Written and submitted by Jim Mumford, Good Earth Plant Company

When did you last spend time outdoors? You might think everyone is outside enjoying summer weather and school vacations. In San Diego, there’s hardly a day all year when you can’t be outside in short sleeves (or less).

Buried in a report by the Environmental Protection Agency from 1989 is this shocking statistic: people in industrialized countries include the U.S. and Europe spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors. Specifically, people spend 93 percent of their time indoors, five percent in transit in a car or public transportation), and just two percent outside.

I’d like to think this number is lower in San Diego, but even if it’s 80 percent, it’s still a sobering reality. Our health and well-being is governed by our environment inside our homes, workplaces, schools, public facilities, and other buildings like stores and movie theaters. As facilities professionals, anything you can do to improve the quality of the indoor environment needs to be a priority.

It makes me even more relentless about leading industry discussions about ways to improve indoor environments by bringing nature inside in the form of plants, by promoting biophilic design and the WELL Building Standard, and by talking about this with my own professional community along with yours.

I discovered an article by professor of architecture Kevin Nute at the University of Oregon well worth sharing with you. It originally appeared on the website The Conversation, and was reprinted by the Washington Post. Professor Nute builds on research by people like environmental psychologist Dr. Roger Ulrich at Texas A&M University, who’s worked with NASA on keeping indoor environments healthy when we send people into space on long-distance trips to Mars.

Professor Nute conducted experiments with natural elements inside the workplace, using the reflection of sunlight on moving water, and a projection of a tree’s shadow with leaves in motion from the wind. When people are exposed to natural movement created by nature and weather, people were more alert while their blood pressure dropped simultaneously. This supports another theory called “attention-restoration theory.”

Building are usually constructed with the intention of keeping us out of the weather: burning sun, rain or snow, or cold winds. But it turns out if we tune into the rhythms created by the weather and its interplay with nature, it reduces stress and improves our brain’s ability to function.

All of this folds into discussions already taking place about applying biophilic design as described in the WELL Building Standard to everyday buildings.

The studies done by Professor Nute also show there is a greater positive effect when the person exposed to simulated weather and nature believes it is naturally generated, instead of all computer trickery. It’s such a strong argument for the concept behind biophilia, Edward O. Wilson’s hypothesis that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.

But you don’t have to believe me and you don’t even have to believe Professor Nute. Believe Alan Fogerty, sustainability partner with the UK based consulting firm Cundall. When Alan’s company instituted best practices in biophilic design and many of the elements found in the WELL Building Standard, the results were seen in improved work performance and a positive impact to the bottom line.

I know many businesses support these principles in theory, but we all know it’s money that really talks. In my own business, we’re all about the power of green. Businesses aren’t philanthropies. They need to make money to survive and to provide jobs along with goods and services. Potential tenants need to attract and keep employees – and the quality of their working environment can make the difference. We’re here to show businesses it is possible to do well, even to do better, by doing good. Green is good!

If you’re interested in learning even more and seeing some of these practices in motion at the website VitalArchitecture.com

If you’d like to contribute to the blog, please contact our Bloganeer, Karen Trapane, at ktrapane@forensicanalytical.com, to ask a question, submit content or give suggestions for upcoming topics. And remember, the more you know, the more you grow. 🙂