More Buildings Are Going Green. Literally.

Sourced from the Wall Street Journal

Most people, when they think of “green” buildings, take that to mean structures built with energy conservation in mind. But, increasingly, buildings are becoming literally green, as cities and companies around the world embrace biophilic design—the concept of surrounding buildings with nature, even on their upper floors, and bringing the outdoors indoors by including natural elements in their interior design.

Planted terraces that wrap around buildings, indoor man-made water features such as ponds and waterfalls, plantings that can cover entire interior walls, cascades of windows to maximize natural light—all are key elements of biophilic design, as are expanded views of nature itself.

Aesthetics are clearly a driver of the biophilic movement, but it is also motivated by the bottom line. Biophilic design can result in significant energy savings, and research indicates that employees in buildings designed with biophilic elements not only feel better about their workplace but perform better, too. For example, a landmark 2003 study of 100 employees in a call center of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District showed that workers who sat with views of nature handled up to 12% more calls per hour than those who had no view.

Clif Bar & Co.’s state-of-the-art bakery in Twin Falls, Idaho, is in the vanguard of the movement. Its profusion of windows, skylights and tubes designed to bring sunlight deep into building interiors bathe the facility in gentle natural light. Wall-size projections of nature bring images of mountains, rivers and forests into the bakery’s core. An imposing stone interior corridor is designed to mimic the Snake River Canyon, one of the most stunning geographic features of the West.

And there are plants everywhere: Low-maintenance plants decorate the light-filled common areas where workers gather, giving these indoor spaces an outdoor feel. Outdoors, a number of patios used by employees for breaks and dining are planted with or surrounded by drought-tolerant native plants, including more than 570 trees and 5,700 shrubs and grasses. The bakery also was sited to offer unimpeded vistas of the nearby mountains of the Sawtooth National Forest.

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