Biophilic Design – Integrating Nature Into Built Environments

Designing spaces that enable people to establish a visual link with nature can change people’s perception of environmental quality, leading to improved performance. Biophilic interventions placed along pathways with high foot traffic may provide frequent access.

Natural Light

Natural light is one of the fundamental biophilic elements. By adding large windows, skylights, and open layouts that let in natural sunlight while providing views of greenery, residents feel connected with nature and more at peace with themselves.

Exposure to natural elements and scenes has been proven to reduce stress levels and boost mood, especially within healthcare facilities where biophilic design can promote healing while instilling feelings of well-being among both patients and staff.

As part of the WELL Building Standard, biophilic design is becoming an increasingly integral component of building standards across sectors, as human health and wellbeing become integral to successful projects.

Natural Ventilation

The International Living Future Institute’s stringent standard for sustainability incorporates a biophilic element – “Reconnecting with Nature Through Environmental Features.” These features can include natural ventilation, green spaces, natural lighting, shapes and forms of nature as well as water bodies.

Enabling residents to engage with nature through viewing or interaction can be achieved by increasing sunlight access, taking advantage of outdoor views, creating interior landscaping features like courtyards or sculptural water walls and using plants indoors to improve air quality. Furthermore, such features may also be integrated into other design strategies for solar energy and water conservation.

Studies demonstrate the psychophysiological and cognitive restorative benefits of connections with nature through visual, non-visual, haptic, or all three modes. It’s important to keep in mind, though, that their effectiveness varies by space and season; for example, lush savanna landscapes will likely generate stronger positive responses than trackless desert environments or deep sea habitats.

Green Spaces

Integrating natural elements of landscape design into building design offers many benefits, including increased productivity and employee retention. Furthermore, this strategy reduces energy costs while creating a healthier workplace and helping control noise levels in open plan offices.

Connecting with nature is an integral part of human existence, and natural forms and patterns such as curved lines, fractal shapes and biomorphic forms can bring comfort and relaxation. Natural materials and textures like wood, stone and natural textiles play a pivotal role in biophilic design movements such as biophilia.

Monitoring the efficacy of biophilic strategies or interventions can be challenging. Due to variations in the built environment, verifying their success may prove tricky; human-nature relationships vary with time, place and season – not always easily detectable metrics are used when measuring success of these designs; however they have been shown to enhance performance metrics such as absenteeism and perceived comfort, healthcare facility patient satisfaction ratings, student achievement in education institutions as well as ticket sales and pedestrian traffic volumes in cities.

Adaptive Design

Although humans have evolved with nature for millennia, modern society has increasingly put up barriers between ourselves and nature. Effective biophilic design strategies encourage proximity and accessibility of natural elements to create spaces with greater resonance that promote wellbeing while creating greater sense of community belongingness.

Biophilic elements found in architecture include natural lighting and views of nature; organic shapes and patterns made of natural materials; transitional spaces that encourage nature; images depicting nature; images that show it through transitional spaces; images depicting biomorphic forms; as well as curved lines, fractal designs, and biomorphic forms. [24]

Benefits of biophilic spaces vary with frequency and duration of interaction with them, with individuals finding relief through experiences like micro-restorative experiences such as courtyard gardens, Japanese doorway gardens or victory gardens built to commemorate those affected by tragic events. Other biophilic elements which can be integrated as part of holistic approaches include: