Companies and organizations of all types are turning towards biophilic design as an innovative strategy to increase occupant connectivity to nature for greater well-being, productivity, and engagement.
Biophilic elements include skylights that allow in natural light; green walls filled with plants and mosses; as well as organic materials like wood. Kellert also proposes two dimensions that can be further broken down: nature within the space, as well as natural analogs.
1. Light and Space
Biophilic Design emphasizes connecting people to nature through natural light and green spaces. Studies demonstrate how such environments reduce stress, increase productivity, and even promote healing.
This can be accomplished by using skylights in areas without windows and installing movable walls that allow sunlight to filter in throughout the day, and adding indoor plants or water features.
Other elements that contribute to environmental sustainability include using wood and natural materials that are responsive to their environments, like leather. Given its contribution to climate change, faux, plant-based leathers are increasingly in fashion.
The biophilic design explores spatial relationships that reflect how our world functions and the interdependence of ecosystems, such as a wall of trees at Changi Airport in Singapore that creates an immersive sense of community and connection to nature for visitors. Solar Trees Marketplace in Shanghai employs this principle by placing architectural trees across shopping center grounds to form an open marketplace space.
2. Natural Materials
The biophilic design uses natural materials like wood and stone to seamlessly merge indoors and out, which not only offers visuals and comfort benefits but also promotes productivity and the environment.
Biophilic architects should incorporate an array of textures and shapes, mimicking nature’s rich variety of curvier shapes like flowers, shells, and waves with various biophilic techniques like using timber battens on curvier surfaces to recreate these natural patterns. While modern buildings typically feature straight lines, nature provides plenty of curved forms such as flowers, shells, and waves which they can mimic through various biophilic strategies – for instance incorporating round elements and using timber battens on curvier surfaces are two examples.
Kellert describes two components of biophilic architecture, the organic dimension, and the place-based dimension. The former emphasizes shape and form while the latter highlights how buildings interact with their environments. To be successful, successful implementation of the organic dimension requires coordination among build teams as well as buy-in from all stakeholders involved; traditionally leather has been recommended as a biophilic material but due to increased awareness about animal agriculture’s contribution to climate change faux or plant-based leathers are increasingly becoming preferred biophilic choices.
3. Natural Shapes and Patterns
The biophilic design offers an immersive multi-sensory experience of nature that brings comfort, tranquility, and creativity into any space it is applied in. By incorporating curvy shapes such as flowers, waves, and shells, the biophilic design provides a multi-sensory journey of natural inspiration within a room – providing comfort, tranquility, and creativity at once!
The biophilic design emphasizes incorporating patterns found in nature into built environments, such as using materials that resemble their texture, hues, and shapes. Integrating visual connections to nature into spaces is also key; studies indicate that patients heal faster in rooms featuring views of trees, plants, and water.
Rancho Campana High School in California features classrooms with large doors that open onto an outdoor learning garden, so students can move easily between their indoor and outdoor classes, creating a curriculum to take full advantage of both environments. Australia’s One Central Park complex incorporates a reflecting pond to connect its occupants to their surrounding city landscape by reflecting sky, vegetation, and river flow from nearby rivers – helping bridge learning gaps between different environments.
4. Natural Light
Erich Fromm first coined the concept of biophilia in 1973 to describe our instinctual desire for connection with nature. Today, architects and designers alike use biophilic principles when designing spaces that improve occupant well-being.
Biophilic design elements typically feature organic shapes, natural patterns and colors, and views of nature or water in buildings. When combined together they create spaces that feel more natural than typical offices or homes.
Wood and natural colors can bring the outdoors inside, while adjustable LED lighting systems mimicking daily and seasonal cycles of sunlight are useful tools for creating an immersive outdoor atmosphere.
While modern building designs often utilize straight lines, nature offers plenty of curves in flowers, shells, and waves that mimic nature’s forms – be they flowers, shells, or waves. The biophilic design uses biomimicry to mimic these natural forms in infrastructure and design projects like framing windows in honeycomb patterns or creating walls with curvatures in them.