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More than a Green Wall The Science Behind Biophilic DesignFrom agriculture to modern cities, industrialization to the technological revolution, almost everything around us is relatively recent. Humans have biologically developed in the adaptive response to natural surroundings; not artificial or human-created ones. According to ‘The Practice of Biophilic Design’ by Stephen Kellert and Elizabeth Calabrese, the human body, mind, and senses evolved in a biocentric world, not human-engineered or invented. The idea behind the biophilic design is to recognize this inherent human inclination towards nature and create built environments with natural influences and materials.

Many consider biophilic design as a space featuring a green wall, decent daylight, and views of nature. While the biophilic design does include these, the concept is much more than a green wall. For one, the biophilic design requires repeated and sustained engagement with nature. A green wall at the reception area, some potted plants in the lobby, or a tree in a corner doesn’t mean the design is biophilic. Biophilic design seeks to create a good habitat for people’s physical and mental well-being and the emphasis should be on the overall space rather than an isolated occurrence of nature. The science behind this is: an ecosystem performs at a greater level than the sum of its individual parts and it positively impacts the health and performance of everyone in it. It encourages an emotional attachment to places and settings and promotes positive interaction between humans and nature to expand the sense of relationship.

The biophilic design utilizes stimuli to elicit positivity and fight mental blockades and physical stressors exerted on people by non-natural surroundings. A good biophilic design uses a combination of the direct experience of nature such as light, plants and water, and the indirect experience via natural materials, colors, images, and other elements that promote the experience of space and nature.

Our current surroundings, the concrete jungle as it is known with high-rise buildings and hard surfaces, have only been prevalent for less than 0.2% of human existence. For more than 99.8% of the time, humans survived, thrived, and existed with nature. From shelter to food to movement, we depended on nature which developed complex connections between us and natural systems. And all of a sudden, humans are now exposed to the concrete jungle instead of the natural one, which doesn’t quite fit from an evolutionary standpoint. The biophilic design recognizes the need for nature in our modern built environment to fill the gap of ‘natural habitat’ that humans have always been a part of.

The key to a biophilic design is to minimize (or completely eliminate) the disconnect between people and nature in built environments. In order to do this, you need more than a green wall. You need to create an indoor ecosystem with abundant natural light, ventilation, natural colors and materials, natural views, and greenery in the form of plants, trees, and flowers.