Green roofs make happier, more productive workers

green roof toronto
CC BY 2.0 Lloyd Alter/ Green roof, Toronto City Hall

A now very famous architect once visited a cottage I was renting and said he didn't like the country; "everything looks green like a salad and I hate salad." Clearly that was before biophilia was a thing, the concept that we have an instinctive bond to other living things, and that we are healthier and happier when we are surrounded by them. I have had my doubts, and once told Paula Melton of BuildingGreen:

“I think biophilia [and living things being beautiful] is highly overrated,” objects Lloyd Alter, managing editor and design critic at “There are some awfully ugly fish around, and insects give me the creeps sometimes. I think that [designers] tend to pick and choose what they like and call it biophilia.”

Then there is science, which can actually test these theories.

A new study, The role of green roof views in attention restoration and work performance led by Kate Lee of the University of Melbourne, demonstrated that participants who took a 40 second break looking at an image of a green roof performed a given task better than those who looked at an image dull and boring concrete roof.

After viewing the green, rather than concrete roof image, participants still showed better gradual and moment-to-moment variability, and fewer errors in responding on the task....This study showed that a micro-break spent viewing a preferred, moderately restorative green roof may boost sub-cortical arousal and cortical attention control networks. Thus, green roofs could have similar attention boosting benefits as other forms of nature, that nature may not need to be perceived as highly restorative to boost attention, and that boosts to attention can occur in much shorter timeframes than previously demonstrated.

© Kate Lee Study via BuildingGreen

And they weren't even looking at a real green roof, but a crappy photoshop job. I suspect that a view of a real one would have produced even better results. Eric Jaffe of CitiLab quotes a different version of the study that is behind the paywall:

Our results have particular implications for the workplace where sustained attention is vital for performance. They provide a preliminary indication that micro-break views of a green roof could help employees top-up their attention resources as they become depleted in the workplace.

In other words, we do a better job when we are looking at something that looks like a salad. It's another good reason to put green roofs on every building and to change architecture so that people can see them and use them.

Found on BuildingGreen

Tags: Biomimicry | Green Roofs


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