Neocon 2022 explored biophilic office design, but what is it?


  • This year’s NeoCon explores many themes within the framework of the office, namely biophilia.
  • Biophilic design is a concept used in the building industry to increase human connection to the natural environment
  • Our offices are healthier, calmer and more productive when we invite living beings into our workspaces.

With floor after floor of innovative furniture products, this year’s NeoCon offered a wide range of creative new office solutions.

Like most well-established industries, desktop environments don’t tend to make drastic leaps quickly. Office design industry trends tend to come in slow waves that develop over a few seasons. Many of these emerging themes were highlighted at this year’s NeoCon.

Biophilia: The fancy word for the fact that humans innately know that it is good to be among plants and nature.

Bringing living things inside makes our spaces less sterile and more alive – literally. Offices have had the ficus in the lobby since the days of typewriters and martini lunches, but the movement to bring the outdoors in is a more serious attempt to seek a connection with nature, and it goes way beyond that. beyond decoration. That’s not to say plants aren’t a great way to decorate, but aesthetics aren’t the only focus.

The pandemic has seen home gardening soar. In fact, the gardening industry has seen 300% growth, with seeds and supplies being sold at hardware stores across the country. This was for several good reasons; we were stuck at home with not much else to do.

There is also a practical comfort in growing your own food that times of uncertainty or crisis inspire. Our pandemic gardens were no different from the victory gardens of World War II. However, more intrinsically, plants have a proven calming effect. It can be very calming to be surrounded by lush greenery, whether on a hike, in a botanical garden, or even in a small home greenhouse.

Being stuck inside has made humans want to bring some of the outdoors inside to help us breathe a little easier in these stressful times. The actual production of more oxygen and the absorption of airborne toxins definitely helps too.

It’s no surprise, as we return to our workplaces, that we want to take our helpful plant friends with us this time around. NeoCon has come up with some pretty neat ways to do this; the most prevalent were plants in shared common areas. Almost all of these spaces had several elements of biophilia; wherever people gathered in the office, elements of nature were integrated. Not just one or two planted pots, but cascades of assorted plants.

An office traditionalist would most certainly find the displays messy, a little chaotic, or at least an impending mess – but that’s really what made these gathering places so appealing. It made the whole area relaxing, refreshing and almost at a physically cooler temperature.

The requirement for natural light is also incorporated into the design of open environments. Introducing plants into the office has the advantage of creating these spots in heavily glazed areas, such as spaces once often reserved for private offices or partitioned meeting rooms.

The well-done biophilic design also goes beyond bringing in actual plants; it should incorporate more natural elements, including natural textiles and finishes. NeoCon 2022’s showrooms were filled with heavily textured natural wood grains and rapidly renewable materials like bamboo, cork, and soft materials like wool and various agricultural fibers.

The choice of these materials is an eco-friendly choice (often contributing to LEED points), but also emotionally connects the users of the space to a more natural environment.

Other areas of the spaces have adopted color palettes that complement the natural tones of these materials, allowing the effects of biophilia to flow from common areas to individual workstations.

The fact that these plants need to be watered was not forgotten at this convention. A popular watering method is to use living walls. Sometimes these are inspired by vertical farming equipped with internally irrigated structures and small spaces for individual pods or leafy plants that can hang down to create green cover over a horizontal area.

These can even be movable to reposition themselves towards the light, easily fill water tanks or be used as temporary space dividers. They naturally have a decent amount of sound absorption.

Another interesting approach was to use less water and high-maintenance organisms, such as moss. With a lifespan measured in decades of very slow growth and low water consumption, living moss can cling to vertical surfaces while thriving. Leveraging different colors of moss can allow for beautiful, natural mosaics, murals, or even playful living branding.

Biophilia was becoming an increasingly common trend in office design even before the pandemic. However, it’s encouraging to see our return to the office bring with it an even greater appreciation for the outdoors. Our offices are healthier, calmer and more productive when we invite living beings into our workspaces.

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