Designed for Wellbeing – Biophilic Design

We spend on average 90% of our time indoors (and this was before the pandemic!).  The way we design our spaces must respond to the simple truth: where we live affects our wellbeing.

This is especially the case given the screen-heavy normality of daily life.

Biophilic design is about providing a connection between people and nature. This might be through the introduction of plants inside a building, providing views outside to a green space or using natural materials, forms and patterns to evoke a connection with nature. 

The benefits of biophilic design have been widely studied across different sectors; 

  • Adding plants and other biophilic elements can reduce physiological stress, increase attention span and improve wellbeing resulting in an increase in productivity of up to 15%
  • In offices, locating people next to windows with a view can increase productivity by an incredible 25%
  • Children in school with biophilic design are able to concentrate better and feel more engaged with their work helping them learn 20% faster . 
  • Hospital patients recover faster and need 20% less pain relief when they have a view of trees and green space
  • Shoppers in retail stores and town centres will pay between 15- 25% more for their products when in a greener more natural setting

Views towards a green space should be maximised where possible, plants, natural and tactile materials should be included where possible and practical.

A simple way that we can all connect more with nature is to introducing house plants into our home. 

Our top 5 plants for wellbeing-inspired spaces  

From the time we spend caring for them to their brilliant air-purifying, toxin-removing properties, plants are an essential part of any home. 

Plants are an affordable, aesthetic addition to any room but their purpose is practical too. 

Nurturing and watching plants grow is rewarding and gives us a sense of purpose and routine which is great for our mental state. Not to mention, it’s an activity that doesn’t require your phone, zoom, or any screen time, allowing you to zone out and enjoy some quiet time.

Even just seeing greenery can help us relax, de-stress, and feel calmer; benefiting our day-to-day mood. 

Plants are also fantastic air-purifiers, removing toxins and sometimes harmful chemicals from rooms, improving air quality and ventilation. They do the opposite of what we do when we breathe, oxygenating the room, clearing the air of toxins. (NASA revealed they can remove up to 87% of toxins in just one day!)

Oxygenated air is important to our brains: it helps us sleep better, focus more effectively and de-stress. It’s the same reason we feel better after a walk. Just like the fresh air outside, plants help give the same effect on our brains. 

Holistically, these green-leaved heroes are amazing for our overall wellbeing. Their benefits have a knock-on effect too: sleeping better aids our memory and maintains energy levels; and higher focus increases productivity and therefore a sense of purpose in work and study. Feeling calmer and happier reflects in our mood and impacts our relationships with those around us. 

Just about any real plants will improve your mental wellness but there are some that we absolutely love. 

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Chlorophytum comosum 'Bonnie'

One of the most popular houseplants and considered easy to grow, thriving in any conditions other than direct sunlight. Known for their air purification, they work to reduce anxiety, fatigue, and even lower blood pressure. 

Spider plants are also non-toxic (so safe for pets and children!) as well as easy to propagate, so you can have multiple plants from cuttings of the original! 

Care: Well-watered, average temperatures, out of direct sunlight. 

Perfect: Potted, in pretty much any room!

https://www.root-houseplants.com/product-page/chlorophytum-comosum-bonnie?page=2

 

Birds nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)

In bathrooms, varieties of fern tend to do really well due to the moisture and their need for high humidity. They can work in other spaces too; humidity can be achieved by misting. Bathrooms can feel rather plain and empty, especially in rental accommodation, so adding a plant can really help boost the vibe, creating a relaxing environment to switch off. 

Care: Warm-ish temperatures, keep soil moist, and avoid direct sun or dense shade. 

Perfect: In a bathroom, kitchen, or other highly-humid environment. 

Another option is Boston fern, which you are extremely unlikely to kill by overwatering! Most ferns are un-toxic, but it’s always best to check specifically before purchasing. 

https://www.root-houseplants.com/product-page/asplenium-nidus-crispy-wave?page=7

 

Areca Palms (Dypsis lutescens)

These big, beautiful plants are famous for eliminating toxins and purifying the air around it. Perfect for larger spaces and are pet-safe! Aside from basic watering and misting, they are relatively low maintenance and can live up to ten years, only needing repotting every 2-3 years.

Care: Regular watering and misting. Average temperatures and in bright, indirect light.

Perfect: As a statement plant due to its size, in any room. 

https://www.root-houseplants.com/product-page/dypsis-lutescens-areca-palm

Snake Plants (Dracaena trifascita)

Another one famous for its air-purification! Otherwise known as mother-in-law’s tongue, these are possibly the most low-maintenance plant you can buy: they literally thrive on neglect! Hardy and tolerant of most conditions, the only danger is over-watering! They are aesthetically beautiful too, which is always a plus. 

They are, however, toxic to pets and children if eaten.

Care: Prefers some sun, but will grow in shade, average temperatures, and requires watering only when soil is completely dry. 

Perfect: In shared communal spaces, demanding no-one’s sole responsibility! 

https://www.root-houseplants.com/product-page/sansevieria-laurentii-mother-in-laws-tongue

String of hearts (Ceropegia linearis)

Popular for their trailing aesthetic, these plants look great hanging from bedroom shelves and need little watering, making them low-maintenance. Non-toxic, and fast-growing. 

Another popular trailing plant that fights common household toxins is Devils Ivy (Epipremnum aureum), which is inherently harder to kill than keep alive! Devils Ivy however is toxic to children and pets if eaten. 

Care: Moderate, indirect light, little watering (only when completely dry), and average temperatures. 

Perfect: For bedroom shelves, or in a macrame hanger. 

https://www.root-houseplants.com/product-page/ceropegia-woodii-string-of-hearts

The plants suggested above are just some of the vast choice available. As property developers, we love including a variety of plants in our properties, for both aesthetic and practical purposes, in line with biophilic principles. They really do help us to design for wellbeing. 

They’re obviously not just great for student properties, but enhance the wellbeing factor of any home! The plants we’ve chosen to feature here are great because they’re relatively low maintenance and need very average conditions to thrive. 

We have many houseplants in our own home (non-toxic of course – with three young children and a dog – this is a must!), and I’m especially fond of the ones from ROOT houseplants, mainly because they are the only ones still alive! 

Biophilic Design is just one of the many topics that we explore in our bestselling book ‘Designed for Wellbeing’, available to buy here: Designed for Wellbeing (all of our profits form the sale of the book are being donated to Student Minds. 

Philippa and Tom Charrier are co founder’s of FAT Properties and hosts of the Designed for Wellbeing Podcast 

FAT Properties is pioneering wellbeing led design in property development and transforming the student property market. Philippa and Tom authored the Amazon #1 bestseller ‘Designed for Wellbeing. They are hosts of their brand new podcast Designed for Wellbeing https://wavve.link/DesignedForWellbeingPodcast  

They work with investors to build long term wealth whilst delivering a positive social impact.

Designed for Wellbeing Podcast with Philippa and Tom Charrier