applications. This can be either indirect or direct: using colors and materials to suggest nature, or actually incorporating natural elements, such as living plants, into your space.

Biophilic design can be implemented in numerous spaces, from clothing stores to schools. Through various studies, there has been a lot of research showing the positive effects of this design theory. Depending on the sector, there are various benefits to incorporating this theory into the design of your commercial space.


We spend a good deal of time at work (eight hours a day, at least, if not more), so it’s crucial that these spaces are beneficial for our wellbeing. Currently, the bar is pretty darn low for how offices are incorporating biophilic design. With ubiquitous fluorescent lighting and broadloom carpet circa 1980 (and not in a trendy way) — those design choices can turn the space where we spend over a third of our day into a depressing and unenjoyable place to be.

How To Create a Residential Feel in a Commercial Space – Board & Vellum
W.G. Clark Lobby

Photo by Tina Witherspoon.

Studies show that adding biophilic design can result in a 13% increase in overall wellbeing. Happy People = Better Work: about an 8% increase in productivity, to be more exact. Want more? Biophilic design also increases creativity by 15% (which may spiral into a whole other topic about how important creativity is). Biophilic design also has been shown to reduce absenteeism, because, hey, people actually enjoy the space they work in.

Healthcare Facilities

Considering a lot of biophilic design is geared towards the health benefits of nature, it kind of makes sense that our health care facilities incorporate this, as well. I mean, the point of our healthcare facilities is to make people better right? Right???

But hey, while I’m over here promoting the liberal dream of affordable healthcare that actually focuses on making people better, I might as well mention there are some cost savings benefits for these facilities. For example, incorporating biophilic design reduces the use of pain medications such as morphine by 22% and improves post-operative recovery times by 8%. This means people recover faster, clearing up rooms for a quicker turn-over.


With learning disabilities such as ADHD becoming more common, biophilic design is a natural way to help make learning environments function better for everyone. Simple improvements to a classroom, such as allowing view outdoors have been shown to increase overall learning by 20-25%, test scores by 7-18%, and attention by 13%.

School of Visual Concepts – View at sundown from across the street.
School of Visual Concepts

Images courtesy of Radford Creative.

Nature is extremely beneficial to developmental learning, fostering exploration, discovery, and curiosity. In playground designs, those that include natural elements, such as sloping grade changes and artificial stumps, rocks, etc., improve kids’ motor skills and cognitive functioning. Access to nature enables children to form social bonds, coping skills, and improves their overall physical development.

Hospitality / Multifamily

Pop Quiz. Say you have two homes in a neighborhood that are identical in every way, except for one thing. One of these houses looks out across the water of Lake Washington, while the other faces a neighbor’s property. Which one costs more? Even if you’re not a realtor, it’s common knowledge that waterfront properties cost more. This same rule applies to hotels. According to studies, guests are willing to pay 23% more for rooms with a view. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to scope out the best location for your hotel or multifamily building, but rather, you can utilize biophilic design to create internal views that are pleasant to look at, such as incorporating a courtyard or green wall.

The Eden Apartments Amenities Refresh – Board & Vellum – Multi-Family Interiors
The Eden Apartments: Amenity Refresh

Photo by Tina Witherspoon.

This is not just important for rooms, but amenity spaces, too. The percent of guests spending time in hotel lobbies with biophilic elements increases by 36% over spaces that don’t. More time spent in these hotel amenity spaces means more profit for the hotels. And there is a correlation with the overall satisfaction guests give when staying at these spaces. Spaces with biophilic elements were rated two times higher than those without.

This applies to multifamily buildings, as well. As more of these buildings are incorporating amenity features, it’s important to include biophilic elements into the design.

Retail / Restaurant

With so many bars, restaurants, and retail shops out there, how do you set yours apart in the competitive market? Biophilic design may be your solution. People tend to linger in retail stores with more biophilic elements, such as natural light or plants, and they are even more likely to not only buy something, but come back again. Plus, studies show that customers are willing to pay 8-12% more for goods and services in these types of spaces, and 25% more on food/beverage. One study found that adding skylights into a retail space actually increased sales by 40%. Wow!

Laughing Buddha – Tattoo Parlor & Piercing Shop – Retail – Board & Vellum
Laughing Buddha Tattoo & Body Piercing

Photo by Travis Peterson.

Biophilic design is also beneficial to your employees, improving overall wellness as shown in other studies. There are even economic benefits, as natural light, low flow fixtures, and energy star appliances help in reducing the overall utility bills.

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