The Next Frontier in Office Space? The Outdoors

Sourced from The New York Times

For years, office architects and designers have been bringing nature into the workplace, incorporating materials like wood and stone and strategically deploying plants and botanical artwork.

Now, companies are inviting employees to step outside for a taste of the real thing.

Employers with suburban campuses have long turned swaths of blank lawn into furnished outdoor areas where workers can meet with colleagues, work alone or simply take a break from their computer screens.

Now, developers and owners of urban office buildings are adding terraces and transforming once-barren rooftops into parklike settings, where workers can plant vegetables, unfurl yoga mats or swing in a hammock.

“There’s not a developer or forward-thinking building owner today that doesn’t have this top of mind,” said Paul J. Amrich, a vice chairman for the New York area at CBRE, a real estate services company.

Fueling this trend is growing awareness of the health and wellness benefits from contact with nature, a concept known as biophilia. Exposure to nature has been shown to lower levels of cortisol, the human stress hormone, as well as stimulate creativity. Employers competing for the best workers are using outdoor amenities to show they care about their staff’s well-being.

CookFox Architects, a firm in Manhattan that focuses on sustainability, makes green outdoor space a prerequisite when agreeing to design a building. The firm, which grows kale and tends an apiary on the terraces of its own office, recently completed 512W22, an office building in Chelsea, for Vornado Realty Trust and the Albanese Organization. The 172,700-square-foot building has an additional 16,920 square feet of terraces and a common roof, all planted with native grasses and trees selected by MKM Landscape Architecture.

“Every floor in the building has an outdoor space attached to it,” said David R. Greenbaum, president of Vornado’s New York division.

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