Growth May 23, 2017 Last updated September 19th, 2018 3,020 Reads share

Two Birds, One Stone: How Biophilic Design Boosts Productivity and Sustainability

Image Credit:

Summer is finally approaching, bringing in a wave of good weather that can make it increasingly difficult to spend long hours indoors. This has the potential to stir up a sense of restlessness or unhappiness in the workplace. This can be problematic, especially for expanding companies. Given Spain’s beautiful Mediterranean climate, we recognized how important it was to take measures to prevent these issues before they occurred as we opened our coworking space in Barcelona. Our key to success? The implementation of biophilic design.

Although workspace quality is widely recognized as an essential factor in employee satisfaction, many businesses are leaving out features vital to a quality work environment. According to a

Before opening BCNewt’s coworking space in Barcelona, I worked from home. Spending days at a time confined indoors made me realize firsthand the importance of being able to connect with nature in the workplace. I kept this in mind when designing our office.

However, human connection with nature isn’t a one-way street; it’s a symbiotic relationship. Incorporating biophilic design in an office space has the potential to not only increase the wellbeing of employees, but of the earth as well. I have a twelve-year-old son, and I want to make the world a better place for him. If we don’t take care of the environment now, then we make things harder for the next generation. With him in mind, I focused on creating an eco-friendly workspace that would not only provide benefits to our coworkers, but also improve office sustainability.

Biophilic Design Trick #1: Letting in the Light

One of the most important design elements in our office is natural light. This is evident by the wall of windows that illuminate the room. Lighting has a powerful impact on our wellbeing because our bodies follow a photosensitive circadian rhythm that dictates our sleep schedules. According to Human Spaces, dimly lit rooms can cause people to feel tired or stressed. Increasing natural light in an office reduces stress and increases productivity and alertness.

“I used to work in an office without windows or natural light. It made me feel closed in and suffocated,” said Martina Mendelova, employee of Datavard and Coworker at BCNewt. “There’s lots of natural light in BCNewt, and I really like it. I’ve definitely seen a change in my mood and productivity.”

Introducing natural light also helps the environment because it reduces the amount of energy we use in the office. According to the 2013 Earth System Science Journal Report, the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions is from the burning of fossil fuels, commonly used for electricity, heat and transportation. Large windows allow us to leave off many lights during the day, reducing our carbon footprint.

Biophilic Design Trick#2: Ditching the Cubicle Maze

Another element we’ve incorporated into BCNewt is our open spaces, which allow conversation and ideas to flow freely through the office without the interruption of walls or cubicles. Open office plans mimic the wide open spaces found in nature. This can increase a person’s happiness and ability to focus, according to the Human Spaces Report.

“I love that BCNewt is a very approachable environment. It allows you to have your own workspace but still easily communicate with others around you,” said Daniel Page, Head of Operations of StudySoup and BCNewt Coworker. “It helps me get my best work done because it’s less suffocating than closed spaces.”

In spaces where dividers are needed, such as around kitchen spaces or meeting rooms, you can help the environment by making your own out of recyclables. We had a lot of leftover wooden pallets after the construction of our coworking space in Barcelona. I talked with our designer, Mercurio Sobocki, about incorporating them into our design instead of throwing them away. We ended up turning them into beautiful, geometric light fixtures. It was a tough job, but the results were worth it. Using recycled materials not only reduces landfill waste, but also reduces the waste caused by the production of temporary walls, metal light fixtures and other furniture.

Biophilic Design Trick #3: Greenery for a Greener Planet

We also incorporate biophilic design through our use of plants. For example, we wrapped strands of ivy around our kitchen divider to give it a more natural feel. Plants have a powerful impact on a person’s mental state. According to Human Spaces, greenery boosts creativity and happiness. They also found offices without greenery in the workspace reported higher levels of stress and more used sick days.

Incorporating plants in the office is also beneficial for physical health. Plants absorb carbon dioxide from the air as well as toxins released through the off-gassing of electronics, cleaning supplies and cooking fumes. According to NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, household plants can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins within 24 hours. They also increase the flow of oxygen in a building. Not only is this beneficial for employees, it can also have a positive impact on the environment. If practiced on a wide scale,  it helps reduce the level of air pollutants a building contributes to the city.  

Keeping biophilia in mind when designing your office space can have a powerful impact on employee wellbeing and productivity. But it doesn’t have to be a one-way relationship. Intertwining biophilic and eco-friendly design allows you to create a more positive workspace while also benefiting the Earth.

I think Gustavo’s green initiativesTwo Birds, One Stone: How Biophilic Design Boosts Productivity and Sustainability at BCNewt speaks to the environment he’s created here,” said Page. “He not only cares for each person and their success and wellbeing, but also the wellbeing of the city.”

We spend most of our time in workspaces, so it’s important to have a great environment we can enjoy. With all of the benefits biophilic and eco-friendly design provides to businesses and employees, it’s only a matter of time before it’s embraced on a wider scale.

Gustavo Franco

Gustavo Franco

Read Full Bio