Designing for Well-being: Psychoacoustic + Biophilic Design Perspectives

A session by Bill Browning, Angela Loder and James Waddell
Terrapin Bright Green, International WELL Building Institute and Poly Habitat Soundscaping

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About this session

Open-plan offices are intended to support interaction and productivity. However, the resulting acoustic environment can distract employees, contribute to workplace stress, and impair cognitive functioning. The connection between design and mental well-being is critical to examine, especially when the cost to ignore is so high. In the US, it is estimated that burnout costs an $125-190 billion per year in healthcare spending.

Designers are well versed in the physics of sound. However, by some estimates, sound volume accounts for only 25% of people’s annoyance with a noise. Psychoacoustics, or the science of sound perception, in conjunction with biophilia can help to explain why certain noises are more stress-inducing and how to leverage sound perception to enhance occupant experience.


  • Describe comprehensively the definition of burnout
  • Explain the cost of burnout on employee engagement and general mental health
  • Analyze how the perception of different sounds can impact distraction
  • Recognize opportunities to use psychoacoustic and biophilic design strategies for managing office noise


This session has been approved for the following continuing education credits:

  • 1 General LFA CE credit
  • 1 AIA LU|HSW

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