Design guru inspires booming Birmingham’s next generation

The biophilic design showroom of BCO NextGen event sponsors, Interface / Sponsors, Vantage Spaces, provide cacti plants to guests of BCO NextGen’s wellbeing event at Cornerblock, Birmingham.

An architect and interior designer, famous for transforming the living spaces of families across Britain, has inspired the next generation of property professionals in the thriving West Midlands.

Oliver Heath, who is a regular contributor to TV show DIY SOS, addressed an audience of 45 young professionals from the British Council for Offices’ (BCO) NextGen initiative at a wellbeing event in the Cornerblock, Cornwall St. Birmingham.

Mr. Heath, a sustainable architectural and interior design expert, revealed some of the secrets behind the science and style of biophilia – one of the hottest trends in office design – during the event supported by office fit out and refurbishment specialist, Overbury.

Based on people’s attraction to nature and natural process, biophilic design is creating workspaces which incorporate external views, good acoustics and high air quality, all proven to increase productivity and employee wellness.

Mr. Heath, said: “An improved connection to nature is an essential aspect to help reduce stress and improve recuperation – the net effect being to help cut costs such as absenteeism and staff turnover whilst improving outcomes such as productivity and engagement.

“It’s not all about adding plants and greenery though – materials that mimic nature such as Interface’s biomimetic carpet tiles are an option where real nature connections are lacking.”

The combination of an ageing workforce, sick leave and growing staff numbers has pushed employee wellbeing higher up the priority list of businesses, with paid sick leave alone costing businesses more than £14 billion every year.

Stress related illness is predicted to be the primary cause of sickness by 2020, yet only 8% of employers are thought to have a wellbeing strategy in place.

The wellbeing event was introduced by Joe Huddleston, senior project designer at Overbury and BCO NextGen committee member: “Employers are increasingly choosing to refurbish their existing spaces because even on the tightest budgets, small tweaks can make a real impact in producing a calm and pleasant working environment that revitalises employees.

“Whether it’s improving work-life balance, environmental sustainability or mental and physical health, an employer’s wellbeing programme is inherently tied to office design.

“Oliver was able to demonstrate how biophilic design can be accessible to all, from low cost options such as adding colour to walls or increasing the amount of plants, to large scale projects incorporating water features or green planted walls. Ultimately, wellbeing matters and can be achieved with great results if you work with the right partner.”

Established in 1990, the BCO is Britain’s leading forum for the discussion and debate of issues affecting the office sector. Its members are organisations involved in creating, acquiring or occupying office space, whether architects, lawyers, surveyors, financial institutions or public agencies.

BCO NextGen provides an opportunity for young professionals in the commercial property sector to create more effective office space by sharing ideas, developing knowledge and building a network of contacts with other members from across the country. Members can access workplace tours, technical talks, industry updates and social and networking events.

The BCO NextGen event was sponsored by Overbury, Orangebox, Vantage Spaces and Interface.