Biophilia is one of the most important sources for inspiration in today’s interior design. Architects and designers are looking at design through a biophilic lens to create projects that will have positive long-term impact for the planet and for human health and wellness. Biophilic design creates beautiful spaces that literally make people happy but also spaces that will resonate well into the future.
While there are many ways to implement biophilic design, one popular choice is to use reclaimed wood. Starchitects to Start Architects see its many possibilities, and chances are you’ve seen it in all kinds of commercial environments. Here’s why biophilia and reclaimed wood are such a good pairing.
The Importance of Biophilia
At its core, biophilia is all about connecting humans to the natural world. It’s an increasingly important area of design because it solves many of the problems present in the built environment. Stuffy offices and enclosed retail space environments cut occupants off from nature, which can result in lowered performance and satisfaction. Biophilia’s answer to this problem is simple: incorporate more nature.
One of the most important tenets of biophilic design is the creation of beneficial, enjoyable spaces. We spend 90% of our day indoors, and if our indoor environments are harmful, that can lead to a host of issues. On the flip side, when indoor environments are designed for human health and well being, they become places people love to spend time in.
So, how exactly should the built environment be designed for humans? In large part, it comes down to using nature as a guide especially when it comes to material selection. Engaging the senses is so important in biophilic design and materials play an enormous role here.
How Reclaimed Wood Achieves Biophilic Goals
Reclaimed wood is a powerful and versatile material. While a lot of designers and occupants love it for its appearance alone, reclaimed wood has many biophilic benefits. Clearly, it is a natural material and establishes an easy connection with the great outdoors. Depending on the species of wood and its patina, the wood can offer many levels of sensorial variability.
Terrapin Bright Green’s 14 patterns of biophilic design underscore the importance of material aesthetic. Since nature is multi-sensorial, biophilic building materials ought to similarly engage our spectrum of senses. Reclaimed wood is able to integrate many of the patterns because of its multifaceted nature. Its appearance, textures, and colors create a visual connection with nature, while its wear and patina make us aware of natural systems. Furthermore, the look of wood grain implements complexity and order into the built environment.
Natural patterns and fractals are universally soothing. Patterns found in nature deeply affect and nurture us. Incorporating fractals into architecture results in lowered stress levels. Utilizing reclaimed wood in applications like flooring, paneling, tables and stairs are all ways to bring more natural pattern and fractals into design.
Central to the biophilia hypothesis is that people experience better health and happiness when closer to nature. Reclaimed wood has been shown to have many physical health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, slower heart rates, and reduced levels of stress. One fascinating study comes from the Journal of Wood Science. Fourteen participants sat in rooms with either steel or wood paneling, and the researchers found that the participants who viewed wood enjoyed decreased blood pressure. Meanwhile, the participants in steel-paneled rooms experienced significantly higher blood pressure. This landmark study was instrumental in highlighting the wellness benefits of wood.
The Human-Nature Bond in the Built Environment
One of the principles of biophilic design is to use nature as a vehicle to create an emotional connection between occupants and the built environment. Wood can help elicit emotion and feeling better than just about any other surface material. As humans, we are inherently drawn to wood. Wood can help make a geographic connection to a place or help convey a particular spirit of a space. When the wood is reclaimed, it further facilitates an emotional connection through it’s reclaim story and sustainability.
Reclaimed wood also mixes with other biophilic design elements. Ample daylight, greenery, and large windows with views of nature are all commonly used in biophilic design. When used in conjunction with these sorts of elements, reclaimed wood continues the natural design palette, bringing the fullness of nature into the built environment. The result is a refreshing atmosphere that works in any commercial space from a modern office to a relaxing hotel.
Weathered reclaimed wood with a barn wood look like Lost Coast Paneling or Dirty Face Oak may be considered as a bigger biophilic contributor because of the distressed patina. Weathered woods boast markings and signs of wear that are evocative of the natural world. This can be ideal for biophilic design but all wood brings a natural element to a space.
Using natural, non-toxic materials is also a vital part of good biophilic design. Reclaimed wood is an excellent green building material. Since reclaimed wood is salvaged from various sources, it keeps useful materials from needlessly being landfilled and eliminates the steps and energy needed to harvest and extract new, raw materials.
Reclaimed wood is also a popular choice for spaces that don’t have immediate access to views of nature or excess daylight. It’s an easy way to add a biophilic touch to any design, and it works well no matter the location or type of space. Check out how it creates a natural feeling in the James Perse store pictured below. With no windows nearby, the wood warms and balances the space. This shows it’s completely possible to create an extremely natural look even in a landlocked space.
Reclaimed wood’s appeal is universal. It packs a biophilic punch, making spaces instantly healthier and more beautiful. Whether juxtaposed with vibrant plant life or all alone, reclaimed wood excels at bringing nature into the built environment. As you explore biophilic design, you absolutely should take a strong look at reclaimed wood.
Reclaimed wood isn’t just another building material; it’s a top material choice for biophilic design. Nothing says nature like wood, whether worn and weathered or clean and classic. An eclectic look like Acacia Metro or a rustic wood like Dirty Face, still provide all the biophilic benefits that reclaimed wood brings.
We’d love to share our love of reclaimed wood with you. It’s sustainable and beautiful while being mentally and physically beneficial, making humans happier and healthier. If you’re curious about reclaimed wood, check out some of our articles or take a peek at the types of wood available.