The occasional pot-plant is common in modern offices, but how about large trees, potted palms as tall as people, and banks of greenery?
It’s what’s included in biophilic design – a concept that’s likely to become increasingly popular as more organisations see the wellbeing benefits in surrounding their people with plants as they work. And it’s entirely fitting that biophilic design is at the heart of Scion’s staged campus redevelopment in Rotorua.
The forestry Crown Research Institute sits on Rotorua’s Te Papa Tipu Innovation Park, a 112 hectare area shared with other forestry-associated organisations, on the edge of the city’s Whakarewarewa redwoods forest.
“This is a really special place to be,” says Aoife Mac Sharry, Scion’s campus redevelopment project manager. The extensive campus upgrade includes the total renovation of one office block (almost completed, barring a basement refit to include showers and a wellness room) and the construction of a totally new timber building opening to the public in July 2020.
“An overhaul of our labs and workshops will follow to provide fit-for-purpose facilities that reflect the world-class science happening here on campus. Given that our people are dedicated to researching and sustaining our forests, it seems entirely fitting to bring trees and plants indoors, and connect workspaces to the outdoors. Our staff are loving it,” she says.
“Biophilic design is design that connects people to nature,” says Neil de Wet, a Medical Officer of Health at Toi Te Ora Public Health, which works with Scion on building workplace wellbeing. “This could be by simply using natural light and ventilation, bringing plants indoors and increasing the visual connection to the outdoors, through to using natural materials and natural patterns and forms.”
Certainly, Scion’s design is all that. In its first nearly completed building makeover, plants proliferate among various timber features, with soft furnishings chosen in shades of green and brown, reflecting the colours of the surrounding forest.
“We are creating a unique sense of place for our campus,” says Aoife. “We want Scion to be known as the ‘place to be’ for innovation in the forestry, bio-materials and manufacturing industries. We also want to create a welcoming space to better engage with our community, as well as the 600,000 visitors to the neighbouring redwoods each year.”