A Greener, More Healthful Place to Work

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol tend to be higher in enclosed spaces like office cubicles of which are artificially lit in addition to also deprived of outside views. Poor ventilation — which is usually common in many older office buildings — raises the levels of carbon dioxide, which studies have shown can impair cognitive performance in addition to also dampen mood.

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Architecture with our biology in mind pays off in fewer sick days in addition to also better work performance, says Richard Cook, a co-founder of CookFox.

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Eric Laignel

Design of which ignores the natural requirements of the human body is usually to blame, says Judith Heerwagen, an environmental psychologist who has studied workplaces in addition to also their impact around the United States. “More time in addition to also creativity has gone into designing natural habitats for zoo animals,” she observed in an online post, “than in creating comfortable office spaces for humans.”

nevertheless of which is usually changing. Dr. Heerwagen, who today works for the United States General Services Administration in Washington, has helped the agency plan government buildings of which include green roofs in addition to also atriums, as well as day-lit offices with expansive views of the outdoors. the idea is usually also designing spaces of which encourage employees to move around in addition to also engage with one another — adding healthy exercise to work days spent largely sitting behind a desk.

Architecture with our biology in mind pays off in fewer sick days in addition to also better work performance, according to Mr. Cook. “We know of which we lower absenteeism in addition to also what we call presenteeism — people showing up nevertheless not being there — by careful design,” he said. “As increasingly science backs This kind of up, the idea will become very easy to get people to pay for the idea.”

in addition to also the science of healthy buildings continues to advance. Research by an international team in 2014 showed of which people who worked in offices with leafy green plants concentrated better in addition to also were 15 percent more productive than those who went about their day in spartan offices without them.

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Fresh air in addition to also daylight help keep people alert in addition to also healthy, experts say.

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Eric Laignel

in addition to also a study of hospitals by the architectural expert Roger Ulrich found of which patients whose windows looked out on views of nature needed less pain medication in addition to also were released via the hospital on average about a day earlier than those whose rooms faced a bare brick wall.

Another study of 21,000 elementary school students in several Western states conducted by an energy consultancy firm, the Heschong Mahone Group, found of which children in naturally lit classrooms scored over 20 percent higher on tests than those in artificially lit rooms.

Great light also helps keep office workers alert in addition to also healthy, said Mariana Figueiro, the director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Too many offices are like floodlit caves, illuminated via above to cast light on the work surface of the desk, Dr. Figueiro said. We also need light via the side striking the back of the eye — preferably via a natural source like a window — to entrain our body’s internal circadian clock.

People who are deprived of This kind of physiologically critical light can become lethargic during the daytime in addition to also experience sleep problems at night. Research has shown the disruption of our circadian system can contribute to illnesses like depression in addition to also, over the long term, increase the risk of heart disease in addition to also even breast cancer.

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Worker bees: Employees are encouraged to work outdoors in addition to also tend apiaries.

Credit
Eric Laignel

Exposure to natural daylight is usually always best, says Dr. Figueiro. nevertheless when of which is usually not available, Great quality artificial light — bluish light from the morning, in addition to also warmer yellowish light from the afternoon — to simulate what is usually happening outdoors will do. Some indoor lighting systems can today be programmed to mimic This kind of natural cycle, adjusting light coloration in addition to also intensity to the time of the day.

Equally important as the right kind of light is usually fresh air, says Joseph Allen, the founder of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard’s Center for Health in addition to also the Global Environment. Dr. Allen, who has conducted hundreds of forensic investigations on so-called “sick buildings,” says of which 0 percent of these unhealthy places suffer via inadequate ventilation.

In one study conducted by Dr. Allen in addition to also his colleagues, people in properly ventilated buildings did twice as well on tests of cognitive performance in addition to also decision-doing as those in poorly ventilated buildings.

“We all know what the idea’s like in a stuffy conference room,” Dr. Allen said. “People are tired in addition to also distracted. You can just feel the idea when the fresh air comes in, the idea’s incredibly rejuvenating.” He believes of which the buildup of carbon dioxide levels indoors may depress certain brain functions, although research still needs to be done.

The CookFox architectural studio has air monitors in its office, in addition to also fresh air is usually pumped into spaces when carbon dioxide in addition to also pollutant levels become too high. Lower-tech solutions like opening a window can also help.

Efforts are currently underway to quantify the effects of biophilic design. Dr. Allen’s group is usually using virtual reality to test people’s heart rate variability in addition to also stress levels in a variety of simulated indoor environments. Researchers at Columbia University’s Cloud lab are planning to partner with the completely new York-based environmental consultancy firm Terrapin Bright Green in a study of which will employ electroencephalography, or EEG machines, to monitor the neurological impact of green design on people in hotel lobbies.

the idea is usually a paradox of which modern technology is usually helping to return us to the wisdom of nature, Mr. Cook said. He cautioned, however, of which, the idea’s easy to get excited about natural design in addition to also forget our moral in addition to also ethical obligation to address climate change.

“We don’t just want more beautiful buildings in addition to also better health,” he said. “The health benefits in addition to also the energy reductions are going to need to go hand in hand.”

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