As a country, we are focusing more intently on our health and wellbeing than ever before. And an awareness that our environment can impact our mental and physical health is growing daily amongst us. And that is where biophilic design comes in to help us.
By being self aware of how our surroundings impact us we can effect changes to improve our lifestyles. And our surroundings are not just the areas we live in but also the homes and offices we spend our time in. This is where biophilic design comes into its own. It aims to provide a connection with nature that can have positive effects on human health and well-being. By aiming to create spaces that are visually appealing, calming, and promote productivity, as well as reducing stress levels.
One of the many lessons we learned from the pandemic is how important nature and the great outdoors really is. Do you remember those long quarantined days? When we couldn’t leave our homes? How isolating did that feel and how much did you want to just break free?
Studies have shown that a visual connection with nature can lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve mental engagement, and attentiveness, and positively impact attitude and overall happiness. This is linked to lower incidence of depression, heart disease, and diabetes.
Pretty important to get our homes working for us then right?
What does this mean in practical terms? Well when designing your spaces at home it’s important to understand how you will be using the space and then applying some of the principles of biophilic design. From the times of day you are in the room (and therefore what layers of lighting you need), from the tasks you will be doing in the room (and then what your sightlines are to be connected with nature within that space), how the space is heated and natural ventilation and airflow, to what materials are used for the furniture and how your room’s colours will impact your mood too.
As a quick guide on how to make your interior biophilic, you can consider incorporating the following elements:
1: Natural materials: Use materials like wood, stone, and natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, and wool. You can also use furniture made of natural materials like bamboo or rattan. Keeping the elements sustainable, harnessing natural colours and textures is part of the biophilic design ethos.
2: Indoor plants: Incorporate plants into your space. They not only add a natural touch but also help purify the air and can reduce stress levels.
A pilot experiment by Finnish indoor nature technology company, Naava revealed that when performing stress-inducing cognitive tasks in the presence of Naava’s green walls, which contain living plants, participants made 43% fewer mistakes compared to when performing the same tasks in a control room with no green walls.
3: Natural light: Spending 90% of our time indoors is a lot of time in artificial lighting which really isn’t good for our health. Artificial light has a very disruptive effect on our circadian rhythms. We need to spend time outside in natural light so that our bodies can function as they were intended to. So use natural light as much as possible, open up your windows and use light-coloured window treatments. If you find that natural light is limited, use light fixtures that mimic natural light in your home.
4: Natural patterns: Biophilic design integrates nature, natural patterns, and spatial conditions into the built environment so by using natural materials, referencing patterns found in nature and applying it to our space we can find a sense of calm in the space. Look for colours you would find in nature, natural materials for furniture, flooring and textiles and even reference nature in your artwork.
5: Water features: Adding a small fountain, waterfall, or a fish tank can create a calming and soothing atmosphere. Much of the theory around water as part of biophilic design can be attributed to seeing water as a valuable resource. The general take-away from the research is that a frequent multisensory experience of clean water is very good for our psycho-physiological wellbeing.
6: The ultimate way of bringing the outside in - views of the outdoors. If possible, create a view to the outside from your interior. This can be achieved by adding large windows, skylights, or glass doors that offer views of the surrounding natural environment.
Published in 1984 by the National Institutes of Health, researchers found that people recuperating after surgeries had shorter stays in hospital and needed less pain medication if they had a garden view, as compared to a view of a brick wall.
Whilst the science supporting biophilic design is still emerging we can all acknowledge the benefits we see from focusing on improving our links to nature. If you consider that we have evolved into urban dwellers over a short period of time then that need for nature is still intrinsic within us. . If you ask people about their favourite place to visit and relax in then the majority will pick somewhere outdoors. Says a lot doesn’t it?
We can all acknowledge that deep down, we know that the connection to nature is important so make some positive changes to your own environment today.
If you would like some support in ways to bring biophilic design into your home or workspace then give me a call today.
Photo Credits: Andriyko Podilynk, Maria Orlova, Burford Garden Co, Homes to Love, TLC interiors, Turner Architects, Selenic Moon, Etsy, Home Designing, Daniel Chen, Joao Jesus, Ron LAch, Tomasz Rynkiewicz, Karoline Grabowska.