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Dinosaurs May Be Gone But We haven’t Changed

…and a brief lesson in Earthing.

If you could teleport to where you’d much rather be right now, where would that be?

Would it be a place where the sun shines on your face, or high on a hill where a breeze brushes your skin? Would you be submerged in cool blue water, or would you be hanging out with a partner, or a beloved pet?  I may not have nailed your perfect place, but I bet that sitting in your office wasn’t your answer.  Why?  The truth is we’re creatures of biology, not silicon. We find solace in nature.

Our earth is a complex, vibrant ecosystem where all organisms interact to create the ideal conditions for life. We may not completely understand how it all works, but we have an affinity to nature because we are part of that ecosystem.

Irked that humanity was pushing towards industrialization without much regard for our amazing ecosystem, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin created Earth Day almost 50 years ago. The idea was to dedicate a day each year to understanding, learning and respecting the natural system of which we are a part. Earth Day, April 22nd is a perfect time to reflect on what is helping us thrive, even though a massive 90% of our lives are spent in man-made structures.

For the most part, we can thank the principles of Biophilic design for our continued well being. Biophilic design principles articulate the relationship between nature, human biology and the built environment.  We have evolved to the level where we are able to enhance our environment and thus promote our fitness and survival through incorporating our ecosystem in our lives. Fire keeps us warm, water hydrates our bodies, plants provide nutrients, refuge keeps us protected, etc. Biophilic design recognizes 14 patterns with the purpose of addressing human well-being. These principles have been proven to increase health benefits. These Biophilic design patterns fall under three categories.

NATURE IN SPACE: This is the direct physical impact, or sense, of nature in space.

Marketo Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project: Marketo, San Mateo CA

 

  1. Visual Connection to Nature. Our brains and bodies respond and connect by simply seeing nature. Think: windows.
  2. Non-Visual Connection to Nature. Without seeing it you can still experience it thanks to our other senses. The blind critic explains some his favorite nature sounds. Simply open your ears, nostrils, taste buds and feel around you.
  3. Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli. These are non-predictable movements that we relate to elements of nature. Maybe it’s a waterfall or leaves of a tree rustling in a breeze.
  4. Thermal & Airflow Variability. The cool moisture of a dewy morning changing to a warm, breezy afternoon.
  5. Presence of Water. Imagine staring at a mirrored lake or trickling brook, listening to the sound of the water lapping or trailing your fingers on the wet surface.
  6. Dynamic & Diffuse Light. Think: golden hour.
  7. Connection with Natural Systems. Become a holistic participant in the natural changes throughout the seasons; the look, the feel, the sights, the sounds, and the smells.
NATURAL ANALOGS: Objects, materials, colors, shapes, sequences and patterns evoke a sense of nature.

Facebook Office Menlo Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project: Facebook, Menlo Park 

 

  1. Biomorphic Forms and Pattern. Naturally occurring shapes and schemes. Think: flowers, spider webs and honeycombs.
  2. Material Connection with Nature. Distinctive materials that are found in specific places. Think: Lava rock near volcanoes or sand on the beach.
  3. Complexity and Order. This is the way things are scaled naturally in space. Wide open valley or inside a small mountaintop cave.
NATURE OF THE SPACE: Spatial elements that evoke our desire to go into the unknown, taking a risk momentarily, until we discover we can proceed safely.

Dropbox headquarters, San Francisco

Project: Dropbox, San Francisco CA 

 

11. Prospect. Having access to a vista or distant view.

12. Refuge. Finding a secure covered space, like a protected cave, to watch the activity outside or perhaps watch the dinosaurs migrate past you.

13. Mystery. This is the innate urge to discover. Curiosity killed the cat but that sure didn’t stop cats from being curious.

14. Risk and Peril. There might be something to the space that is a bit risky, releasing a good dose of dopamine, with the knowledge that we’ll be alright because the risk isn’t all that bad. (After all, the dinosaurs are extinct.)

Biophilia research demonstrates how environments impact one or more of these mind-body systems: cognitive, psychological and physiological.

The research shows measurable positive impacts on us such as reduced stress, visual acuity, hormone balance, and creativity. Basically, the result of these positive impacts is all-around well-being. The integration of these patterns in today’s workplaces and structures have allowed us to thrive and stay connected even though we no longer live under the stars or hunt our own meals.

But what if you don’t necessarily work in an environment applying Biophilia? Perhaps your stress level has been rising. What can you do? Well, don’t fret. The simple daily practice of grounding yourself or “Earthing” also has great health benefits. Go outside, take off your shoes and connect with the earth. This may sound hippy-dippy but there is a reputable health study which shows that connecting with the earth’s electrons “can promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well-being.”

Walk in nature

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully your work environment is designed around Biophilic principles. On this Earth Day, you might be inspired to say a quick thanks to your Facilities, Real Estate, Architecture or Design professionals who have thoughtfully considered your health and well-being in the creation of your work environment.

If not, at least go outside and play footsie with the Earth’s electrons. Your body systems will thank you. Happy Earth Day.

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Marlene Sironi

Workplace Strategist

With over 20 years of design application and workplace strategy experience, Marlene understands the changing world of work, from the most influential Bay Area to a broad range of markets nationwide. She engages with clients on discovery, visioning and thoughtful design strategy.

 

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Architecture, Neuroscience and the Green Office

Wellness, innovation, productivity… they’re all huge priorities in the work place. 

green office

Now architects are taking cues from neuroscience in order to design the ultimate ‘green office‘ – a work environment that’s not only sustainable from an environmental perspective, but one that helps occupants have a happier, healthier and more productive work day.

The key to understanding how to design the perfect office is simple: there’s no ‘one size fits all’!

Along with the open plan office comes an opportunity to turn the conventional into the exceptional by creating spaces that elicit specific outcomes because of their influence on the human psyche.  It’s all about unique spaces that create unique experiences as you move into them.  Now that we’re no longer chained to a desk, we can move between stations and spaces to find our happy place – the perfect place for whatever we’re working on right now.

If we need to do some blue sky thinking… let’s move into the space with the soaring, cathedral like ceilings and the green, living walls.  If we need to thrash out the minutea, let’s convene in a cosy collaborative space with lower ceilings.

Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University reminds us that we’re naturally drawn to open, green spaces with blue sky and tall trees.  It’s where we can expand our ideas and our visions.  But when we’re threatened, or under pressure, we crave the safety of smaller, safer spaces.

green officeColors, as we’ve discussed previously on the blog, also have a huge impact on how we feel, behave and perform.  Blue keeps us alert.  The reason is pretty obvious.  When the sky is blue it’s daytime and we are awake because the light suppresses the production of melatonin which makes us sleepy.

Blue skies, just like cathedral ceilings, also inspire us to be innovative, creative and visionary – hence the term ‘blue sky thinking’.

Green, is of course, a tranquil color and the most prolific color in nature and it helps us focus in a calm, systematic way.  The best way to introduce green?  Living plants, of course.  Green plants, fresh air and lots of light help our offices feel like places where we want to work.

natural environment green officeAccording to Dr. John Medina, a Washington University molecular biologist,  greenery and plants make us instinctively understand that we’re near water.  Water is essential to life, so we feel nourished and calm. This is why we’re able to focus better surrounded by green.

There’s a brand new campus being developed in Seattle for Urban Visions that is being designed using neuroscientific findings to create a space that will be quite unique and cover 1.2 million square feet.  The goal is to create ‘moments of experience’ throughout the campus with no two moments being alike.  The developers hope to stimulate creativity and innovation.

Since the introduction of the Well Building Standard, we expect to see many more campuses designed around people, supporting them emotionally, mentally and physically.  Work spaces are no longer only about work… they’re about creating a complete environment that nurtures occupants and helps them fulfill their highest potential.  That can only be good for workers and productivity.

 

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10 Ways to Hack your Work Footprint

You spend most of your day at work.

So it follows that the bulk of your environmental impact happens there, too. Follow these ten steps to hack your footprint and be greener at work.

biking

1. Start the day right. Take public transportation, walk, or bike to work if you can. Or if you must drive, try carpooling. You can calculate the carbon impact of your commute here.

2. Think twice before printing. Can you use a file sharing service like Box or Dropbox instead? Or can you share a file on your company’s network drive?

paper with notes

3. DIY notecards. When you do need to print, cut your old documents into quarters and use the backs to take notes, write down phone messages, etc.

4. Work from home. Many companies now allow their employees to telecommute, a greener option. Try working from home once a week.

5. Ditch the bottled water. It’s not just the plastic. Bottled water’s lifespan requires fossil fuels to transport and electricity to warehouse. Opt for a glass or water bottle instead.

business lady

6. Shop ethically. With a little effort, high quality work staples can be found at secondhand stores. Or seek out ethical clothing brands that are making new clothes sustainably.

7. Use recycled office supplies. Most office suppliers offer supplies made from recycled materials. Check to see what options your supplier offers.

salad

8. Lunchbox Chic. Instead of bringing a plastic bag or individually packaged lunch, bring your meal in a reusable container like a lunchbox or mason jar.

9. Power play. Adjust your computer settings to engage sleep mode when not in use. Turn off and unplug your devices when not in use. And don’t forget about conference room lights.

plants

10. Get a Plant. Plants increase the oxygen in your work space, and improve mental clarity. Populate your office with plants.

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Salone del Mobile and Milan Design Week Recap!

Pearl Lopez, our Creative Designer, is back with a recap from Salone del Mobile and Milan Design Week. Take it away, Pearl.

Welcome to Salone del Mobile Milano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salone del Mobile and Milan Design Week is the largest furniture trade show of its kind. Going on its 56th year, “Salone” features the latest products in architectural and interior design with exhibits that have an artistic and experiential feel. We were only able to experience Salone del Mobile Milano virtually this year, but here’s a round-up of some of our favorites!

 

Colors from Milan

Pastels and soft neutral tones were still the norm, but we noticed bold & saturated tones making an increased appearance. Rich navy, burgundy, mustard and shades of green mingled with coral, blush, and pale gray creating a striking combination.

Milan Colors

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images from, Clockwise: Normann Copenhagen; Wallpaper magazine Massimo De Carlo “Fireworks; Wallpaper magazine Rossana Orlandi “Se”; Carl Hansen & Son, “Milan Home”

 

Fernando Mastrangelo’s Escape Line

We’ve long been fans of Brooklyn-based artist Fernando Mastrangelo (hyperlink: https://www.fernandomastrangelo.com/) and his design firm M-Material (hyperlink: http://www.m-material.com/).  His furniture has a sculptural and ethereal quality to it, and his newest line, Escape, is no exception. Inspired by landscape paintings, Mastrangelo layers hand-dyed sand, silica and crushed powdered glass, creating a rainbow, rammed earth effect. The colors and layers evoke abstract notions of landscapes full of rolling hills, the melding of the sky and sea or of soft moments of sunrise.

Mastrangelo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image from, Clockwise: IAMFM Instagram, Design Boom, Dezeen, Dezeen.

 

David Derksen’s Grid Space Dividers

SaloneSatellite runs concurrently with Salone del Mobile and focuses on promising young and upcoming designers. Interior Design magazine spotlighted David Derksen Design (hyperlink: http://davidderksen.nl/) in their “5 Young Design Firms to Watch From SaloneSatellite 2017” (hyperlink: http://www.interiordesign.net/articles/13117-5-young-design-firms-to-watch-from-salonesatellite-2017/), and we couldn’t agree more. The Grid Space Dividers would be a perfect addition to an open office environment by creating division in a light & airy way. Further, the Grid can be outfitted with LED lights or acoustical panels lending some function to its minimal form.

Thumb Grid space dividers by David Derksen

Image from: David Derksen Design

 

Euroluce 2017

We’d be remiss not to feature some of the highlights from Euroluce 2017, the international lighting exhibition which also runs concurrently with Salone del Mobile. The minimal simplicity of Michael Anastassiades collection (hyperlink: http://michaelanastassiades.com/collection) was especially powerful and dramatic.  Not to be outshone (pun intended!), was Formafantasma (http://www.formafantasma.com/) with lighting that expressed a relationship with its environment, and Ladies & Gentlemen Studio (hyperlink: http://www.ladiesandgentlemenstudio.com/) with lighting that layered simple shapes of textured plate glass to create a more complex structure.

Euroluce 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images from, Clockwise: Michael Anastassiades for Flos, designboom Formafantasma Blush Lamp, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio Kazimir, Dezeen Formafantasma Foundation

 

La Triennale Design Museum “Giro Giro Tondo”

The Triennale Design Museum devotes itself to exploring the history of Italian Design. It opened its “Giro Giro Tondo” (or “Ring around the Rosie” for us non-Italians!) exhibit during Milan Design Week to show the “time devoted to the world of children and to the design and architecture that has been created for them.” Their playful, smile-inducing, graphic, though geared toward children, appeals to the child in all of us.

sebastianerras instagram

Image from: Sebastianerras Instagram

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Earth Day: People, Planet and Product

When it comes to looking after the planet, it’s not something we take seriously only on Earth Day.  It’s an ongoing commitment.

allsteel-neocon2016

For this reason, we are very proud to be associated with our major vendor, Allsteel who has a reputation for embracing sustainability in all aspects of their business.  The way Brandon Sieben, President of Allsteel Inc. puts it is, A vision of true sustainability ties together social equity, environmental quality, and economic development – what we prefer to call people, planet, and profit.”  We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Allsteel Aware

When you’re in the office furniture industry, looking after the planet by choosing product that’s manufactured sustainably is important.  It’s not just about using materials that won’t negatively impact the planet and the built environment, it’s about eliminating waste, re-purposing furniture that has outlived its usefulness and practicing social responsibility.

Allsteel uses a process called LCA, Life Cycle Assessment, to evaluate the entire life cycle of every single product they produce.  It’s a detailed analysis of the impact that product has on the environment over the course of its lifespan.  It takes everything into account, right from from raw material extraction; material processing; material transportation; product assembly; packaging; distribution; use; to end-of-life disposal.

They also provide Environmental Product Declarations (EPD).  These were created to provide an understandable report of how a product impacts natural resources, the environment, and the atmosphere. Allsteel’s EPDs are third-party verified, product specific, and can contribute to the LEED V4 credit for Materials and Resources: Building Product Disclosure & Optimization, Environmental Product Declarations, Option 1.

allsteel clubhouse

Besides this, Allsteel keeps a close eye on their energy use covers everything from energy used in the manufacture of products, transportation and extraction of raw materials to how much energy is consumed by employee transportation.  Allsteel utilizes the Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and World Business Council on Sustainability Development (WBCSD) to guide the inventory of our greenhouse gas emissions.

They also invest in renewable energy wherever possible. Allsteel introduced solar energy to our small Iowa town in 2004, added a solar array to the factory roof in 2010, doubled it in 2011, and continues to evaluate further expansion.

We think it fair to say that Allsteel has taken their philosophy of sustainability to levels that allow our customers to choose their product with complete peace of mind knowing that, not only are ergonomics a priority, but also the environment.

 

 

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