People spend an average of 20 hours each day indoors. After spending hours in our workplace, we return home, meaning what little time we spend outdoors is typically spent in transition. This is one of the major reasons why we feel disconnected with nature. Poorly conceived environments lacking a presence of nature make us feel isolated and wear down our mental health. Humans crave a connection to the natural world and have an inclination towards it, which is why Architecture and urban design need to integrate nature to bridge this disconnect and develop closer bonds.
Benefits of Integrating Architecture with Nature and Well-Being
The design of the built environment affects our health and well-being. Integrating architecture with nature can reduce stress, improve cognitive function and creativity and expedite the process of healing. Integration of nature can be done in various ways from physical plants to a symbolic presence within the space. From introducing water and plant life on ceilings, walls, or floors in the form of hanging plant screens, drop tile planters, or biomorphic walls to improve airflow and other elements, nature can be integrated in the architecture in a variety of ways. However, you need to ensure that you’re creating meaningful and direct connections with these natural elements in the environment.
Questions to ask before Integrating Nature into the Built Environment
Before integrating architecture with nature, it is important to understand the goals and objectives of the project. One can start by asking, “how will biophilic design improve the space?” Is the space designed to bring comfort to the guests and employees? Or is it designed so that students can better concentrate? Or is it designed to expedite the healing process of patients? Based on the outcome, the patterns and ways to integrate nature in the space will vary.
One of the key questions that designers and architects need to ask is how much integration is enough and what makes a good focal point design better. This quality vs. quantity intervention is extremely crucial. A single feature or a few high-quality additions can be more effective and have more positive impacts than multiple low-quality interventions. One of the most challenging aspects of integrating architecture with nature and well-being is identifying the most appropriate duration of exposure to natural aspects. Empirical evidence shows that positive emotions and other benefits can occur in around 5 to 20 minutes of immersion in nature. If long duration of exposure is not possible, then improving the frequency of access should be the goal.
Great architecture always responds to people’s needs and behavior. We need to remember that biophilic design makes healthy individuals, and healthy people make healthy cities.