Design that enables us to be better at our jobs, feel connected and more in tune is particularly intriguing to me. Biophilic design challenges thinking and stimulates design exploration. A space shines and comes to life when natural elements like wood and water are introduced. Central to biophilic design are the 14 foundational patterns of biophilia, and these patterns can be implemented in countless ways. Rooted in science, implementation of the 14 patterns can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity. A mixing of biophilic elements creates a multi-sensorial experience that will maximize the benefits of biophilia.
I’ve rounded up several of my favorite examples of biophilia in commercial design and would like to share them with you. Each example is unique, and most importantly, focused on improving human health.
Daylight and plant life always work well together
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Singapore is an unforgettable example of commercial biophilic design. Thanks to the abundance of greenery and natural light, the building feels less like a hospital and more like a forest. This is a prime example of what biophilia looks like when several patterns are working together and is an inspiration for anyone interested in the possibilities of biophilic design.
The presence of plant life is an essential aspect to biophilic design. Even just a few plants can make a big difference and improve indoor environmental quality. Combining daylight with greenery is especially effective. Daylight not only illuminates plant life but also has numerous biophilic benefits of its own, including mood improvement and increased productivity.
Variety in plant life is also key. Potted plants, hanging plants, and living walls can all work together to help an indoor environment resemble the outdoors more closely. Many businesses elect to use greenery that’s native to the local area to connect occupants with their natural surroundings.
This approach has long been adopted by some of the world’s top architects and designers, including Perkins+Will’s Ken Hudson and renowned designer Oliver Heath. Many experts consider biophilic design to be the future of interior design, and given the many benefits that biophilia provides, it’s easy to see why.
From Oliver Heath Design: This Heath installation in a London showroom demonstrates the feel-good power plants provide
Biophilia is ideal for lounges and communal seating areas
One of the most studied effects of biophilia is reduced stress (and thus improved mood). Social gathering spaces and lounge areas are a perfect match for biophilic design. In these shared spaces, biophilia fosters connectivity. Occupants feel welcome, relaxed and are more likely to be social. Plants and wood are particularly powerful here. Many studies have concluded that exposure to wood paneling can reduce blood pressure, and similar results have been reached in connection with indoor plants. Together, plants and wood can revitalize any space and comfort occupants.
From NAC Architecture: This Newport Hospital lounge fosters a pleasant environment for patients and visitors
Newport Hospital Health Center in Washington state sustains a congruous balance of biophilic elements. In the seating area pictured above, patients and visitors will find reclaimed wood architecture, bright lighting, a natural stone wall and a panoramic view of the outdoors making for an inviting and calming waiting area.
From Margulies Perruzzi Architects: Biophilic elements like this fireplace, stone wall and greenery combine to make for an ideal seating area for Station 101.
Seating areas that incorporate biophilic elements such as water features and fireplaces, bring a serenity to an environment. They enhance the experience by providing non-visual connections with nature such as the crackling of fire or the sound of flowing water. The example shown above from Station 101 is an exterior space designed as a natural extension of the interior biophilic rich meeting area. Other examples of non-visual connections with nature are shadows and sun patches and their movement across a room, textured materials like weathered reclaimed wood, and fragrant herbs or flowers.
From: The Architects Newspaper: A combination of biophilic elements; the custom-crafted, segmented, geometric wood drop ceiling; abundant daylight; playful shadows and views of nature create a perfect social and spiritual gathering place.
These spaces prove how useful natural materials like reclaimed wood are
Many of the world’s top offices, retail stores, restaurants, hospitals and even banks use reclaimed wood because reclaimed wood supports a connection to nature and has been shown to help people feel better, heal faster and be more productive and social. Reclaimed wood with texture and character will help occupants relate the material more closely with nature. Time after time, reclaimed wood proves that it’s one of the most flexible green building materials.
From Planters Group: Biophilic design builds upon the refined, chic design of this restaurant
Reclaimed wood adapts very well to its surroundings and will amplify the existing aesthetic of a space. In a high-end restaurant, it adds sophistication and elegance. In a hospital lobby, it creates a calm environment and reduces stress in both patients and visitors. Of course, reclaimed wood has numerous benefits no matter where it’s used, but it has a unique ability to enhance the design of the built environment in which it lives.
Take a look at how these rooms balance indoor elements
From the Business Tribune: In this atrium, daylight and wood work together to optimize indoor environmental quality
In biophilic design, it’s not just the presence of natural materials that’s important. Different indoor elements (such as lighting, air quality, and views of nature) have to be balanced so as to optimize the built environment as a whole. Using several biophilic patterns at once compounds the benefits that each pattern brings to the table, resulting in a space that feels great to be in and looks great to match.
From Healthcare Design Magazine: Circadian lighting and the use of natural patterns make Swedish Ballard Behavioral Health stand out
This harmony of indoor elements is of particular importance to hospitals (or other medical facilities) that use biophilic design. The Swedish Ballard Behavioral Health Unit is a noteworthy example here. Its campus features extensive daylighting, connection with natural patterns, and healthy amounts of wood. In addition, in spaces that necessitate artificial light, circadian lighting solutions are employed. In the morning, occupants are exposed to cool blue light, while in the evening a warm amber glow is emitted. This ensures occupants’ regular sleep and wake cycles are maintained.
Combining biophilic elements is most effective when creating spaces meant for Refuge. The best restoration space is one where occupants feel safe and provides occupants a real sense of withdrawal from the surrounding area. Places of Refuge need to feel unique from the greater space but should not be fully enclosed. The intent is to de-stress but keep the senses engaged. If the space is elevated, giving it the ability for Prospect, it has even greater biophilic effect. Places of Refuge have been shown to reduce fatigue and irritability as well as improved concentration.
Biophilic office design is the future of the workplace
From Oliver Heath Designs: This Heath creation is designed to enhance workers’ health and productivity
Office spaces have changed for the better particularly over the last decade due to the rise of biophilic design. Today’s offices are well lit and designed to maximize productivity and employee health, and designers like Oliver Heath are at the forefront of this movement. The benefits don’t stop there; biophilic design can also prevent Sick Building Syndrome, enhance comfort, and improve air quality.
These offices are only growing in popularity as more businesses realize the benefits of biophilia. Ultimately, biophilic design is all about people. It puts human health and wellness first, which is why biophilic spaces are so irresistible across all industries.
From the New York Times: Daylight, air quality, and natural materials are crucial for CookFox’s Manhattan offices
The offices of CookFox Architects in Manhattan exemplify this design philosophy. With generous plant life spread throughout each workspace and a healthy amount of daylight, CookFox’s HQ is a spectacular place to work and thrive.
rom Office Anything: This one-of-a-kind biophilic conference room is ideal for productive collaboration
Interior design hasn’t been the same since biophilia entered the picture, and that’s a wonderful thing. Today’s built environments are healthier and better looking than ever before, and the people working in them feel happier and more satisfied. The biophilia effect proves that humans long for a connection with nature, and when biophilic design elements stimulate more than just our visual senses it is the best way of meeting that innate need.