Have you ever been on a walk and found yourself drawn to a plant you’ve never seen before? Do you feel a lot better when you’re surrounded by natural elements like wood floors and moss walls? Does nature make you relaxed, contented, and happy?
These are examples of biophilia.
What Is Biophilia?
“Biophilia” describes humanity’s innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes. It is sometimes used in reference to the human aesthetic preference for the living over the nonliving or for the organic over the inorganic.
Psychiatrist Erich Fromm coined the term, who defined it as “the passionate love of life and of all that resembles life.” Biophilic design is also sometimes called “eco-friendly” since people respond positively to natural forms like water, wood, stones, plants, animals, mountains, and clouds.
A person who has frequent contact with the natural world, through working outdoors or simply immersing oneself in an environment rich with green plants and animals is more likely to feel a fundamental connection and belonging than someone whose life is spent exclusively amid urban and manufactured surroundings.
What Is Biophilic Design?
Biophilic design is a relatively new term that has been gaining traction in the architecture community. It is the theory of designing spaces that connect people to the natural environment.
Architects and designers interpret biophilic design in different ways. Some see it as an opportunity to bring the outdoors into buildings and structures. Wood flooring services integrate oak or luxury vinyl planks, which can feel like wood, to modern materials, such as metal and plastic.
Others seek to instill more biodiversity into cities. Some try to create sustainable outdoor spaces that use natural processes like evapotranspiration. In contrast, others use biomimicry (mimicking nature) for innovative solutions like applying aerogel (material used by NASA on space shuttles) to buildings.
Architects like Bill Browning are incorporating these concepts into their work. He tries to incorporate natural elements that can produce better air quality by filtering out common allergens. Then, he adds in nature through things like water features, natural textures, and structural forms.
Architects are also becoming more involved with green roofs, which can add many benefits to a building. Some have even designed buildings where the roof becomes part of the landscape. Imagine walking into an office and seeing that the walls open up to trees and plants beyond them. These concepts demonstrate how biophilic design permeates all aspects of our lives.
The Benefits of Biophilic Design
Biophilic design also follows at least three primary principles:
• Affordance, which means that people have a natural inclination to interact with nature
• Connectedness, which is where we derive pleasure from connections between ourselves and environments
• Evoked potentials, or the response that our brains have to stimuli such as plants or water features
Depending on the space you’re designing for, these reactions can be experienced through sight, sound, or smell. Not only do these responses affect us emotionally but physically as well.
Biophilic design encourages us to think about connections between nature and our environment and how we can harness the power of natural systems to improve energy use. In turn, these design principles could potentially lead to a new generation of sustainable architecture that is self-sufficient in energy production. By viewing our buildings as living organisms that interact with nature, the development of zero-energy buildings might become more tangible.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
The benefits of biophilic design are that it creates a healthy environment by promoting natural interaction, leading to increased attention span, creativity, and productivity. It is also more inviting for users as they like plants and nature. They feel better about themselves when there are plants around them because it’s something familiar.
The physical and mental advantages of biophilic design are also covered by a growing number of studies. For example, with good air quality inside buildings and high ceilings to maximize natural light, office workers have better focus during working hours.
Many office workers experience a lack of energy after prolonged periods sitting down in a cubicle without scenery changes. Biophilic design can modify this by introducing a garden view or providing access to see the city lights at night.
Biophilic design helps decrease stress levels in people, which can increase their mental performance. Lastly, the natural environment inspires people’s desire to get up and explore. For this reason, stores such as Westfield Valley Fair Shopping Mall in California employ biophilia by adding green walls and vegetation throughout the building, highlighting landmarks so that shoppers can find their way around more easily without becoming lost.
Biophilic design works because it touches on the innate characteristic of every human: the desire to connect with what’s natural.