Biophilia, in its essence, means an affiliation with nature and the natural world. Biophilic design is therefore an approach that aims to reconnect humans with nature in the built environment, which has, in a sense, become our new “natural” habitat.
The reason why biophilic design matters is because it offers incredible physiological and psychological health benefits. It decreases blood pressure and stress, boosts creativity, assists with healing after surgery or illness, improves cognitive function, clarity of thought and boosts productivity.
People spend a considerable amount of time in buildings, however, where do many of us want to recharge or where do most of us feel most relaxed? In nature, of course!
While biophilic design in architecture isn’t new, it is a massive trend for 2022. Generally speaking, Covid-19 has placed the spotlight on homes, offices and schools and their ability to keep people healthy and safe. Biophilic design ties well into this.
What makes a design biophilic?
Is everything from the natural world biophilic? No. In fact, the sight of a spider or the view of a desert plain could impact certain people negatively. A design is biophilic if it features elements from the natural world that benefits a human’s instincts for survival, namely:
- Natural light
The sun comes up and sets at a specific time. During the day light shifts and changes and our bodies pick up on these subtleties and successfully manage our circadian rhythm. A windowless office, dark home or school would need more external lighting, which could affect the quality of sleep. Therefore, allowing natural light in is an essential part of getting biophilic design right.
- Natural materials, patterns and colours
The brain has the ability to associate things with nature (even non-living things) with the natural environment. Materials, patterns and colours from nature immediately have a calming effect on the brain. Using natural materials such as clay, wood, leather, straw and cork as well as earthy colour palettes in interiors are ideal. Mimicking patterns found in nature can also be effective.
- Natural views and sounds
Plants in the office or home, great sweeping views of the natural landscape and the sight and sound of water is a must for biophilic design.
Bringing the outdoors in by opening buildings up to the outside world is an on-going trend because it is exactly what biophilia tries to achieve.
- Fresh air
Air quality and ventilation are incredibly important. Bacteria and viruses, dust and volatile organic compounds (or chemicals) can drastically affect the quality of the air indoors. Homes, offices and schools need to be well-ventilated and designed with excellent natural airflow in mind. Studies have shown that the movement of air, like a cool breeze from an open window, can make a person feel more awake and energised.
- Building with nature
Building with nature is perhaps the best example of biophilic design. When walls become living, and roofs are green grassy structures, this is when a building’s layout is adapted to fit in with the existing natural landscape.
If a building is good for the environment, you can be sure it will be good for humanity too.
Simply adding one or two elements from the above into a design does not make a design biophilic. The exposure needs to be multi-sensory and recurring. People need to see, feel, touch, hear and smell things that remind them of nature, and this revelation needs to be experienced repeatedly.
At Veld Architects, we are incredibly excited about the possibilities of biophilic design and the way it highlights nature’s role in our health. Perhaps the more we think of and see nature, the more concerned humans will become to preserve it.