Biophilic design, which incorporates natural elements into the built environment, has received increasing attention in both the design and health fields. But research quantifying physiological and cognitive benefits of indoor biophilic features is sparse. This randomized crossover study examines the physiological and cognitive responses to natural elements in an office building. Twenty-eight participants spent time in an indoor environment featuring biophilic design elements and one without, with the order of the visit randomized. In each visit, they experienced the environment for 5-min in reality and virtually by using virtual reality (VR). Wearable sensors were used to measure blood pressure, galvanic skin response and heart rate. Cognitive tests were administrated after each exposure. The indoor biophilic environment was associated with a decrease in participants' blood pressure. The overall differential effects for participants experiencing an indoor environment with biophilic elements versus none was 8.6 mmHg lower systolic and 3.6 mmHg lower diastolic blood pressure. In addition, their skin conductance decreased 0.18 μS greater than when they experienced the non-biophilic setting. Short-term memory improved by 14%. Participants reported a decrease in negative emotions and an increase in positive emotions after experiencing the biophilic setting. Moreover, our findings indicate that participants experiencing biophilic environment virtually had similar physiological and cognitive responses as when experiencing the actual environment. This gives rise to the possibility of reducing stress and improving cognition by using virtual reality to provide exposures to natural elements in a variety of indoor settings where access to nature may not be possible.
Building and Environment – Elsevier
Published: Mar 15, 2018
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