Understanding biophilic design in a built environment
The concept of biophilic design is used in the building industry to increase people’s connectivity to the natural world. Biophilia describes human beings’ innate attraction to nature – after all it’s in our genetics. We’re much more happier when we’re around elements of the natural world – think waterfalls, beaches, parks.
Biophilia also has health and wellbeing benefits – reducing stress, improving mood, enhancing creativity and clarity of thought and expediting healing. So it’s no wonder that many projects are utilising aspects of biophilic design in the built environment.
With the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown 3.0, our living space has never been so important, health and wellbeing is surfacing more, and our homes are now also our work and social spaces. So it’s never been a more important time than now to highlight biophilia.
So what exactly is biophilic design?
Biophilic design brings elements of the natural world to architecture and interiors. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to the built environment, but its design is incorporated while considering the scale of a building, demographics, and the history and geography of the area.
Aspects of the biophilic design principles can be used within buildings to increase resident’s connectivity – through using direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions. Stephen Kellert – who is considered one of the pioneers in biophilic design – has created a framework where nature in a built environment can be used to satisfy residents needs.
Kellert’s framework is designed to respect and celebrate nature, while providing an enriching, multisensory urban environment. Relevant principles can be incorporated into the architecture and design of your development and its surroundings.
The biophilic design framework
The biophilic design framework is split into three key categories: direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions:
Direct nature relates to tangible contact with natural elements, such as:
- – Light: which presents an orientation of seasons and the time of day, providing wellbeing benefits.
- – Air: from open windows or doors which provide ventilation as well as different temperatures – which promotes productivity and comfort.
- – Weather: which residents can observe from inside their living space via windows, or from the manipulation of air indoors – which promotes mental stimulation and awareness.
- – Water: which is multisensory and great in the built environment. It provides sound, sight, movement and touch – which can reduce stress and provide overall resident satisfaction.
- – Plants: which can be incorporated within the exterior and interior of buildings. You should use plants in abundance as they reduce stress and increase productivity, physical health and performance. You can be creative here – think vegetation, flowers, green walls, vertical farming.
- – Natural landscapes: which can be created via self-sustaining ecosystems into the built environment. Courtyards, gardens, vistas – they provide an abundance of natural life which residents can have direct interaction with – increasing satisfaction.
- – Animals: achieved via animal feeders, green roof tops or aquariums . It creates resident interest and promotes pleasure and mental wellbeing.
Indirect nature relates to contact with representations or images of nature, such as:
- – Images: photos, paintings, murals or sculptures of nature can be intellectually and emotionally satisfying to residents.
- – Natural colours: such as earth tones – which are generally subdued tones of blue, green and brown, and are ideal in the built environment.
- – Natural materials: such as stone and wood incorporated into buildings and leather, natural fabrics and furnishings in the interior of buildings. This provides residents with mental stimulation.
- – Simulations of natural light and air: ideal in places where there is no natural light and air. You can mimic these by using mechanical ventilation and lighting.
- – Natural shapes: for example via architectural designs on facades which can create an appealing and intriguing building.
- – Natural geometries: structural components or facades designed with different patterns and a winding flow, instead of straight with sharp angles.
- – Evoking nature: characteristics used to influence the structure of a building, which can represent natural landscapes.
- – Change and the patina of time: nature changes – it also adapts and ages. Using organic materials which are sensitive to weather allows them to change colour over time, making them intriguing to residents.
Space and place conditions
Space and place conditions relate to using spatial relationships to increase wellbeing, such as:
- – Organised complexity: which can be achieved through a buildings design – via change, details and repetitiveness of its architecture.
- – Prospect and refuge: prospect emphasises movement and horizons, which can be achieved via balconies or lighting changes. Refuge is the buildings ability to provide residents with nurturing interiors and comfort.
- – Transitional spaces: which connects the inside with the outdoors – or creates comfort through connecting spaces, such as doors, foyers or bridges.
- – Integration of parts: different parts or areas of a building that make it whole provide residents with a sense of satisfaction. You can achieve this by creating a focal point.
- – Mobility: which aims to provide residents with ease of movement between different spaces in a building, which provides comfort and security.
- – Cultural and ecological attachment to a place: by incorporating the local areas history into your design, you can create an identity and connection within the built environment which creates a cultural sense of place. And by using fauna and flora, you can create an ecological identity and connection.
The goal of using Kellert’s framework is to consider each of these principles individually and apply the relevant ones to your project, taking into account the scope of the project and your target residents.