Biophilic design is an approach to architecture and interior design that aims to connect people with nature. It incorporates natural elements, materials, and processes into the built environment to enhance the overall health, well-being, and productivity of occupants. The concept of biophilic design has its roots in several disciplines, including architecture, psychology, and biology.
Where did Biophilic design came from?
The term “biophilia” was first coined by the American biologist Edward O. Wilson in his book “Biophilia” published in 1984. Wilson defined biophilia as “the innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes” and argued that humans have an inherent affinity for nature due to our evolutionary history. He suggested that this connection with nature is vital for our well-being and that the lack of it in modern urban environments can lead to stress, reduced productivity, and other negative impacts on human health.
Following Wilson’s work, the concept of biophilic design started gaining traction in the architectural and design communities. In the early 1990s, Stephen R. Kellert, an environmental psychologist, and Judith H. Heerwagen, an environmental designer, conducted extensive research on biophilic design principles. They published a seminal work called “Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life” in 2008, which further popularized the concept. The principles of biophilic design encompass various strategies to incorporate nature into the built environment. These include:
- Incorporating natural materials: Using materials such as wood, stone, and natural fibers in construction and interior design to create a sense of connection to nature.
- Maximizing natural light and views: Designing spaces to provide ample natural daylight and views of the outdoors, which have been shown to enhance well-being and productivity.
- Incorporating vegetation: Integrating plants and living green walls or installing indoor gardens to bring the benefits of nature indoors and improve air quality.
- Creating nature-inspired patterns and forms: Incorporating natural patterns, colors, and shapes in architectural elements, furniture, and artwork to evoke a sense of nature.
- Providing access to outdoor spaces: Designing buildings with balconies, terraces, or gardens that allow occupants to interact with the natural environment directly.
- Incorporating water features: Including elements such as fountains, waterfalls, or ponds that provide a calming effect and contribute to a sense of tranquility.
Biophilic design has gained recognition and acceptance in the architecture and design industry over the years. It is now seen as a way to create healthier and more sustainable built environments. Many organizations, such as the International Living Future Institute and the WELL Building Standard, have incorporated biophilic design principles into their guidelines and certifications to promote human well-being and environmental sustainability.
Today, biophilic design is being applied to a wide range of spaces, including offices, healthcare facilities, schools, and homes, with the aim of improving occupants’ mental and physical health while reducing the ecological footprint of buildings. The field continues to evolve as designers and researchers explore new ways and ideas to integrate nature into the built environment and understand its impacts on human well-being.
Positive effects of Biophilic design in different settings
In the workspace
In the study, “The Relative Benefits of Green versus Lean Office Space: Three Field Experiments” (2014, Nieuwenhuis et. Al.), they examined the effects of office environments with natural materials on employee well-being and productivity. It was found that employees working in offices with natural elements, such as plants and sunlight, reported higher levels of:
- improved cognitive performance
- and increased productivity
compared to those in lean (minimal natural elements) environments.
Whereas, in the study, “The Effects of Green Building on Cognitive Function in Workers: A Pilot Study” (2010, Allen, Joseph G. et. Al), they investigated the impact of green building features on cognitive function in workers which found that employees working in green-certified buildings with enhanced ventilation and superior indoor environmental quality had significantly higher cognitive scores, including better crisis response, strategy development, and focused activity levels, compared to those in conventional buildings.
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According to “Healing Gardens—Places for Nature in Health Care” (2008, Cooper Marcus, et. Al) which was a study examining the effects of healing gardens in healthcare settings. It was found that exposure to natural elements and views of green spaces positively influenced patients’ well-being, including reducing stress, improving mood, and promoting healing and recovery.
As to the “Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals” (2002, Ulrich, Roger S. et. Al.) where they studied the effects of gardens on patients in hospital settings, they discovered that exposure to gardens have the following effects to patients:
- Significantly reduced stress levels
- Enhanced positive emotions
- Reduced the need for pain medication
- Contributed to faster recovery and shorter hospital stays
These studies provide empirical evidence supporting the positive impact of biophilic design on well-being, including improved cognitive function, reduced stress levels, enhanced mood, and better health outcomes.
Famous Biophilic Interior Designs around the world
In the recent years, there are several famous examples of the biophilic design elements in interior designs around the world which gained recognition for their incorporation of nature-inspired elements.
Here are a few notable ones:
Amazon Spheres, Seattle, USA
The Amazon Spheres are three interconnected glass domes in Seattle that serve as a workspace and relaxation area for Amazon employees. These biodomes house more than 40,000 plants from various ecosystems, creating a unique biophilic environment that promotes employees’ overall health, well-being, and creativity.
Bosco Verticale, Milan, Italy
Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest, is a pair of residential towers in Milan that feature extensive greenery on their facades. The buildings are covered with over 900 trees and thousands of plants, providing natural air purification, thermal regulation, and a visually stunning example of biophilic design.
One Central Park, Sydney, Australia
One Central Park is a residential and commercial complex in Sydney known for its vertical gardens designed by Patrick Blanc. These gardens cascade down the building’s exterior, incorporating over 35,000 plants of different species, contributing to air purification and creating a green oasis in the city.
Pasona Urban Farm, Tokyo, Japan
Pasona Urban Farm is an office building in Tokyo that integrates agriculture within its workspace. The interior features multiple floors of green spaces, including a rice paddy, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees. Employees can interact with nature during their workday, promoting a connection to the natural world.
The Parkroyal on Pickering, Singapore
This hotel in Singapore is known for its lush greenery and striking terraced gardens that span across the building’s exterior. The hotel’s design incorporates layers of vegetation, providing natural shading and cooling effects, and exemplifying the concept of a “hotel in a garden.”
These famous biophilic interior designs showcase how nature can be integrated into the built environment, creating visually appealing and environmentally conscious spaces that enhance the well-being of its occupants.
10 Budget-friendly ideas on how to incorporate Biophilic interior design
As fancy as Biophilic interior design sounds, there are lots of ways to use this design approach in your interior spaces without having to spend too much money. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate Biophilic interior design which are affordable and easy to find:
1. Potted Plants
Adding potted plants is an affordable and effective way to bring fresh air and nature indoors. Choose low-maintenance plants like succulents, spider plants, and others which are budget-friendly and readily available.
2. DIY Terrariums
Create your own terrariums using glass containers, rocks, soil, and small plants. These miniature ecosystems add a touch of nature and can be made with inexpensive materials.
3. Nature-Inspired Art
Instead of buying expensive artwork, consider creating your own nature-inspired art in your interiors. Collect leaves, flowers, or interesting branches from outside and press them in a book. Frame them or arrange them in a collage for unique and affordable wall decor.
4. Natural Textiles
Use natural textiles such as cotton, linen, or jute for curtains, cushion covers, or tablecloths. These materials add texture and a sense of nature to your space without breaking the bank.
5. Branches and Twigs
Collect fallen branches or twigs from your backyard or nearby park and use them as decorative elements. Arrange them in vases, create mobiles, or even use them as curtain rods for an inexpensive touch of nature.
6. Nature-Inspired Colors
Choose paint colors that mimic nature, such as soft greens, earthy browns, or sky blues. Repainting a room or an accent wall is a cost-effective way to create a biophilic atmosphere.
7. Repurposed Wood
Look for inexpensive or free sources of repurposed wood, such as pallets or discarded furniture to use in your interior spaces. Use them to create shelves, plant stands, or even a DIY vertical garden. This adds natural elements to your space while being environmentally friendly.
8. Natural Light
Maximize natural light by keeping windows clean and unobstructed. Remove heavy curtains or replace them with sheer fabrics to allow more sunlight to enter your home, creating a brighter and more natural ambiance.
9. Nature Sound
Play nature soundscapes or use smartphone apps to enjoy the sound of nature. This is a free and easy way to create a biophilic experience and promote a relaxing and calming space.
10. Nature Walk Finds
Bring in natural elements from your outdoor adventures to your interiors. Collect interesting rocks, seashells, or pinecones and display them in bowls or jars. These natural treasures can serve as reminders of your connection to the outdoors.
Remember, the goal is to incorporate elements of nature within your budget. Get creative with ideas, inspiration, elements, colours, shapes, and textures, repurpose items, and embrace the simplicity of biophilic design to create an inviting and affordable space.
Overall, Biophilic design is important as it recognizes and addresses the innate human need for connection with nature in our built environments. By incorporating elements and ideas such as natural light, greenery, and natural materials, biophilic design improves the overall well-being and productivity of individuals, reduces stress levels, and enhances cognitive function. It also promotes environmental sustainability by encouraging the use of renewable resources and fostering a deeper appreciation for nature. Ultimately, biophilic design creates harmonious and nurturing spaces that not only benefit human health and happiness but also contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future for both individuals and the planet.