THE INSIDER

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The Golden State is Green!

From the Carrizo Plains in San Luis Obispo County to the cliffs of Mendocino, there’s a stunning show of spring colors on display throughout our previously drought stricken state. We’re tempted to use up our sick days to hit the road. Wildflower hunting and getting lost in forests filled with Redwoods and emerald-hued lakes sounds like a pretty good plan.

Carrizo Plains wildflowers at sunset

Just another reason to Stay and Play

Work hard, play hard is a mantra of Silicon Valley. When our tremendously talented workforce breaks away from their computers, you’ll find them mountain biking along Skyline Ridge, hiking the Santa Cruz Mountains, shredding powder in Tahoe or sipping wine in Napa. The recent rains have created enviable experiences that help California attract and retain the best in tech. From adrenaline-pumping activities to savoring the sweet life amongst vibrant vineyards, there’s a never-ending array of ways to unplug and recharge. And where we were once clinking glasses looking upon rolling hills the color of golden wheat, we’re now celebrating in a setting that feels more like the Irish countryside on a warm, idyllic day.

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Rising Waters and a Brown to Green Scene

California’s major reservoirs were almost completely drained, but now, after the wettest winter in years, the waters are plenty. The before and after shots showing reservoir levels, river widths and changes in landscape colors is dramatic. Here are a few popular pics that have been making the rounds on social media.

Oroville Dam

Horses in Woodacre

Enjoy it While You Can

Get out there and take advantage of the beautiful sights dotted up and down California. You never know when mother nature will think she’s been generous enough and take it all away, or when an executive order could change access to some of our most scenic spots forever. The beaches, meadows and mountains are waiting for you – go to them now!

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How Does Having A Green Office Benefit Me?

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Having a ‘green’ office is a hot topic these days as we become more aware of the importance of sustainability.

We’re always hearing about reducing our carbon footprint and doing our best to preserve the planet and reduce our impact on the earth both as individuals and corporations.  We’re all concerned reducing greenhouse gases and combating global warming.

Striving for a ‘green’ office isn’t always done with purely altrusitic motives.  It’s really good for business. It saves money, increases productivity and it’s always a great addition to our corporate P.R.

But, be honest, have you ever secretly wondered how having a green office benefits you?  The old W.I.I.F.M. question.  After all, if we don’t experience a personal benefit, how do we stay motivated in the pursuit of this goal?

Remember we mentioned productivity a little earlier?  Well, productivity is a byproduct of the personal benefit we derive from a green work environment.

To define the personal benefit in the simplest of terms, we need to loogreen officek at the absolute essentials for life:

1. Fresh air
2. Clean water
3. Natural light
4. Healthy food

Without these fundamentals we suffer physically, mentally and emotionally.  This is obviously not a situation anyone enjoys experiencing.  We become fatigued, stressed and eventually ill.  This becomes a big concern to employers as the net result in the workplace is a loss of productivity.

Although employers might cite productivity as a benefit, or even the goal of a ‘green’ office, don’t let that distract you from the very personal benefit you derive from this initiative.

If you work in an office in an older building, particularly in an office that hasn’t had a makeover in quite some time you might not be enjoying the 4 fundamentals listed above.

Although you’re obviously breathing air, is it clean air, or is it air that’s being recycled throughout the building?  Do you spend you day under  artificial lights, or do you enjoy natural light from a nearby window? Does your office provide good quality fresh, clean drinking water, or are you using water directly from the faucet? Does your employer provide opportunity to enjoy healthy food during your lunch break? If not, do you bring a healthy lunch to work each day or are you so busy that you tend to make easy, but less healthy choices while at work?

green officeThe greener your work environment, the more likely you are to enjoy a healthier work day.  The green office goes well beyond conserving paper, recycling and buying sustainable furniture. It goes well beyond choosing ergonomic furniture.

A truly green office takes a wholistic approach that centers around wellness concerns before thinking about productivity and profitability.  Those are simply welcome side effects.

The introduction of the WELL Building Standards has formalized standards for green building design and technology. Unlike L.E.E.D.® building standards which focus on excellence and sustainability in the built environment, WELL Building Standards focus on creating a built environment that supports the wellness of humans.

Creating a green work environment is important for us as individuals when you consider that according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, we spend nearly nine hours and sometimes more on work-related activities each day.

An environment that gives us access to the 4 most basic fundamentals of life allows us to enjoy a better quality of life and wellness.  Living strong, healthy, and yes… productive… is a compelling benefit and  a convincing answer to the question, W.I.I.F.M.?

More on this topic:

https://bloomington.in.gov/green-building-benefits

https://www.officefinder.com/officeblog/4-benefits-green-office-space/

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/creating-a-healthy-and-positive-work-environment/

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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