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Discover some of the most inspirational offices around the world.  Forget about bringing nature in – these companies are bringing the office outside!  We look at the companies pushing the boundaries of office design to encourage staff to enjoy the great outdoors and boost wellbeing and productivity.

Great design can have amazing impact on our mood, energy levels and creativity.  Today, some of the most interesting office designs in the world are focused on reintroducing nature into our working lives – it’s all based on the concept of biophilia.

What is biophilic design?

Edward O. Wilson coined the term “biophilia” in 1984 to describe the biological connection we feel to nature.  More recent studies have built on Wilson’s work. Yale professor Stephen Kellert makes the point that nature is intrinsic to our wellbeing in his book Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life.

Kellert et al. argue that we have cut ourselves off from nature in the way we design our cities and buildings.  The book makes the case for a new approach to design that integrates nature into our buildings and our lives.

The work has been widely embraced by Silicon Valley’s elite.  Tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google have all signed up to the benefits of biophilic design and begun integrating its principles into their office buildings.

Google’s 2004 campus at Mountain View, California

Google’s Mountain View campus was truly ground-breaking when it opened in 2004.  Staff working here are treated to manicured lawns dotted with hanging chairs, art installations, and patio furniture. Further developed in 2015, it remains one of the leading examples of biophilic design principles.

Microsoft’s treehouse meeting rooms in Redmond, Washington

Microsoft’s headquarters sits in a 500-acre campus nestled in the woods.  This location has enabled the company to build some unique meeting spaces nestled amongst fir trees –complete with Wi-Fi and power outlets, staff are encouraged to connect with nature and find new ways of working.

Amazon’s biospheres and treehouses in Seattle, Washington

The online retailer opened a new building at its Seattle headquarters in early 2018. The Spheres building features three biodomes, which are home to some 40,000 plants and can accommodate 800 people.  The company says it’s a place to relax, enjoy nature, hold meetings and think outside the box.  The new ambience aims to reduce “nature-deficit disorder” because Amazon says the more you lose your connection to nature, the less alive you feel.

Apple Park at Cupertino, California

Apple’s new campus at Apple Park in Cupertino is so luxe it even has a visitors’ centre so you can go and explore its glories for yourself!  Designed by Foster + Partners, the park features quartz stone staircases and huge pieces of curved glass, a café, and a rooftop terrace, plus some 9,000 trees planted around the campus.

Facebook’s roof-top gardens at Menlo Park, California

Facebook’s Frank Gehry-designed MPK 20 building sets the gold standard for outdoor workspaces.  Staff are treated to a nine-acre rooftop garden – complete with whiteboards and Wi-Fi for your meetings, as well as a half-mile walking loop.  It’s eco-efficient too – the green design helps to insulate the building to reduce heating and cooling costs.

If you’re not lucky enough to work in one of these inspiring workspaces, don’t fear – Business Optimizer takes a look at how to take your own work outside here.