The basic idea of biophilic design elements is that the built environment around us is very important to our human productivity, intellectual, emotional, physical health, and spiritual well-being. Building infrastructures and landscapes can either support human life or harm human existence.
The sustainability movement today is generally more concerned with how the built environment affects nature than how nature primarily affects people. It will be more appropriate to shift the emphasis on how the built environment affects nature to how we can make our built environments better for human physical and spiritual well-being which is simply known as biophilic design.
What is Biophilic Design?
Biophilic design is an architectural concept in the building industry aimed at increasing occupant connectivity in a built environment to the natural environment by using space, and direct & indirect natural conditions. This can be applied to both individual buildings and city scales at large, it is commonly believed that the biophilic design idea has, economic, health, and environmental benefits for building occupants and city environments, with little or no drawbacks.
Biophilic design in other words focuses on those aspects of the natural environment and its benefit to human health and productivity in the age-long human struggle to remain healthy and survive within the environment.
This concept of design was introduced by E.O. Wilson in 1984 in his book titled Biophilia. Wilson was a renowned biologist and a Research Professor Emeritus at Harvard University who outlined the natural tendencies of human beings to be naturally attracted to the natural environment and the possibilities of emulating its processes and structures in their everyday existence.
This is the fundamental idea that founded biophilic design. The goal was mainly to satisfy the biophilia by developing an architectural framework that is an extension of the natural environment within a built environment.
The Biophilic Design Elements
Biophilic design elements are proven to reduce stress, increase cognitive productivity, improve health, and positively impact emotion, and mood. Biophilic design inclusion in our today’s built environment and spaces supports every aspect of human existence. The following are six elements of biophilic design applications considered in this article:
- Natural Shapes and Form
- Environmental Features
- Light and Space
- Natural Patterns and Processes
- Evolved Human-Nature Relationships
- Place-Based Relationships
Natural Shapes and Form
The natural environments show high-level complexity in different ways, from the vast openness of the heavens, the dense complexity of the galaxies in the sky, and the pattern of a single leaf on a tree. All of these variances in nature feed our desires for the diverse forms and shapes found in the natural environment. This is something to which every human being is attracted.
This biophilic element of natural shapes and forms are well-represented today in most of the built environments of which the end result provides the richness of details and the scales in which ultimately our human bodies and souls find great pleasure and delight.
The use of shapes and forms that are natural is an important element in biophilic design. These shapes and forms include columns, spirals, botanical motifs, ovals, arches, shells, and on and on.
Using natural features like waterfalls, actual vegetation, sunlight, etc., in the built environment helps a long way to boost the human-to-nature connection in biophilic design. Human contact with vegetation, in and around the built environment, is the most successful application of biophilic design to foster human-nature connection in the built environment. The presence of plants in the built environments reduces stress, prompts healing, improves comfort, and enhances mood.
Light and Space
This biophilic design element focuses on the use of many diverse qualities of light within a built space, and also the use of natural light in excess creates stimulating, sculptural, and dynamic forms within the built space as well.
Natural Patterns and Processes
Dr. Stephen Kellert, once said that “human evolution and survival have always required managing highly sensuous and variable natural environments, particularly responding to the sight, sound, smell, touch, and other sensory systems”. It is always, therefore, important to create opportunities to connect to the vast richness of our sensory system, in and around a built space environment.
Evolved Human-Nature Relationships
Biophilic design is a new approach to restoring human connection with nature. This concept is a call for responsibility toward the planet and our relationship with the natural environment. The evolved human-nature relationships as an element of the biophilic design lay more emphasis on the inherent relationship between humans and their natural environment. Every good biophilic design usually addresses the affinity of humans toward nature.
Considering place-based relationships in biophilic design are actually a doorway to caring, this element emphasizes the human connection to ecology and prominent biogeographical features such as mountains, rivers, estuaries, deserts, and plants
Benefits of Biophilic Design
Biophilic design in recent times is argued to be beneficial to human existence in terms of health, economy, productivity, and sustainability which poses a great wealth of benefits for building occupants and urban dwellers through improving connections to nature. For many cities, some believe that the biggest advantage of this concept is its ability to make the city more resilient to any environmental stressor it may face.
With the addition of physical natural elements, such as grasses, trees, green roofs, and rain gardens to the built space, stormwater runoff around buildings, and within cities can be better managed as there are better infiltration and fewer impervious surfaces.
The introduction of greenery in a built environment also reduces the heat island effect and carbon emissions, and that also increases biodiversity. Carbon in the atmosphere is reduced as a result of carbon sequestration in the roots of the plants during photosynthesis. Shading of streets and structures using natural vegetation, green, and high albedo rooftops can reduce the amount of heat absorption found in concrete, asphalt, or dark surfaces which creates a conducive environment for human livelihood in the built environment.
Biophilia designs are likely to be more expensive compared to conventional designs due to the addition of natural effects that may require regular maintenance. But, the perceived sustainability, health, and environmental benefits, in the long run, will negate the high cost of maintenance. Peter Newman in his research discovered that by adopting biophilic design and landscaping, cities such as New York can save about $470 million as a result of increased human productivity and about $1.7 billion due to reduced crime rate. It has also been discovered that properties with biophilic design have high selling prices of about 16% to 20% more than conventional building designs.
A study by Kaitlyn Gillis and Birgitta Gatersleben has discovered that the application of biophilic designs such as the inclusion of plants in interior built environments increases pain tolerance and reduces stress, and likewise incorporating views of nature and the use of water elements in built spaces improves mental health and such views are also mentally restorative for occupants. Peter Newman and Jana Soderlund in their research on the effects of biophilic design in hospital settings on patients, found that the increase in vista quality in hospital rooms reduces pain and depression in patients, which in turn shortened their stay in the hospital from 3.67 days to 2.6 days. It has also been discovered that children growing up in green environments are less susceptible to asthma and decreased mortality rates.
Sustainability and Resilience
On a city or urban scale, Timothy Beatley argued that biophilic design will allow cities to better adapt to stresses due to changes in climate and local environments. In his description, he generated a biophilic cities framework, which can be adopted to increase the sustainability and resilience of cities. This framework includes three sections: Biophilic Urbanism – the physical biophilic design and natural green effect measures that can be taken to increase the resilience of the city, Adaptive Capacity – how the community’s behaviors will adapt as a result of these physical changes, and Resilient Outcomes – what could be the outcome if both of these steps are achieved.
What is a biophilic design concept?
The biophilic design concept is an architectural concept in the building industry aimed at increasing occupant connectivity in a built environment to the natural environment by using space and direct or indirect natural conditions. This concept of design was introduced by E.O. Wilson in 1984 in his book titled Biophilia.
What are the 3 benefits of biophilic design?
The 3 benefits of biophilic designs in the built environment are:
1. Health benefits: The increase in vista quality in hospital rooms reduces pain and depression in patients, which in turn shortened their stay in the hospital.
2. Economy benefits: It has been discovered that properties with biophilic design have high selling prices of about 16% to 20% more than conventional building designs.
3. Environmental benefits: The introduction of greenery in a built environment reduces the heat island effect and carbon emissions, and that also increases biodiversity.
4. Sustainability and resilience: On a city or urban scale, the biophilic design will allow cities to better adapt to stresses due to changes in climate and local environments.
What are the elements of biophilic design?
There are basically 6 elements of biophilic design which include:
1. Natural shapes and forms
2. Environmental features
3. Light and space
4. Natural patterns and processes
5. Evolved Human-Nature Relationships
6. Place-Based Relationships