The impact of Covid-19 has altered people’s lives across the globe, but one rather unexpected outcome was the ways in which it forced us to re-examine our relationship with nature. The pandemic starkly highlighted the importance of green, natural spaces, especially during lockdown when many people were confined to small, cramped homes without a garden or nearby park.
This relationship with nature forms the focus of what we call the ‘biophilia effect’ and this phenomenon has been proven to have a positive impact on society, health and wellbeing.
Biophilia can (and should) influence the way we design buildings and biophilic architecture can be used to enhance communities and urban spaces in a number of ways.
What is biophilia?
Biophilia refers to our innate tendency to connect with nature (as humans) and it’s a desire that’s seen as intrinsic and ‘not an option’. Humans naturally gravitate towards places that incorporate natural elements, but with 55% of the world’s population living in urban environments, this isn’t always possible.
Many urban landscapes suggest a population that has simply ‘got used’ to life without nature, but champions of biophilia and biophilic design believe that it doesn’t have to be this way.
The science of biophilia underpins our mental wellbeing and combining the ‘biophilia effect’ with architecture can have a significant positive impact on society.
Key features of biophilic design
Biophilic design is our natural response to an increasing lack of connection with the natural world. It can be sorted into three categories;
- Natural analogues - these address organic, non-living and indirect evocations of nature, for example in artwork, colours or natural patterns.
- Nature in the space - these direct connections to nature invoke the strongest biophilic reactions. Design elements include potted plants, water features, gardens, green walls and green roofs. It also includes elements such as air temperature, the flow of air and natural light.
- Nature of the space - this looks at the world beyond our immediate surroundings and how we relate to it. MRI tests showed that natural settings were generally preferable to man-made environments, so buildings should aim to include natural views in their design.
It’s also very possible to add natural elements to existing building designs without compromising on space, through the use of green roofs, living walls or choosing furniture made from natural materials.
Why is it important?
There’s a wealth of evidence to support the importance of biophilic design and it has measurable positive impacts on health and wellbeing.
Research has found that people working in an environment with plants present were 12% more productive, felt less stressed and were more creative.
Another study found that integrating views of nature into an office space could save over £1,500 annually per employee in office costs.
Work related absences are mainly due to stress and other psychological problems and employees with no views of nature take 68 hours more per year of sick leave than those who have a view. Better architectural environments can reduce sick days taken by up to 10%, even when the connection to nature is not the sole focus.
A space based on biophilic principles also positively affects:
- Behavioural change
- Mastery of skills
- Concentration and attention
- Social interaction
We’re passionate about biophilic design here at ANS global and use green infrastructure as a way to boost well-being, improve air quality and increase biodiversity.
For an introduction to our work and to find out more about how we could introduce some biophilic design to your workplace, click here.