Biophilic concepts are steadily making their way into popular design. The concepts can take a variety of forms as local culture, ecology, project intent, and architect and designer perspective all direct how biophilic elements are applied to a space. The research is clear – biophilic design has many positive outcomes, most importantly it makes us happier. Biophilia seeks to reconnect us with nature, and by doing so provides all kinds of benefits—behavioral, mental, and physical. Studies have shown that biophilic design improves human well-being and boosts productivity.
From a commercial perspective, biophilia is a solution for creating better working environments. Windowless offices, poorly lit common areas, and cluttered design can all have numerous negative effects on humans, ranging from sleeping issues to increased sick leave. By building and designing with biophilic principles in mind, these problems can be significantly mitigated.
Moreover, these biophilic principles need to be deeply embedded in architectural and design philosophies. Access to nature needs to be prioritized in order to create the most optimal environments for humans. In other words, biophilia can’t be an afterthought.
Here are some ways architects and designers might integrate biophilia more holistically.
Nature as a necessity, not a tool
Commercial designers that design from a perspective of nature can gain insight and find inspiration to create re-imagined spaces. Using nature as the design driver and not simply another tool––is a necessity. While it is important to strategically include natural elements in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, nature needs to come before design. Therefore, instead of asking a question like, “How can we complement this space with natural elements?” one might ask, “What natural elements are vital for this space?”
When nature comes first, more biophilic needs are satisfied, and the environment appears more organic. It shouldn’t seem as if nature was thrown into the mix at the last minute. Some noteworthy examples of this concept include the Google Quad Campus and the COOKFOX Architects studio.
From Terrapin Bright Green: The COOKFOX studio was designed with nature in mind
Balancing the organic and the artificial is key
Although biophilia aims to restore a connection with nature, it must work hand in hand with constructed materials. As with any design, the elements must be in balance and have relevance. Terrapin Bright Green notes that biophilic design is the inclusion of “aspects of nature that most impact our satisfaction with the built environment.” Designers must uncover how best to implement the principles of Biophilia for each particular space.
A prime example of this balance is the Alliander business park in the Netherlands. The entire environment is outfitted with large skylights, open walkways, and ample vegetation. The natural elements and the constructed architecture work seamlessly together, creating the ideal balance.
Biophilic design must meet real human needs
The basic premise of biophilia is that humans innately need to participate in nature. By extension, biophilic design must consider these needs and work to fulfill them. This overarching need for nature can be broken down into 14 patterns, which provide a framework for architects and designers. Each of these patterns addresses a fundamental aspect of biophilic needs, and when one or more patterns are utilized in a human-created space, these needs are met.
Station 101, a multi-office building in Westwood, Massachusetts, exemplifies biophilic design that satisfies human needs. Wood and vegetation create a natural connection, while the large windows allow daylight to pour in.
From TerraMai: Station 101 focuses on biophilia with wood and greenery
Commercial architecture has a need for greater usage of biophilic design principles. By using green building materials and keeping biophilic needs in mind, designers can craft environments that make humans happier and healthier.