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organizational strategy, sustainable design, environmental psychology, information processing, well-being, performance, biophilic design, nudge theory


Architects and designers, along with their corporate clients, generally embrace the importance of environmental stewardship, saving the earth’s ecosystem, and sustainable design. However, research is needed to link sustainable design with relevant human behavior (e.g., in corporate offices and educational settings) to ensure its enduring legacy. Regarding changing people’s behavior, the majority of human experience results from unconscious processes, i.e., brain–environment interactions not available to awareness; thus, in general, people cannot articulate the nature of these associations. Using theoretical roots stemming from William James and running through ecological psychology (e.g., James J. Gibson to Roger Barker), Harry Heft has argued that the influence of environmental design precedes conscious awareness and information processing. Assuming Heft’s conjecture, this implies that—if informed by biologically influential signals (e.g., biophilic design)—the design of the ambient physical environment may positively ‘nudge’ human behavior in ways useful to sustainability and sensitivity to the environment—although relevant critical perspectives suggest that dynamic conditions and contextual complexity may modify the potential of nudge theory applications. Still, could it be that sustainable design can improve human health and well-being? Research suggests that environmentally responsible and biophilic design may accomplish at least a few elements of this goal and perhaps also enhance some aspects of cognitive performance. Could this approach support environmental sustainability by linking sustainable design to its potential economic benefits via worker productivity or student success? If so, then the strategy of improving positive well-being through design aligns well with the goal of maintaining the long-term viability of the earth’s ecosystem.

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Open access article retrieved August 9, 2022 from