Bringing nature into our homes has been a staple of design for years. Whether it’s through architectural design, interior decoration, or outdoor urban spaces, nature is finally taking center stage. Based on the increasing need for connection to nature, the biophilic design principle was born.
What is Biophilic Design?
Biophilic design is the concept where nature is incorporated into living spaces, buildings, and open areas. The intent is to increase the connectivity of the residents and occupants to natural environments, whether directly or indirectly.
Biophilic design is much more than just placing a few plants here and there. The concept requires careful study and planning to make the entire design a seamless transition between humans and nature. In order to understand what it truly is, let’s look into the principles of biophilic design.
Principles of Biophilic Design
Given that this concept requires thoughtful planning, principles are in place to guide architects and designers. Without these principles, the design would not fully function as the concept intends.
Greenery is the first thing that people think of when planning biophilic places. Plants are, afterall, a key piece of biophilic design and one of the best ways to bring greenery into your home.
Most biophilic designs place specific vegetation in carefully planned locations. These can be through atriums, vertical gardens, and urban forests.
Location, Location, Location
The rule of real property applies to biophilic design as well. It’s not just about drafting the interior’s design, but it’s also about how and where it’s located.
While traditional design dictates maximizing land area, biophilic principles require architects and interior designers to consider the surrounding natural environments. This way, the structure becomes part of nature instead of sticking out like a sore thumb.
Biophilic architecture design focuses on keeping natural ecosystems as intact as possible. By keeping the environmental impact as non-disruptive as can be, nature still continues to flow even when man-made structures are present.
At the very least, a biophilic design aims to create as little disruption as possible on its immediate surroundings. This ensures that man and nature thrive alongside each other.
One of the major concerns for most urban jungles is flooding. Most of the time, traditional urban planning does not follow nature’s path but instead goes against it.
The biophilic design considers the presence of natural flood barriers, parks, and forests. The design is built around them instead of through them. As a result, the structures and spaces flow with each other without causing problems for all.
Sunlight helps plants grow, so it’s only logical that biophilic designs take light access into account. This means designing buildings around the sun’s arc throughout the day.
Incorporating glass windows, doors, ceilings, and other structures can let the light in. Otherwise, buildings without strategically located openings would not maximize natural sunlight.
Aside from lessening the need for artificial lighting for interiors, natural sunlight also makes the occupants of a building more connected to nature while staying protected.
The gentle sound of water has been found to calm stressed urbanites. Aside from being scene stealers, water features in biophilic designs help people connect more to nature.
They can be in the form of small indoor ponds, pools, lagoons, and even waterfalls. If the site is near bodies of water, architects can take advantage of these natural environments by adjusting their designs for maximum impact.
Urban areas are becoming choked up with multiple structures shooting up with hardly any space between them. This arrangement does not encourage air to circulate.
However, when airflow is considered, urban centers tend to enjoy gentler air circulation. This means that structures won’t need as much air cooling as they enjoy better ventilation.
Using natural materials is another way to make the spaces feel more connected to nature. Where possible, architects and interior designers should use renewable materials in designing biophilic buildings and spaces.
These materials usually include wood and bamboo, although there are many sustainable materials available. The important point is to keep these materials as natural as possible, with little exposure to processing and toxic chemicals.
What makes biophilic design so distinctive is that it allows residents and occupants access to outdoor spaces. This helps people connect to nature better, which is the main point of the concept.
Recent health outbreaks have just made it clear how important open spaces are for physical and mental well-being. In fact, traditional parks or tree-lined streets are not even considered to have biophilic principles.
Color psychology plays an important role in how we think and feel. Being surrounded by gray structures is not exactly conducive to our overall health, and this is where biophilic designs come into play.
By using neutral, natural, or warm colors, occupants and residents experience a better connection with nature. Given that colors influence people, picking the right ones is key when considering them in biophilic designs.
There will be some structures where space is limited. If this is the case, art is extremely useful in biophilic designs.
Sculptures, art installations, and even wall carvings inspired by nature can bring the outdoors in. Interior designers also use paintings, murals, and wall prints or hangings to connect the indoors with the great outdoors.
Some architects add design components into their work that look or feel like nature. These can be through sculptural pieces, functional designs, or even structural elements, such as columns and installations.
The purpose of these shapes is to allude to nature indoors without having the actual inspiration. Even simple swirl patterns can represent ocean waves inside a sea-facing building.
This principle involves incorporating designs and elements that work extremely well in nature into man-made structures. Not only are these beautiful, but they look quite organic as well.
Some examples of biomimicry include using cooling principles from termite mounds, wind turbines inspired by humpback whales, and glass designs lifted from intricate spider webbing.
The Benefits of Biophilic Design
If you occupy a space with biophilic design principles, you will notice that you react to your surroundings differently. The beauty of having biophilic principles in our lives is that we benefit as individuals and as a society.
Here are some of the benefits that biophilic designs provide:
Since the lines between nature and man are blurred in biophilic designs, people tend to have better states of mental well-being. As a result, people tend to have fewer instances of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Many people report that the soothing sounds of nature, such as wind and water, helped them feel more at ease. They ended up feeling happier and calmer with improved sleep and rest.
There are studies that link faster healing rates in patients who were exposed more often to nature. While the studies have yet to determine the exact cause of the quick healing rate, the results speak for themselves.
Some experts suggest that the link between patients and healing was due to better mental states. Given that nature has been found to have calming properties, these experts imply that mental well-being was a strong influence on the quick healing rate.
People who have greater exposure to nature usually end up more creative than those who don’t spend any time outdoors. Psychologists suggest that creativity could be stimulated by various natural elements, such as fresh air, sounds, sights, and smells.
Additionally, the color green has been associated with mental breaks and rests. This allows the brain to relax and come up with inventive ideas for pressing concerns.
There’s a reason why many people bring plants into their offices. Plants have been associated with lessening workplace stress and increasing personal productivity.
With a biophilic design, the result is even more expansive. With more nature around, people begin to feel better, think clearer, and work smarter.
How Biophilic Design Impacts Communities
Aside from residents feeling better, biophilic design principles help towns, cities, and countries improve their environments. Let’s look at how the design principle influences our community.
Lower Carbon Footprint
Given that greenery absorbs carbon dioxide, biophilic principles encourage lower harmful gas emissions. Plus, the quality of air is better with the introduction of oxygen-producing vegetation.
Decreased Noise Pollution
Greenery absorbs and insulates against noise. By planting more vegetation in biophilic-designed buildings, communities enjoy a more peaceful existence.
Plants, shrubs, and trees help cool down man-made structures. Combined with nature-inspired ventilation systems, a building can enjoy cooler interior temperatures without using too much electricity.
A well-designed biophilic area will use permeable materials to help absorb water into the ground or at least harvest rainwater sustainably. Instead of concrete grounds, the earth sponges up the water and lessens the instances of flooding.
Biophilic Designs to Inspire
Knowing the principles and the benefits they come with, let’s take a look at some great examples of applied biophilic designs.
Second Home, Lisbon
With over a thousand plants inside lit by multiple airy windows, this spot is a nature lover’s delight. Moreover, members get to enjoy yoga classes, cultural sessions, and surfing trips just 20 minutes away.
The Spheres, Seattle
Amazon is living up to its namesake place by having over 40,000 plants from 30 countries in its space. With the distinctive design and dominant glass domes, this is truly a world of its own.
The Wardian, London
Guests are quickly transported to a lush urban forest with expansive trees, floor-to-ceiling windows, and extra-high ceilings, even if this residential-led development sits in the middle of London.
Apple Park, California
The natural sinuous curves of Apple’s new campus are a prime example when it comes to biophilic design principle applications. With biomorphic and biomimicry concepts, the structure continues to spark creativity and productivity among its occupants.
Living Grid House, Singapore
The dramatic skylights let in a flood of light, immersing the interior vertical gardens and potted house plants with warmth. Thoughtfully planned and executed, this house is a great way to highlight biophilic design principles.