Biophillic Design - Looking to Mother Nature for Guidance

Sarah Coley  |  January 2021

I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work. I follow in building, the principles which nature has used in its domain.

Biophilia is the desire to connect with nature. It focuses on people's need for nature and natural processes. Currently, 54% of the world’s population live in an urban environment. By 2050, it’s estimated that percentage will increase to 66%. Generally, humans spend 93% of our time indoors separated from natural elements.

Biophilic design is a concept used in the building industry to increase people’s connectivity to the natural environment. Direct experiences of nature refer to plants, light, water or any other aspect that provides direct contact with green elements. Indirect experiences of nature, such as natural materials like wood and earth, or images of nature, provide solutions to spaces where plants are not desired or views of nature and access to a window aren’t feasible.

  • Plants are beneficial because they are living, breathing organisms. Studies have shown that plants enhance creativity, performance, and productivity.
  • Views of direct nature and experiencing daylight also have a strong impact on environmental psychology.
  • Water and airflow also play key roles in biophilic design.
  • Sounds and smells contribute to a multi-sensory, biophilic experience. Though most research has focused on the visual sense, natural sounds and smells also have a role to play in building design and operations.

Biophilic design is increasingly important to our health and well-being in the built environment.

Humans have an innate love of nature, we long for it and without connecting with it, our health could suffer.

Incorporating direct or indirect elements of nature into the built environment has been demonstrated to reduce stress, blood pressure levels, and heart rates, whilst increasing productivity, creativity and self reported rates of well-being.

There have been numerous studies over the last 35 years on the benefits to the built environment through improving a connection to nature:

  • Office design: productivity increased by 8%, rates of well-being up by 13%, proven increases in creativity, with reduced absenteeism. Studies show that biophilic design tactics employed in the workplace increase the well-being of employees and therefore aid other financial benefits like reduction in use of sick days.
  • Education spaces: increased rates of learning 20-25%, improved test results, concentration levels and attendance, reduced impacts of ADHD
  • Healthcare spaces: post-operative recovery times decreased by 8.5%, reduced pain medication by 22%. Research supports that when hospital patient rooms have views of nature, postoperative stays are generally shorter, less pain medication is dispensed, and their overall condition improves.

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