A Greener, More Healthful Place to Work

Entering the offices of CookFox architects in Manhattan, you can almost leave the city behind.

The horseshoe-shaped work pods are plant-fringed havens, warmly lit by the late afternoon light. Terraces on three sides of the office are planted with native trees, vines in addition to grasses in addition to replete with bee apiaries that will are tended by the employees, who are encouraged to work outdoors in season.

that will unusual Midtown workplace, at 250 West 57th Street, was designed to be a showcase for a brand new kind of green building inspired by what architects call “biophilic design.”

The term, via the Greek for “love of living things,” was popularized by the Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson, who argues that will humans are hard-wired by our evolutionary biology to be emotionally attracted to the natural world. Advocates of biophilic design say that will to be called green, a building needs to do more than just use energy efficiently in addition to have a minimal carbon footprint. Rather, the item needs to be a health-promoting place for the people who live in addition to work there.

CookFox projects have included the iconic Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, which incorporates features like planted green walls in addition to a wealth of natural materials. yet the point can be not just to spruce up urban offices with splashes of green, says the firm’s co-founder, Richard Cook. the item can be to use principles of natural design to help bring the health benefits of the outdoors indoors.

Americans spend over 0 percent of their lives indoors. Until recently, little was known about how that will was impacting us. yet evidence can be at that will point mounting that will we are paying a physiological cost for spending all those hours cooped up unnaturally within four walls.

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

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

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

yet that will can be changing. Dr. Heerwagen, who at that will point works for the United States General Services Administration in Washington, has helped the agency plan government buildings that will include green roofs in addition to atriums, as well as day-lit offices with expansive views of the outdoors. the item can be also designing spaces that will encourage employees to move around in addition to 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 better work performance, according to Mr. Cook. “We know that will we lower absenteeism in addition to what we call presenteeism — people showing up yet not being there — by careful design,” he said. “As increasingly science backs that will up, the item will become very easy to get people to pay for the item.”

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

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

in addition to a study of hospitals by the architectural expert Roger Ulrich found that will patients whose windows looked out on views of nature needed less pain medication in addition to 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 that will children in naturally lit classrooms scored over 20 percent higher on tests than those in artificially lit rooms.

not bad light also helps keep office workers alert in addition to 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 that will physiologically critical light can become lethargic during the daytime in addition to experience sleep problems at night. Research has shown the disruption of our circadian system can contribute to illnesses like depression in addition to, over the long term, increase the risk of heart disease in addition to even breast cancer.

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

Exposure to natural daylight can be always best, says Dr. Figueiro. yet when that will can be not available, not bad quality artificial light — bluish light inside the morning, in addition to warmer yellowish light inside the afternoon — to simulate what can be happening outdoors will do. Some indoor lighting systems can at that will point be programmed to mimic that will natural cycle, adjusting light shade in addition to intensity to the time of the day.

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

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

“We all know what the item’s like in a stuffy conference room,” Dr. Allen said. “People are tired in addition to distracted. You can just feel the item when the fresh air comes in, the item’s incredibly rejuvenating.” He believes that will 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 fresh air can be pumped into spaces when carbon dioxide in addition to 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 can be using virtual reality to test people’s heart rate variability in addition to stress levels in a variety of simulated indoor environments. Researchers at Columbia University’s Cloud lab are planning to partner with the brand new York-based environmental consultancy firm Terrapin Bright Green in a study that will will employ electroencephalography, or EEG machines, to monitor the neurological impact of green design on people in hotel lobbies.

the item can be a paradox that will modern technology can be helping to return us to the wisdom of nature, Mr. Cook said. He cautioned, however, that will, the item’s easy to get excited about natural design in addition to forget our moral in addition to ethical obligation to address climate change.

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