Studies have shown that Biophilic Design positively impacts physical and mental wellbeing, as well as productivity in work environments. There are 10 key elements to consider when designing an indoor environment with Biophilia in mind.
1) Visual Connection with Nature – The most popular way of creating a visual connection with nature is to use green walls featuring a mix of foliage and moss to bring a cool, welcoming feel to the setting. An easier way to bring greenery indoors is with ferns and potted plants, desktop plants such as succulents and terrariums, and koi pond installation in the common area.
2) Auditory Elements – Auditory elements offer a gateway to non-visual connection with nature. These include natural sounds that enable the process of healing and psychological restoration, as well as creating an ambiance of relaxation and wellness. Soothing sounds of water flowing and birds chirping have a soothing effect on humans and can improve cognitive performance. Spaces like these feel fresh, well-balanced, and are reminiscent of being outdoors.
3) Olfactory Elements – Humans enjoy natural fragrances such as the smell of rain, flowers, grass, and others, which can trigger powerful memories. Incorporating scents into your design in the form of potted flower plants, essential oils, and fruit essences can have a really energizing and soothing effect.
4) Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli – These include breeze, plant life rustling, water flowing among others, and are known to positively impact heart rate systolic blood pressure, and sympathetic nervous system activity. These stimuli can be replicated in built environments in the form of fabric or screen materials that move or shine with light or breeze, creating natural sounds.
5) Presence of Water – Water features are known to have a soothing effect on people and have the ability to enhance mood and boost self-esteem. Water in the form of aquariums, fountains, and even art pieces depicting water can have a soothing effect on the environment.
6) Thermal and Airflow Variability – Thermal and Airflow Variability pertains to subtle changes in air temperature, humidity, airflow, and surface temperatures that mimic the natural environment. These indicators are known to promote comfort, well-being, and concentration, and overall productivity of individuals in the workplace. A built environment with good thermal and airflow variability feels refreshing, active, and energetic and can be simulated indoors through HVAC delivery, systems control, window operability, and window treatments.
7) Light Variability – Light variability subjects built environments to variable light intensities and shadows that change through the course of the day to simulate the natural environment. This not only helps in increasing visual comfort but also improves circadian system functioning. Light has always been used to create the ideal mood. A space with dynamic light conditions conveys time and movement which, in turn, puts people at ease. Light variability can be simulated in built environments with the help of light distribution strategies, accent lighting, and daylight preserving window treatments.
8) The Patina of Time – Change is the only constant when it comes to nature. People respond positively to dynamic forces such as growth and aging and the association of patina over time. The patina of time can be simulated in built environments by introducing naturally aging materials, weathering, a sense of the passage of time, and other design strategies.
9) Prospect and Refuge – Humans have evolved in response to the complementary benefits of prospect and refuge. Prospect refers to an unrestricted view over a distance (for surveillance and planning), whereas Refuge refers to withdrawal from environmental conditions and provides sites for safety and security. These conditions are associated with reduced stress, boredom, and fatigue, and improve a sense of comfort and perception of safety. They can be achieved with the help of design strategies such as vistas to the outside, using transparent or translucent materials providing visual connections between interior spaces.
10) Cultural and Ecological Attachment to Place – This concept refers to natural materials and elements that reflect local ecology and create a distinct sense of place. Designs that are culturally relevant promote a connection to place and have a distinct human identity. Ecological connections, on the other hand, foster an emotional attachment to the place and are known to improve creative performance and a sense of comfort in people. These connections motivate people to conserve and sustain both natural and built environments. A space with cultural and ecological connection feels rich and authentic and can be deployed in built environments using natural building materials such as leather, bamboo, wood, stone, and natural color palettes.
Biophilic Design places an emphasis on the connection with nature. Although the science behind biophilic designs is still emerging, it is clear that these strategies, when put to work in built environments, work effectively in creating a healthy, productive, and creative workspace.