Considering research enquiry into biophilic urbanism and office worker productivity

Reeve, Angela, Desha, Cheryl, Kramer, Caroline, Hargroves, Charlie, & Newman, Peter (2013) Considering research enquiry into biophilic urbanism and office worker productivity. In Kabisch, Nadia, Larondelle, Neele, Reeve, Angela, & Artmann, Martina (Eds.) SURE World Congress 2013, Society for Urban Ecology, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.


In cities, people spend a significant portion of their time indoors, much of which is in office buildings. The quality and nature of these spaces have the potential to be a strong determinant of people’s health and wellbeing. There is a body of evidence that suggests experiences of nature increase the rate of attention recovery, reduce stress, depression and anxiety, and increase cognitive abilities. Further, the presence of nature inside buildings (such as pot plants and internal green walls) can improve indoor air quality, potentially reducing illness and increasing cognitive function. Urban design that integrates nature into the built environment to provide these benefits, among others, is called ‘biophilic urbanism’ and is the subject of growing international interest and research. The potential for these benefits to increase worker productivity in office buildings is of particular interest, as this could significantly increase the financial performance of office building-based organisations. However, productivity is a complex concept that is difficult to define, and affected by a multitude of factors, which make it difficult to measure. This inability to quantify productivity increases from investments in nature- experiences in office buildings is currently a significant barrier to such investments.

Within this context, this paper considers opportunities for research to explore the relationship between office-based nature experiences and productivity, by reviewing existing research in this field and reflecting on the authors’ own experiences. This review has a particular focus on the importance of quantifying this link in order to encourage private property owners to voluntarily integrate nature into buildings to provide city-wide ecosystem service benefits. The paper begins with a contextual overview of how biophilic urbanism can potentially increase worker productivity. Existing methods of measuring and evaluating the performance of biophilic urbanism within the context of office buildings are then explored, along with a discussion of issues with such methods that are currently limiting investment in biophilic urbanism to increase worker productivity and wellbeing. This includes a summary of a survey within a Perth office building to explore the impact of views of nature through a window. Drawing on these insights, the paper makes recommendations regarding opportunities for focusing future investigations to enhance understanding of how biophilic urbanism can contribute to increased wellbeing and productivity in office buildings.

This paper builds on work conducted as part of the Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre Project 1.5, Harnessing the Potential of Biophilic Urbanism in Australia, which considered the role of nature integrated into the built environment in responding to emerging challenges of climate change, resource shortages and population pressures, while providing a host of co- benefits to a range of stakeholders.

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ID Code: 72091
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: biophilic urbanism, productivity, real estate, urban nature, urban design
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EARTH SCIENCES (040000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES (050000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > BUILT ENVIRONMENT AND DESIGN (120000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 20 Apr 2016 01:55
Last Modified: 22 Apr 2016 01:11

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