Humans have an instinctive bond with nature and their natural surroundings. Biophilic design recognizes this and brings the outdoors into spaces where we work, eat, live, shop and spend most of our time. Since, we spend more than 90% of our time indoors or in manufactured environments, biophilic design seeks to satisfy our penchant for nature in interior spaces. The fundamental goal of biophilic design is to create a positive interior environment; a habitat or an ecosystem that is instrumental to people’s mental well-being, physical health, and healing.
Now, you cannot just introduce a potted plant in some corner of your commercial space and call it as a biophilic design. A single or isolated occurrence of nature in a space is not considered a biophilic design. It is a repeated and sustained engagement with nature and natural surroundings involving a lot of environmental features. Below are 12 environmental features that can be replicated in an indoor environment.
Natural Light – The experience of natural light plays an important role in the health and well-being of humans. Daylight affects our eye functions as well as inherent circadian rhythms. Awareness of natural light facilitates movement and contributes to feelings of comfort and satisfaction. Natural light can be introduced in interior spaces through glass walls and large glass windows, use of light-reflecting colors and materials, and other design strategies. Natural daylight is extremely important for the proper functioning of the human body, so incorporating this natural element is key to biophilic design.
Air – People often feel suffocated after spending considerable time in closed spaces due to stagnant air. We prefer natural ventilation, which allows us to be comfortable and encourages productivity. In fact, there are documented problems related to breathing in dry air. By varying airflow, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure, natural ventilation can be attained in enclosed environments through operable windows or through technology.
Natural Colors – Colors have always been central to human evolution and survival. They served as an indicator for our ancestors to locate food, water, and other resources along with facilitating movement and identifying danger. In modern times where we can generate almost any hue of any color, the variety of color options can be overwhelming. Using natural colors indoors can elicit those same positive feelings humans receive from their outdoor surroundings. Biophilic designs make use of earthy tones reminiscent of soil, rocks, and plants while avoiding bright, artificial colors.
Water – Without water, there would not be life. Simple as that. It appeals to all our senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, and movement. Water in constructed environments brings positivity and can reduce stress while enhancing health and productivity. From fountains to aquariums, indoor water features, constructed wetlands, and others, various strategies can be used to create that ever-important connection with water. Water features with their soothing sounds and tranquility, provide visual stimulation and a sense of calm.
Plants – Along with water, plants are also fundamental to human existence. Introducing plants indoors brings great satisfaction, comfort, a sense of well-being, and a feel-good factor. Greenery is a great option to bring the experience of nature indoors. We’re not talking about a floral arrangement at a reception or meeting hall and a tree in some corner, we’re talking about abundant ecologically connected vegetation throughout an indoor space.
Natural Materials – The human affinity towards natural surroundings extends to natural materials as well. We have always depended on natural materials for our survival and comfort. Our relationship with such materials doesn’t end there. Natural materials elicit positive visual and tactile responses which do not extend to artificial materials. Wood, stone, cotton, leather, and wool are some of the natural materials that can be included in indoor environments.
Animals – Throughout human history, non-human animals have been featured prominently and integral to our experience and evolution. However, integrating animals into manufactured environments can be tricky and quite challenging. Design strategies such as aquariums, aviaries, and feeders are ways that animals can be included in the design. If these aren’t an option, then animals in a representational form such as decoration, art, and ornamentals are usually the norm. The introduction of animals in these environments are known to provoke emotional interest and pleasure.
Natural Landscapes, Habitats, and Ecosystems – Natural landscapes consist of plants, water, soil, rocks, and other geological forms. It’s a known fact that humans prefer to spend time in natural surroundings vs artificial or human-dominated landscapes. Constructing wetlands, landscapes, grasslands, green roofs, indoor gardens, and aquatic environments indoors can create a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Views and Vistas – Would you prefer to spend time in enclosed spaces and rooms with no windows or would you prefer to work in a space that offers beautiful views of vegetation, bodies of water, and other natural features? The latter, isn’t it? Humans have a strong preference for pleasant exterior views. Enjoyable views or vistas have been proven to provide mental and physical health benefits.
Fire –When it comes to manufactured environments, fire poses a tricky design challenge. The experience of a fire can evoke feelings at both ends of the spectrum – comfort and anxiety. During the design process, fire can be introduced in the form of fireplaces, firepits, and hearths or can also be simulated by creatively using color, light, and materials of varying heat conductance.
Weather – Throughout history, an awareness of weather conditions and the response to them have been a matter of survival. Although, weather simulating features can be highly satisfying and stimulating. Replicating weather-like conditions indoors can be done through manipulating airflow, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure. Design strategies to connect with outside weather with the help of balconies, porches, and operable windows can also be used.
Naturalistic Shapes and Forms – Shapes and forms featured in nature are extremely pleasing. Naturalistic shapes and forms can be incorporated in designs by creating life-like patterns on columns, floral designs on carpets or other areas, shapes of plants on building facades, animal prints woven on fabrics, and more.
These features of the biophilic design will help you in creating pleasant indoor and constructed environments. Integrating these features in your interior design scheme in a repeated and sustained manner will create surroundings that enhance both people’s physical and mental well-being.