Designer    Focus 04 Aug 2017

This pioneering research project is encouraging designers to take cues from the natural world

The live office refurbishment will provide environmental and human data as evidence for positive health and wellbeing impacts on office occupants. Launched by BRE (Building Research Establishment), The Biophilic Office project
is a groundbreaking office refurbishment project that
will provide quantified evidence on the benefits of biophilic design on health, well-being and productivity
of office occupants.

The project centres on a 650 sq m 1980s office building on the BRE campus in Watford, which will be refurbished according to biophilic design principles. BRE is partnering with architect and interior designer Oliver Heath, who will lead on the design element of the refurbished building.

A host of founding core partners are involved to bring their industry expertise into the project, including modular flooring manufacturer Interface, living wall system practice Biotecture, paints and coatings manufacturer Akzo Nobel, and skylight brand Coelux among others.

Each of the partners will
be using the office and its test facilities in the project
to evaluate their products’ role in promoting the health and well-being of office occupants and for wider biophilic design. Ed Suttie, Research Director at BRE, said: “The project will show how quantified improvements in productivity and wellness can bring rewards for landlords, occupiers, developers and all those concerned with the office and wider built environment.”

“Researchers will carry out a baseline year of pre-refurbishment and a year of post-refurbishment monitoring, evaluating the office environment for daylight, lighting, indoor
air quality, acoustic, thermal and humidity comfort. Office occupants will undergo confidential health evaluations, and sign up to a series of
online questionnaires and surveys. They will also use wearable technology to monitor key health metrics.”

This comprehensive and long-term study is unique
in terms of scale and data capture and aims to provide a foundation for guidance and adoption of measures
in the facilities management and refurbishment sectors
to promote health and well-being in offices. A
design strategy will be developed including tiers of interventions in zones within the office. The products used will also undergo laboratory evaluation to establish whether a health and well-being potential can be quantified at product level.

Some of the findings of 
the research could prove useful in understanding the potential application of some of the products and ideas
in a residential environment as a contributor to wider principles of well-being.