Do you ever feel disconnected from nature in your everyday surroundings? The hustle and bustle of modern life often leaves little room for the calming influence of the natural world. But what if there is a way to bring nature back into your space and reap the numerous benefits it has to offer?
“Biophilic” comes from the term biophilia, which describes our inclination to connect with nature.
Biophilic design is about integrating elements of nature into the built environment, and the concept has been gaining popularity in recent years. This comes as no surprise. Research has shown that biophilic design positively impacts our physical and mental health.
In a rapidly urbanizing world, with more people spending their time indoors, it has become more critical than ever to forge a relationship with our natural environment. Unfortunately, not all people have the privilege to access it.
But biophilic design can bridge the gap and help us renew our sense of connection with nature.
How Can You Bring Nature Indoors?
Biophilic design seeks to create spaces that promote health, productivity, and overall well-being by incorporating natural elements such as plants, water features, and natural light.
The design promotes a multisensory approach to integrating nature into interior spaces. The visual sense is by far the dominant way we perceive and interact with nature. When we see natural features, various physical, emotional, and cognitive responses are triggered.
Although we are more naturally inclined to favor our sense of sight when we are with nature, a multisensory encounter provides us with a more profound experience. This is why it is encouraged to engage all senses in biophilic design—by creating a space that allows us also to touch the leaves, smell the flowers, hear the rush of water, and feel the breeze, not just see them.
Following certain biophilic principles is key to the successful application of biophilic design. When ideas are condensed, they are as follows:
Display Environmental Features
Obviously, it is essential to showcase environmental features in biophilic design, which can be both direct and indirect multisensory experiences.
Direct experience with nature involves interacting with elements of the natural environment, such as sunlight, fresh air, plants, water, and landscapes. For example, a large window that lets natural light and the breeze in and has a view of the sea provides you with a direct experience with nature.
The indirect experience of nature includes having representations of nature in your space, like pictures of landscapes and living walls, as well as items made of natural materials, like wood furniture and fabric, and decor inspired by nature, like an indoor fountain.
Imagine Creating a Refuge
Part of biophilic design is creating a space that not only showcases environmental features but also promotes a sense of refuge within said space, making it a safe place to retreat and withdraw.
A refuge should feel distinct and separate but not excessively disconnected. Notice how an industrial-style cafe in the city can mimic its surroundings yet feel warm and welcoming with a living wall and natural wood chairs. Or, an office with a view of a park or the sky can be more comfortable than a regular cubicle. Adding potted plants to the area improves the vibe compared to leaving it bare and grey.
Different materials, colors, and textures can evoke different feelings. Colors like blue and green can make you feel calm, while red and orange can make you feel energetic.
Meanwhile, light and space can create a soothing and visually comfortable environment by using shadows, openings, pergolas, skylights, and dynamic changes in light intensity.
The interplay of different natural elements can make a space more like a refuge.
Build a Space of Belongingness
Biophilic design can help us to understand the natural world better. When we see plants and animals in our built environment, it helps us to learn more about them and appreciate their importance. This can lead to a greater sense of wonder and appreciation for nature.
Not only does biophilic design facilitate a connection with nature, but it also fosters a sense of connection with others. When we inhabit spaces that incorporate natural elements, it can encourage a sense of community and belonging, which is particularly significant in our modern, disconnected society.
In this regard, creating a biophilic space involves more than just adding nature to the design. It also includes understanding the essence of a place and its community to apply culturally relevant designs that promote a deeper connection to the space. These attachments fuel our sense of self, inspiring us in the mission of preserving and nurturing our precious environments.
Benefits of Biophilic Design
Biophilic design features have been found to promote good physical and mental health. With a significant portion of the human population now residing in urban areas, incorporating nature into our spaces is more important than ever.
Reduces mental fatigue. Green spaces have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, possibly because of nature’s calming effects and the ability of plants to lower heart rate and blood pressure.
Boosts cognitive function. The presence of nature has been linked to enhanced attention, executive function, and a greater sense of restoration. Increased exposure to outdoor spaces, or even having a view of nature through a window, allows people the chance to take a break from mobile devices and other mentally exhausting distractions.
Increases productivity. Studies have shown that people who work in environments with natural elements are more productive than those who work in more traditional, sterile environments. This is likely due to the fact that nature can help to improve focus and concentration.
Enhances creativity. Being around nature can also help to enhance creativity. A better connection to nature may encourage tranquility, fostering a conducive physical and mental space for creative thinking.
Improves mood. Exposure to nature may lead to better overall mood and even shows the potential to reduce symptoms of depression. This is likely attributed to the increase in serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation.
Continuous exposure to natural elements through biophilic design may not only support longevity but also help us maintain our affinity with nature and cultivate our stewardship towards the planet.