Peter Aaron

Biophilic design strategies could save $93 million per year in healthcare costs across the industry; save $247.5 million in lost parental wages when kids miss school in New York City; and increase profits in retail environments by $47.5 million in the state of California, according to "The Economics of Biophilia,” a new white paper from Terrapin Bright Green. The paper also asserts that creating biophilic work environments in New York City would result in over $470 million in recouped productivity value, and that biophilic landscapes throughout the city could save New York $1.7 billion in incarceration costs.

Biophilia is the concept that humans hold a biological need for connection with nature physically, mentally, and socially. Biophilic design capitalizes on the neurological and physiological functions associated with contact to nature. Increasing these contacts, the paper asserts, can increase economic gains, improve productivity, and strengthen communities.

The paper compiles a host of existing research on access to nature and its effect on productivity and health. It also quantifies the dollar savings resulting from biophilic design. Among the finding examined in the paper are the following conclusions:

  • Ten percent of employee absences can be attributed to architecture with no connection to nature.

  • Financial losses due to absenteeism and presenteeism (where workers clock in for work but are mentally removed from the workplace) account for 4 percent.

  • Patients with a view to nature, instead of a wall, are more likely to experience hospital stays that are 8.5 percent shorter, with fewer negative observational comments from nurses, and significantly fewer strong, post-surgical painkillers.

  • Reducing the average length of stay in hospitals by 0.41 days can amount to $93 million in reduced costs each year. 

  • Retail customers judge businesses surrounded by nature and natural features to be worthy of prices up to 25 percent higher than businesses with no access to nature. 

  • Children progress through school curricula 20 to 26 percent faster when learning in daylight environments. 

  • People will pay 58 percent more for a property with a view to water or 127 percent more for a lakefront property. 

  • Living near vegetated landscapes can result in the reduction of crime rates by 7 percent. New York City, for example, would save $1.7 billion in incarceration costs. Scaling similar calculations for adding access to nature in 12 public housing developments in Chicago, the paper asserts that the city would save nearly $162,265 in incarceration costs from violent and property crimes.

A full copy of "The Economics of Biophilia" is available here.