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How 'environmental tuning' in the office, shops and other public places can cut stress

PUBLISHED: 14:52 13 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:51 23 March 2015

Modern offices can seem soulless places, so when freestanding divides are used in an otherwise open planning setting, why not let the plants do some of the ‘talking’? After all, it’s a jungle out there

Modern offices can seem soulless places, so when freestanding divides are used in an otherwise open planning setting, why not let the plants do some of the 'talking'? After all, it's a jungle out there

Archant

We all seek to lift our spirits, whether it's birdsong or punk rock that does the trick… even perhaps a favourite aroma. Naomi Slade discovers how 'environmental tuning' can cut stress

Even state-of-the-art stores with their eye-grabbing offers benefit from a bit of greenery and ‘natural sounds’ – and there’s evidence that potential customers stay longer in those areas!Even state-of-the-art stores with their eye-grabbing offers benefit from a bit of greenery and ‘natural sounds’ – and there’s evidence that potential customers stay longer in those areas!

Urban greening is increasingly popular and green walls bring benefits as diverse as combating air pollution, increasing biodiversity and reducing stress. Logically, most installations are outdoors, but self-styled Environmental Tuner Richard Frances is taking the concept a step further.

“What I do is turn space into environment,” he explains. “We have all sorts of places, offices, shops, restaurants and various public spaces, but often people are crammed in, bombarded with sound and exposed to poor air quality. I am pioneering the idea of putting something into these spaces to energise them, make the air better and reduce people’s stress levels.”

Modern offices can seem soulless places, so when freestanding divides are used in an otherwise open planning setting, why not let the plants do some of the ‘talking’? After all, it’s a jungle out thereModern offices can seem soulless places, so when freestanding divides are used in an otherwise open planning setting, why not let the plants do some of the ‘talking’? After all, it’s a jungle out there

His Reading-based company Sensescape installs wall-mounted or free-standing partitions, which contain a reservoir of water, plants and any visual message that is required. He then adds other sensory elements such as a scent and sound.

Bringing the outside in for a little corner which can be open to the rest of the living space, or enclosed by simply shutting the doors. Much more refreshing than a few scattered pot plantsBringing the outside in for a little corner which can be open to the rest of the living space, or enclosed by simply shutting the doors. Much more refreshing than a few scattered pot plants

And this is where it gets interesting. The possibilities are endless, the scents can evoke any situation imaginable from delicate garden florals to the hot rubber smell of a racetrack and sounds could range from birdsong, through Vivaldi to punk rock, depending on the environment and the desired effect.

“There is a joy in bringing in sensory images as, with them, they bring a connection to what being a human being is all about,” says Richard, “Birdsong is one of the most reassuring sounds you can hear, and an experiment at the outdoor clothing store North Face showed that found that when it was filled with natural sounds people stayed longer in those areas and spent more. So the relatively small investment of the installation had a clear commercial gain.”

The technology is also ideal for ultra-small domestic spaces where it can transform areas like light wells, spaces and courtyards with an instant garden that is richly stimulating, detailed and aspirant.

A keen gardener since childhood, Richard has spent his adult life working with images, colour and sound, as well as a career in the technology sector. His ideas are avant-garde but he is optimistic; “Interior design has made leaps and bounds but it can be quite safe. Although there are some adventurous spirits out there, planting choices tend to be quite risk-averse: lots of hardy ferns and bergenias and so on. But I’d love to do a cactus wall, for example!”

There is immense potential here to add a bit of sparkle to unremarkable spaces, elevating them from mundane to unique. According to Richard, it can make almost any environment healthier and more pleasant, and it looks like the only way is up.

See sensescape.co for more ideas.

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