Biophilic Design: Celebrating Nature Through Architecture

Humans have an innate connection to nature, which is the reason many of us feel most at peace hiking mountains, swimming in the sea or visiting woodland. The world is mostly made up of natural elements, yet 54% of the world’s population live in an urban environment and we spend 93% of our time indoors, away from the places we thrive.

The more time we spend away from nature, the more we are prone to psychological and physiological harm. Researchers believe that we are much less happy than our ancestors due to the struggles of modern life. Through years of evolution, humans still have a genetic connection to the natural world, built up through hundreds of thousands of years of living in agrarian settings.

Architects are starting to introduce more biophilic elements into their design and stray away from the rigid concrete structures that make up many of our urban centres.

What is Biophilic architectural design?

Biophilic design is the concept of incorporating nature into the design of urban areas because of humans’ innate attraction to nature and natural processes. The emotional exhaustion of constantly having to seek out bigger and better things, while still feeling like our lives lack fulfilment, is leading to higher rates of anxiety and depression. It may be argued that our ancestors weren’t burdened with disappointment, because they weren’t led to believe in things like the American dream, to have more and strive for better, when all we need is right in front of us.

Biophilia literally means ‘love of nature’ and is considered of ever-increasing importance to our health and well-being when we spend so much time in concrete buildings. Biophilic design uses these principles as a basis to improve and create spaces that we will benefit from living and working in. This kind of architecture aims to energise a space rather than creating something that drains any energy from its surroundings. Biophilic design can be incorporated into places such as schools, offices, restaurants and healthcare spaces.

Why should we use biophilic design in modern architecture?

Much of modern architecture lacks natural light, plants, natural materials, scenery, ventilation and environmental shapes and forms. These building designs lead to fatigue, symptoms of disease and impaired performance because, with no affinities to the natural world, we feel as if we’re in cages that are deprived of the sensory aids that we need to be happy. The addition of biophilic features to a building design means the structure is much more likely to implement positive and beneficial outcomes. If an architect wants to create an office space that promotes productivity or a more calm and restorative home, biophilic design will be the most effective way to do that.

Architects value biophilic design because it is more than just using it as an innovative technical tool to increase productivity. It is also used to formulate a new consciousness toward nature and understand how much of our physical and mental wellbeing still relies on the quality of our connections to the natural world.

In short, biophilic design focuses on cultivating a calming space with a visual connection to natural forms to improve health, well-being and productivity.

How do we incorporate biophilic features into architectural design?

An architect may choose to include biophilic features into the design and build of modern architecture through the following components:

●      Plants – The most obvious inclusion of nature is by using plants in the design and build. This can be done in many ways and on many different scales. These living and breathing organisms enhance creativity, performance and productivity. They can also improve air quality and reduce rates of sickness. Living walls are ideal for bringing nature into the spaces we live in and can be used on both the inside and outside of buildings.

●      Views of nature – Even just being able to see nature helps humans to feel less trapped and allows us to experience more daylight which has many psychological benefits. A 1984 study by Roger Ulrich found that healthcare patients with views of green nature recovered faster than those viewing a brick wall.

●      Water and airflow – These aspects also play a key role in biophilic design by helping to round out natural ambience through an indoor water feature or adding natural airflow with big windows. Water and air define spatial context by giving a fourth dimension to the space. Not only does water differentiate areas of space, but it also gives the illusion of a bigger area because of reflections. It also has symbolic value, representing life and is associated with birth, fertility and refreshment.

●      Animals – Incorporating life into an architectural design will provoke satisfaction, pleasure, stimulation and emotional interest. It can be difficult to implement this, however, the use of aquariums, decoration and art brings humans more in touch with nature again. These kinds of features can be found in early human structures including the Egyptian sphinx and the Neolithic Göbekli Tepe.

●      Natural materials – The use of natural materials is preferred in terms of biophilic design due to the inability of artificial materials to show the organic processes of ageing, weathering and other dynamic features of natural materials.

●      Fire – If it is possible to incorporate fire into the design and build, it’s ideal for creating more warmth, colour and movement in the space. When settlements were first constructed, our ancestors would have needed fire and shelter in order to survive. The fire would have offered thermal protection, a place to gather and a tool for cooking. In modern-day, fire still holds connotations of safety and security, which is why it is often included in architectural design.

How to incorporate biophilic architectural design into your own home

If you’re hoping to create a more natural home with biophilic design, there are lots of small changes you can make that will help improve how your house makes you feel, mentally and physically.

Start by increasing airflow and introducing more fresh air inside. In the summer months, keep doors and windows open during the day. Creating an outdoor living area that leads straight out to a patio from inside your home will create a seamless living space that is cohesive and helps you feel more at peace. Listen to the sounds of birds, rain and wind and breathe in the fresh air to improve your immune system and your mood.

Sunshine provides your body with vitamin D, essential for regulating calcium, lowering blood pressure and helping muscles and overall health. You can maximise natural light in your home by moving any large pieces of furniture that may be blocking sunlight and using blinds and curtains that can be pulled right out of the way of the windows.

Fill your space with plants, there are huge varieties of houseplants, big or small, that you can add to your home. You can also choose plants that are easy to take care of if you can’t keep up with the high maintenance, for example, Aloe Vera, Lavender and succulents. These will act as natural air purifiers and green is one of the most relaxing colours, to restore your energy and calm the mind.

A home extension will give you a chance to incorporate even more natural aspects into your home. Think loft extension, garden office or an orangery, to make your dream home a reality. Hiring an architect to include more biophilic design, and build a home with modern architecture and natural features, will give you a well-planned and executed extension that improves your well-being and health.

Summit Architecture – An architectural design practice providing the design and build of your dream home extension

At Summit Architecture, we provide architectural services to clients in London, Manchester and Leeds. We have an outstanding team of architects, designers and builders that have years of experience in private and public sectors. Our ARB and RIBA architects provide 5-star service with state of the art technology and full transparency and concept-to-completion packages. To find out more, get in touch with our team today.