Anders Timberson

Biophilic Design – Restoring the Human-Natural Relationship


plants offer many advantages in any living space. From colorful bromeliads and sculptural ferns, to succulents that energize any corner, plants purify the air and reduce fatigue levels; not to mention being great mood boosters!

Biophilic design is becoming an increasing part of our homes, offices and public spaces. From Apple’s famous new campus to Milan’s Bosco Verticale (known as “vertical forest”) – this trend is spreading.

Light and Space

Natural lighting is an integral component of biophilic design, proven to reduce stress levels and boost productivity. By mimicking nature’s shifting intensities of light and shadow – such as soft lighting coming through a sunny window or ambient illumination from a skylight – natural lighting creates visual intrigue while inducing a sense of calmness in any given space. Dimming systems or installing different forms of illumination such as pendant and recessed fixtures may help achieve this result, with lamps or other forms of illumination adding further dimension and providing visual intrigue and calmness in that space.Daylighting should be used to reflect the rhythms and seasons of natural environments. Utilizing colors like blue and green for calmness or red and orange for vibrancy can help engage a person’s attention while elevating their mood, especially in spaces like workspaces or classrooms where concentration and focus must be attained.Create an environment in which biophilic elements can flourish is another effective strategy to bring nature indoors. Natural materials like wood and stone add natural textures that give a room a sense of enclosure while providing tactile connections to nature. Living walls and green roofs add immersive plant experiences while simultaneously adding insulation benefits and decreasing energy usage costs.Biophilic elements can also be easily integrated into flooring options like carpet tiles, which feature patterns and textures inspired by nature. From earthy hues that reflect landscape diversity to visual motifs that mimic leaf veins or wood grains, these biophilic products allow designers to add biophilic elements without breaking their budgets.Studies continue to demonstrate the positive effects of biophilic design, and its application should become part of our built environment. Meanwhile, biophilic elements can serve as a powerful way of reducing absenteeism, increasing engagement and productivity levels as well as improving overall quality of life for building residents.

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Natural Materials

Biophilic design incorporates organic materials and textures found in nature as well as patterns found there, like earthy colors, natural lighting, images of plants and animals in the built environment, recycled or reclaimed materials that have been reused, locally-sourced materials used in climate responsive design projects or even xeriscaping (using native plants to reflect local topography) are examples of elements which contribute to biophilic design. This pattern may include earthy tones with natural hues reminiscent of nature – this results in earthy tones with natural lighting as well as earthy tones in earth tones reminiscent of nature – translating to earthy tones with images of plant life or animals in built environments – this pattern can take many forms in terms of material use or reuse from nature itself – earthy colors with natural lighting – earthy tones tones with natural elements found elsewhere such as plants in landscape design that fit seamlessly into topographical or climate responsive design which uses native species appropriate plants which correspond closely to local topography and climate responsive design techniques among many more examples where this pattern could be implemented effectively.Humans have historically been drawn to building materials and designs that reflect local ecology. This concept, known as vernacular architecture and landscaping, connected people to where they lived. Now this idea has been revived into built environments as a strategy to connect to nature while improving human performance and health. Examples of effective biophilic designs include increasing daylight levels in workspaces; opening windows; providing views of nature from windows; using water features like ponds or fountains which recreate nature’s movements and sounds; etc.Biophilia is an extremely complex experience, with effects varying depending on an individual, location and duration. Studies of mind-body systems activated by biophilic experiences are ongoing and it will take some time before we have an accurate picture of which strategies work best in different climates and environments, and what variables might determine their success or failure for different people.At present, biophilic design principles offer a means to broadening environmental quality dialogue beyond simple mechanical aspects such as airflow, thermal comfort and acoustics. Integrating biophilic patterns into discussions will enable a holistic approach that considers how human needs connect to energy efficiency, high performance design and occupant health and happiness. Integrating these broader themes into building design will result in buildings that are more resilient and sustainable. Three categories of biophilic experiences – Nature in the Space, Natural Analogues, and Nature of the Space — serve as a framework for thoughtfully and creatively applying this growing discipline.

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Connecting with Nature

Biophilia research is expanding, yet implementation into design practice remains in its infancy. Biophilic design patterns provide one way of doing just this by providing architects, interior designers, landscape architects, engineers and builders a framework to incorporate biophilia principles into their work.Biophilic design patterns are intended to serve as tools in the designer’s toolbox, with each pattern targeting an aspect of nature and human health. For maximum effectiveness, biophilic strategies should be employed in combination, reinforcing each other; for instance, adding plants indoors, increasing natural lighting levels or including water features all provide psychophysiological benefits of nature exposure; however, randomly applying design strategies without supporting an overarching design intent could backfire.Biophilic design patterns typically focus on four core themes, such as visual connection to nature, sense of awe and wonder, material and structural resemblance with natural elements, and non-visual connections with nature via sound, smell or touch. All these relate to nature’s psychologically restorative effect; when combined, multiple patterns may yield even stronger health outcomes.Size and availability can limit the feasibility of certain biophilic design patterns, particularly those requiring long durations or frequent interaction. To overcome these constraints, design interventions must include both large-scale designs (e.g. Prospect Pattern) as well as micro-restorative experiences on smaller scales (micro-restorative experiences). Furthermore, positioning designs along pathways with high foot traffic can increase engagement rates and strengthen each intervention’s impact.Though biophilic design patterns can improve performance metrics like worker satisfaction, student performance and patient recovery, they should always be assessed within the context of each project and community. Each environment poses its own set of unique challenges and opportunities for integration; an effective solution requires collaboration among design teams, anthropologists and biologists in order to reach its desired result.

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Restoring the Human-Nature Relationship

Rebuilding the human-nature relationship involves more than simply adding nature back into urban spaces; it involves instilling in people an increased sense of stewardship for their environment. By addressing the source of disconnection instead of simply treating its symptoms, biophilic design strategies can foster relationship-focused thinking necessary for sustainable future.Implementing biophilic design into practice requires understanding that every space will present different challenges and conditions, which is why understanding health or performance priorities of any space is so essential in selecting suitable biophilic patterns. One way this can be done is to identify a measurable outcome such as absenteeism, employee satisfaction, patient healing time, ticket sales or test scores before matching them up with biophilic elements that most likely support those goals.Biophilic design is versatile and can be applied at many scales – from micro-spaces to rooms, buildings, neighborhoods or campuses. When applying this concept in different environments it’s essential to take note of their limitations based on climate, culture, physical parameters and programming as these variables will impact its ability to promote health responses for inhabitants of each space.Biophilic design interventions depend on both frequency and duration of exposure to their elements. If access is limited due to space limitations, designing series of smaller interventions that can be repeated throughout the day can have more frequent opportunities to have an effect. Furthermore, including elements that reflect local landscape and ecology in more authentic and meaningful ways may provide more positive experiences for all concerned.Biophilia research is an ever-expanding field, anticipated to keep expanding with further studies being conducted. The principles behind biophilic design have been drawn upon from psychology, neuroscience and endocrinology studies and reinforced with new evidence from these areas. Most biophilia-related studies focus on one or more mind-body systems and relationships between nature and human wellbeing.