Biophilic design in semi-outdoor environment at workplace: Does the thermal realm matter?

Kun Lyu, Richard de Dear, Anastasia Globa, Arianna Brambilla


The experience of nature can bring various psychological benefits, including restoration of attentional capacity, reduction of psychophysiological stress, and improvement of mood. Application of biophilic design principles to incorporate various forms of natural elements in workplaces can improve their occupants’ productivity and psychological well-being. However, most of the research regarding restorative environments to date has been focused exclusively on their visual contents. The role of thermal perception in psychological restorative processes has largely been overlooked. This project examines the restorative benefits of thermal pleasure experiences in the context workplace within semi-outdoor environments connected to workplaces. A pre-and-post-test experiment was conducted to compare the restorative effects of a workplace semi-outdoor space presenting two distinct thermal scenarios, one devoid of thermally adaptive opportunities, just direct sunlight exposure, and the other condition including the adaptive opportunity for subjects to select between direct sunlight or shade describe the two conditions. The experiment used a multisensory virtual reality method to simulate the dynamic environmental conditions of an actual semi-outdoor space appended to an office workplace located in Melbourne Australia. These findings suggest that thermal pleasure contributes to the restorative properties of workplace semi-outdoor environments, specifically in relation to attention restoration, stress recovery, and mood improvement. The study bridges the research fields of thermal comfort, immersive VR environments and psychological restoration. The implementation of adaptive thermal comfort and alliesthesia concepts in semi-outdoor environmental design may add more than comfort improvements, but also broader psychological benefits that are relevant to an increasingly urbanised population.