A design approach that leads with natural materials like wood can help create offices that facilitate connection and collaborationEven in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, biophilic design for office spaces was beginning to emerge as a way for companies to help their employees reduce stress and become happier and more productive. And now that organizations are adopting hybrid work models, the purpose of the office space and its design are also evolving to take on a more specialized role in enhancing connection and collaboration.
In an article published by IIDA, the commercial interior design association, Upali Nanda, principal and director of research at HKS and associate professor of practice at Taubman College of Architecture, says biophilic design principles can help facilitate the transformation of office spaces to fit their new roles.
“People will be coming into work looking for a sense of purpose, social connection, and collaboration, and designers are going to have to put elements into those spaces that make the workplace a destination for life, not just work,” she says. “We haven’t had that before, but biophilia can help us see the office as a thriving space where life flourishes, a place that fosters connection with nature as well as connection with people and society.”
Significant exposure of wood is one of the biophilic elements that architects are studying. Wood’s potential to confer biophilic benefits—as well as to distinguish the property within the Texas market—was a driving force for the project team’s use of mass timber for The Soto, a 6-story mixed-use development in San Antonio that the CEU “Mass Timber Enables Beauty, Warmth and Functional Design in The Soto” explores in depth.
“It’s beautiful,” says Hunter Kingman of Hixon Properties, the building’s developer, in the course video. “It really is unlike the other office options in the market. [Wood] is something we really resonate with, and I think the beauty stands apart.”
The architect of record, BOKA Powell, brought extensive knowledge of office design and construction, as well as prior predesign experience with mass timber. Mass timber fabricator and engineering firm, StructureCraft, rounded out the project team.
Check out the course to see how the architecture and engineering team used mass timber to provide a unique, beautiful workspace for tenants, along with valuable insights and lessons learned from the design and permitting phases of the project.