Plants, fresh air, natural light make workplaces healthy

For office buildings to be truly healthy places to work, they should have plenty of leafy plants, fresh air, and natural lighting, according to environmental health experts.

Inspired by “biophilic design”—a term that comes from the Greek for “love of living things”—architects have begun trying to bring the health benefits of the outdoors indoors, according to a January 11, 2018 New York Times article. Some newly designed office spaces include health-promoting features such as planted green walls, atriums, bee apiaries, and spaces that encourage employees to move around and engage with one another, rather than sitting behind a desk all day.

The Times article cited research by Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science, that found that people in properly ventilated buildings did twice as well on tests of cognitive performance and decision-making as those in poorly ventilated buildings.

“We all know what it’s like a stuffy conference room,” Allen said. “People are tired and distracted. You can just feel it when the fresh air comes in, it’s incredibly rejuvenating.”

The article also mentioned work by Allen’s research group to use virtual reality to test people’s heart rate variability and stress levels in a variety of simulated indoor environments.

Read the New York Times article: A Greener, More Healthful Place to Work

Learn more

‘Healthy’ buildings can improve workers’ performance (Harvard Chan School news)

Green office environments linked with higher cognitive function scores (Harvard Chan School release)

School buildings can influence student health, performance (Harvard Chan School news)