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  • Writer's pictureFernando Ortiz

Biophilic Design

Updated: Nov 15, 2017

Do you love spending time on the beach? Hiking? Or maybe you prefer spending time with animals or tending a garden. Does looking out into the horizons or observing beautiful landscapes relax you? That's Biophilia.

Biophilia is our love for Nature- our biological innate connection with Nature as human beings. The term Biophilia was first popularized by Edward O. Wilson in the 1980's and has since become the basis on biophilic design, a term that like sustainable design and sustainability has entered the design vocabulary.

“Biophilic design is based on the relationship between Nature, human biology and the built environment.”

Biophilic design is the practice of connecting people and Nature within the built environment and communities with the goal of creating good habitats for people as biological organisms inhabiting modern structures, landscapes and communities. The average American spends 90% of their time indoors making the theory of biophilic design ever more appealing and necessary.

The consulting and design firm Terrapin Bright Green revolutionized the term and idea of biophilic design with their well recognized 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design in which they established 14 guiding principals or methods of achieving proper biophilic design. The list is as follows:

1. Visual Connection with Nature: views of landscapes, outdoors, etc.

2. Non-Visual Connection with Nature: olfactory, gustatory, auditory stimuli

3. Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli

4. Thermal + Airflow: temperature changes, ventilation, humidity, etc

5. Presence of Water

6. Dynamic + Diffuse Light: natural day-lighting, shadows

7. Connection with Natural Systems: awareness of seasons

8. Biomorphic Forms + Patterns: geometric natural shapes such as beehive patterns, natural colors

9. Material Connection with Nature: materials found in local ecology/geology

10. Complexity + Order: rich sensory

11. Prospect: unimpeded view over a distance

12. Refuge: place for withdraw

13. Mystery: obscured views

14. Risk/Peril: sense of threat with reliable safeguard.

These biophilic design patterns can be implemented in several ways in design projects using a mix of several of the principals such as the use of natural materials and textures, colors and shapes like animal print or local wood or geometric shapes based on plants, improving air quality and ventilation, incorporating natural daylighting into spaces and installing vegetation.

The Benefits*

Biophilic design has been demonstrated to have valuable and numerous benefits within spatial design such as improving cognitive functionality and performance (mental restoration, improved memory), psychological health + well-being (improving alertness, attention, concentration, emotions and mood) and physiological health + well-being (comfort,circadian by lowering heart rates and blood pressure, muscoskeletal by relaxing and restoring muscles, respiratory, nervous and endocrine systems). Research posted by the Oliver Heath Design firm states the following benefits of biophilia in the following fields:

* Workplace: increase productivity by 8% and occupant well-being by 13%, increases creativity and reduces absenteeism.

*Hospitality: customers willing to pay up to 23% more for rooms with views and biophilic features.

*Healthcare: post operative rates of recovery reduced by up to 8.5%, reduce pain medications by up to 22%.

*Homes: Increase property value by up to 5%, creates calming and restorative environments, 7-8% lower crimes rates in communities with access to Nature.

*Retail: Customers willing to pay up to8-12% more for good and services.

**Education: Increases rates of learning by 20-26%, improves concentration levels especially for children with ADHD, improves attendance by 3.5 days/year, improves test scores by up to 5-14% and plants in classrooms can lead to improving performance in spelling, math and science by up to 14%.

Like sustainable design, biophilic design can greatly improve human health and create more desirable and enjoyable spaces for us to co-exist. I personally believe in the benefits that can be achieved in classrooms with children with the simple use of biophilic design. Studies show that 96% of children when asked to draw their favorite places will draw outdoor spaces. Let us nourish these innate biological connections and reap the fruits of biophilia in a positive way.

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