Greenacre Park for employees
Nestled between buildings in Manhattan, Greenacre Park provides employees of nearby businesses a serene view from office windows or a place for a short break. (Photo credit: Mike Peel / Wikimedia)

Studies show that people are happier, healthier, and more productive when they spend time in buildings that include elements of nature.

“There are lots of different ways we can bring nature into the built environment,” says Bill Browning, a partner at Terrapin Bright Green, a sustainable building design firm. “People think it just means bringing plants in there. But it could also be bringing water and daylight and natural breezes, the use of natural materials.”

Browning says many of these features are also good for the climate. For example, when designing a building with nature in mind, he emphasizes daylighting and natural ventilation – “both of which dramatically lower the energy use of the building if done well,” he says.

Browning says design can also make people more aware of local ecology. For example, his firm often uses reclaimed wood or rough-hewn stone that reflects a building’s location. And carefully placed windows can encourage people to observe the changing seasons or butterflies visiting a pollinator garden.

“So bringing these experiences of nature,” he says, “and tying you to those experiences in nature in the built environment hopefully helps you think differently about where you are.”

And more connected to the environment outside your four walls.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Karin Kirk

Karin Kirk

Karin Kirk is a geologist and freelance writer with a background in climate education. She's a scientist by training, but the human elements of climate change occupy most of her current work. Karin is...