Nurturing nature: how green features can make a positive impact on business

By Oliver Balch

Defence Housing Australia's latest development includes many natural features but will it inspire more businesses to take up biophilic design?

Wednesday is harvesting day on the rooftop garden at St Canice's Church in Sydney's Kings Cross. Tending the garden's array of vegetables, flowers and herbs are groups of mental health patients from a nearby hospital.

The simple act of being out in the open air and in contact with nature acts like therapy, says project coordinator Rob Caslick. To prove the point, he invited a research team from the hospital to monitor the patients' progress.

“It's only once a week in a garden but people report feeling much more positive … The clinicians were really surprised just how much people opened up to them while they were gardening,” says Caslick, who runs a soup kitchen in the same building.

The benefits of contact with nature – technically known as biophilia – are becoming increasingly well documented. One well-known study showed how hospital patients with a view of trees from their ward window recovered more quickly than those without such a view.

Yet since Edward Wilson popularised the term biophilia (literally, “love of life or living systems”) back in the early 1980s, uptake of the idea in Australia has been piecemeal.

Related: Cities that steal smart ideas from plants and animals

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