Green Spaces

01 April 2021

The impact of a building’s landscaping and greenery on wellbeing and productivity

It is well known that indoor plants are not only good for the soul, but our health too. Their air-purifying qualities has made them a staple inclusion in the design and landscaping of homes and public spaces for centuries. More broadly, the overall interior and exterior landscaping of our homes, civic buildings and cultural locations have long been designed to create a sense of place, and overall physical and mental wellbeing. Naturally the use of space, light, materials and living things varies according to the purpose of a space; but a trend is emerging where the same conscientious design that has gone into the landscaping of the places we spend our leisure time, is increasingly being applied to the workplace too. 

We spoke with Carola Enrich, Senior Associate at Townshend Landscape Architects, on the ethos behind the landscaping at ICD Brookfield Place and how it addresses the expected productivity and wellness-focused standards of the modern workplace.

Sustainable buildings, green space and wellbeing

Buildings that are classed as sustainable – commonly acknowledged as those with a minimal negative impact on the environment and a parallel positive impact on their inhabitants – often incorporate green spaces and flora in them. The physical health benefits of such an approach are widely proven. The most fundamental, and most commonly appreciated benefit is all around us: oxygen. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the air, and more importantly - produce oxygen. A more oxygen-rich workplace environment can help reduce fatigue and stress, which in turn can help increase the productivity of its inhabitants. An Australian study in 2011 revealed the very specific impact on stress reduction and mood improvement that flora provides: during a three-month study, employees with plants placed in their offices showed a 30% - 60% reduction in stress and negative feelings. Employees without them had a 20% - 40% increase in stress and feelings of negativity. Given that, according to the World Green Building Council, staff costs salaries and benefits typically account for 90% of a businesses operating costs; creating a physical environment conducive to productivity makes sense on both an individual level and on a commercial level. For Enrich, this approach to wellbeing is fundamental to the use of green space in ICD Brookfield Place:

“The green spaces will encourage users of the building to enjoy the external and internal spaces by providing a sense of nature along with numerous other benefits such as psychological relaxation, stress alleviation, encouraging social cohesion, supporting physical activity through meandering and walking, and reducing exposure to air pollutants, noise and excessive heat.” 

Balancing the landscape needs of a mixed-use commercial building in Dubai

In an environment like Dubai, where temperatures can reach 50 degrees Celsius in summer, balancing the need for abundant natural light and comfortable internal temperatures is an important consideration for landscaping, as well as building materials. 

“The design of the landscape has been developed to explore ways in which the landscape can enhance the comfort level of users. Mechanisms for cooling include shade and topography. The creation of shade and shelter has a large impact on the extent people can enjoy the external landscape in comfort. 

ICD Brookfield Place was keen to deliver a world-class public realm scheme that stood out in Dubai and the region. The landscape design was developed alongside the architecture to create a synergy between the external and internal spaces. A key component to the landscape was elements that addressed the microclimate, and particularly the temperature, to create pedestrian-friendly and well-shaded spaces that can be used year-round.

How the design caters to different aspects and requirements of the building

A mixed-use commercial building such as ICD Brookfield Place has landscaping requirements that go beyond the productivity and wellness of its inhabitants. Creating both a sense of place and stunning views was as important in the landscaping approach.

“The scope of the public realm at ICD Brookfield Place covered all areas of the hard and soft landscape. We developed a series of design studies to curate a series of focal areas using planting and furniture to draw people together.  Further design work then refined their character, function and relationship to the surrounding building uses.

The vision for the design was honed through discussions with the client group and the design team, crafting a destination that will be memorable and unique. Together with the Architectural design, the landscape was designed to facilitate a range of experiences and activities including dining, fitness, and landscape walks. 

The Summer Garden

One of ICD Brookfield Place’s stand-out features is a 31-meter-high public setting: The Summer Garden. This space - unique for Dubai, where mixed-use commercial buildings rarely interact with their adjacent and connected public spaces – was a cornerstone for Townshend Landscape Architects in delivering the sense of place the building demanded:

“We were conscious that the landscape within the Summer Garden would significantly contribute to the atmosphere of the space, creating a sense of wellbeing. Creating enduring places for people is embedded in our projects, therefore we seek to reimagine public spaces like the Summer Garden that integrates with their surroundings. The design of the space allows for flexibility ensuring that a multitude of arts, events and culture activities can be programmed in.”

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