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Is Biophilic Design The Best Investment For Your Design Firm?

Today I want to show you why biophilic design could be your firms’ best investment and how to sell more expensive services like biophilic design. 

Before we look at the research, let’s start with the basics… why specialize in biophilic design?

Benefits of specializing in Biophilic Design:

As technology advances, industries all over the globe are being “disrupted” at an unprecedented rate. 

Book shops, taxi drivers, hotel chains, and video stores are among the first to be hit by this technological revolution.  

Competition has never been more fierce – according to an article published in Forbes business magazine “5 Reasons Modern Businesses Are Turning to Specialization, by Larry Alton, accessed 10/28/19”, only a third of today’s major companies are expected to survive the next 25 years.

Biophilic Design

So how should one survive in an increasingly competitive marketplace?

How to reduce competition:

One of the best ways to reduce competition is to offer a specialized service. 

When specializing it’s important to arrive early to the party… so let’s consider a relatively new type of design service called biophilic design.

What is Biophilic Design?

The term “biophilic design” is derived from the Greek words: bio-, meaning “life,” and -philia (philic), meaning “love and attraction”. 

The term is used to describe the process of using our innate love and attraction to living things, to drive the design of our buildings, interiors, and urban environments…. in summary, letting nature guide design.

Now you may be thinking, that sounds great, but is it really necessary?

(Note: To help you with your fee proposal and negotiation strategy we’ve created a FREE Fee Proposal Mini-Series. To find out more click on the image below):

Is biophilic design a luxury (or a necessity)?

It may come as no surprise that in recent years, there’s been a huge shift in the way people are choosing to live their lives.

Our cities are expanding: According to information published by the United Nations, 60 percent of the world’s population are now choosing to live in urban environments.

Our lifestyles are becoming more sedentary: Figures released by the United States Environmental Protection Agency suggest that the average American is spending 90 percent of their time indoors.

Our environments are becoming more toxic: Information published by the United States Environmental Protection Agency suggests that indoor pollution levels are frequently 2 to 5 times higher than a typical outdoors environment.

Our population is growing: The United States Census Bureau has estimated that the world’s population has expanded from 2 billion (1927) to nearly 8 billion within the last century.

Mental health issues are predicted to rise: With density and pollution levels rising, and our exposure to the natural environment decreasing, it’s no wonder that the World Health Organization expects stress-related illnesses, such as mental health disorders and cardiovascular disease, to be the two largest contributors to disease in 2020.

In Summary: Demand for good design has never been greater, but is biophilic design the answer?

Biophilic Design
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What are the benefits of Biophilic Design?

Over the last couple of decades, there have been many reports investigating the benefits of biophilic design. 

Although the research is still in its infancy many of these studies are already showing positive results.

For example, the following reports “Economics of Biophilia, by Terrapin Bright Green” and “Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, by Robertson Cooper “ have suggested the following:

Increased productivity:  Workers in offices with natural elements, such as greenery and sunlight, reported a 15 percent higher level of well-being, 6 percent more productivity, and 15 percent more creativity.

Reduced Absenteeism: A university study found that 10 percent of employee absences could be attributed to architectural elements that did not connect with nature.

Increased retail profits: Retail customers judge businesses surrounded by nature to be worthy of 25 percent higher prices.

Improved education: A study of daylighting in schools showed that children progressed through the curricula 20 to 26 percent faster when studying in naturally lit areas.

Reduced healthcare costs: Patients with visual access to nature are more likely to experience hospital stays that are 8.5 percent shorter.  

Increased home values: Properties with access to nature have reportedly commanded a 4 to 5 percent higher price tag.

Reduced criminal behavior: Neighborhoods with access to nature have reduced crime by 7 to 8 percent.

With preliminary findings like these, it’s easy to see why biophilic design could be a great investment for you and your Clients… but how easy is it to get Clients to commit to a biophilic design service?

How to get Clients to invest in biophilic design?

You may have thought that simply presenting the data would be enough to sway most Clients… unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

When compared to a conventional design service, biophilic design can require a larger upfront commitment in terms of time, money and risk.

In a market that’s flooded with lower priced alternatives, it always challenging to sell something new. To demonstrate just how challenging it can be, let’s consider the following examples:

Example 1: Organic Food:

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), supermarkets in the United States have been selling organically grown food for approximately 30 years, and as of 2012 organic food sales still only account for approximately 4 percent of all food sales in the United States.

Biophilic Design

Example 2: Smoking:

It’s been nearly 60 years (1964) since the United States Government released its first-ever anti-smoking campaign, however, to this day, there are still an estimated 34 million smokers in the United States alone. 

That’s more than 1 smoker for every 10 adults in the country, meanwhile, smoking-related diseases account for approximately half a million deaths a year.

Biophilic Design
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How to change peoples behavior:

Changing people’s behavior is never easy… or is it?

As mentioned in many of my previous posts it’s not what you say, but how you say it, that matters.

To explain this concept further I’d like to borrow an example from “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath.

How to sell Biophilic Design

Popcorn Research Example:

It may come as no surprise that back in the 1990s, movie theaters frequently drenched their popcorn with artery-clogging saturated fat.

With obesity on the rise, it wasn’t long before a nonprofit organization called the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), decided to do something about it.

Now just like biophilic design services, you may think that simply telling movie-goers about the 37 grams of fat in a medium-sized bag of ‘butter’ popcorn (nearly double that of the USDA’s recommended daily allowance) would be enough to change their behavior.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t – the nutritional facts alone didn’t seem to matter, and movie-goers continued to consume large quantities of popcorn, despite the health risks.

A new approach was required… something simple, something the average person could easily understand and relate to, something that would appeal to them on an emotional level… and that’s exactly what they did!

So, on September 27th, 1992, the CSPI decided to call a press conference and try their new approach. 

During the conference, they announced that: “A medium-sized bag of ‘butter’ popcorn purchased at one of your typical neighborhood movie theatres contains more saturated fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings – combined!”

The announcement was accompanied by a table full of visual aids so there was no mistaking the message being broadcast… and their new strategy worked!

Once people could truly ‘see’ exactly how much fat they were consuming, it affected them on an emotional level, which in turn caused them to reconsider their purchasing behavior.

It would appear that the visual aids did the job. 

In the weeks following the press conference movie theater popcorn sales plunged and, as a result, nearly every major theater chain in the United States was forced to change the way they made popcorn.

What’s the best way to sell biophilic design services?

So, what does this example teach us about selling a higher quality design service like biophilic design?

Just like movie-goers, our Clients also need simple, easy to understand, and tangible benchmarks.

One of the easiest ways to provide benchmarks, is through the implementation of a ‘Fee Matrix’.

A fee matrix is a table that summarizes the main features (deliverables) of a range of different design services. The table format allows you to line up the service options therefore making the comparison process that much easier. 

Yes, one of your options can still be a conventional design service while the other should include more advanced features (e.g. biophilic design).

By presenting the two options side-by-side, in a fee matrix, you’ll be giving your Clients the necessary benchmarks they need to compare service options, compare price points, and make an informed decision about the services they’re buying from you.

When presented correctly you’ll be amazed at the number of Clients who chose to upgrade to biophilic design services… not because you’ve told them to, quite the contrary, because you’ve given them the freedom to choose, and when a conventional design service is placed next to a biophilic design service, the choice is that much easier to make.

Providing design services options in a fee matrix isn’t just a better way to sell biophilic design services – giving Clients the freedom of choice, and educating them on the benefits, is also a more ethical approach to selling design services. 

Where to go from here:

If you need help winning more clients, better fees, and less scope creep, then we can help.
We’ve spent the last decade creating and testing different types of fee matrices to see what works (and what’s not so effective). 

To learn more check out our FREE Fee Proposal Mini-Series: