Biophilic Design: What Is It And How Do You Make It Work For Your Home?
Haven’t you always dreamed of living in a space that connects you to the peace and tranquility of nature?
Biophilic design, which seeks to connect people and nature in buildings, can make this dream a reality.
Amanda Sturgeon, author of Creating Biophilic Buildings, shares her 10 ways to bring biophilic design into your home.
Tue 2 Jun 2020
We spend 90% of our time inside buildings and much of that is in our homes, which should provide a respite from our busy and stressful lives. We value being connected to nature in our homes, we are happy to pay more for homes that have a view, are next to the water or a park.
But even without the view or waterfront, homes can be designed to connect us with nature in simple and subtle ways thorough biophilic design.
Especially if we pay attention to how we, as humans, have interacted with nature over the thousands of years.
For example, did you know that our brains are still mapped to react like the hunter gatherer species we have been for most of our existence on earth?
That means that we like to have prospect and refuge, for example, which is the ability to be protected while we see what is coming ahead.
We see this play out subconsciously in a restaurant when the booths are all full first and the tables in the middle are filled last – generally we don’t like to have our backs to a room.
We also have a natural curiosity when we are in nature, strongly evident when we are kids, that leads us to discover spaces in nature that offer protection, mystery and excitement.
How can we learn from this innate relationship we have with nature and design our homes to connect us consciously and unconsciously to it?
Studies show that when we are connected to daylight and views at work we are sick less and are more focused and productive.
In our homes, we can feed our sense of wellbeing by blurring the division between inside and outside and bringing nature in through natural patterns and materials.
What is biophilic design?
Biophilic design is the practice of creating a closer connection to nature through the ways building and landscapes are created and built. Biophilia means a love of nature, so biophilic design uses natural resources to create a sense of harmony between modern architecture and the natural world.
9 simple but innovative ideas to use biophilic design in your home
1. Fresh air
Our homes should allow us to have plenty of fresh air and daylight with the ability to open windows whenever possible and let fresh air in. Through an open window we can also hear the sound of the rain, wind or birds singing, connecting us to the season and weather. It’s a pretty simple concept but many people live in homes with windows that don’t open or they chose never to open them.
2. Light and shadow
There is mounting evidence that we are healthier when our circadian rhythms are balanced and having access to good daylight helps with that. Intuitively we map the time of day through seeing shadows and sunlight move across a room and we instinctively gather in sunny warm spots. So think about spaces where you can sit in the sun or create cosy pockets.
Blur the boundary between inside and outside
Even with a small backyard, patio or deck, outdoor rooms can be created in the tiniest of spaces. In nearly every climate they can be used as work spaces or living rooms for around six months of the year. Spending more time outside while feeling sheltered blurs the separation between inside and outside in your home.
3. Bring the outside in
Too often our inside spaces are sterile and have no reference to nature in them. Bringing nature and natural elements into your home can connect us to the natural place that we live within.
Plants, small indoor green walls and simple water fountains, even on the countertop, connect us to nature. Natural materials like wood or stone offer us textural and pattern variations that replicates the sensory variation that we experience in nature.
4. Create prospect and refuge
Enclosed spaces where we can feel secure but at the same time look out into the distance help to restore our sense of safety and comfort. Outside spaces that are surrounded on three sides and have a roof/shade provide the perfect refuge while allowing us to survey the landscape.
5. Natural shapes and forms
Today, most of our building materials are dominated by straight lines and right angles. It is expensive to build the curved shapes and forms that we find in waves, flowers and shells, even though we have a deep affinity for these shapes and their sense of order, complexity and beauty. Not every home can bring in natural forms in the shape of the building, but patterns from nature can be used decoratively as motifs and be powerful in connecting us to the natural world.
6. Order and complexity
Nature has both order and complexity, while every leaf has a similar shape, they are all slightly different in size. In our homes we can contract the order or straight lines and rectangles with complex shapes such as fractals and geometric patterns.
"Whether your location is in the desert, next to the oceans, prairie or grand forests understand the character of your place and use it as influence for your home"
7. Spirit of place
With a global economy and the same materials and products available anywhere across the country, our homes have a sense of placelessness and are no longer rooted in the materials of the region or reflect the climate or culture. Whether your location is in the desert, next to the oceans, prairie or grand forests understand the character of your place and use it as influence for your home.
Biomimicry is the mimicking of nature’s processes and applying them to the design of the everyday things that we make. Biomimicry has been used to create glues that mimic the grip that mussel shells have on rocks all the way through to using shark skin texture in swimsuit design. What can you observe in your eco-system that can be used in your home design?
9. Spatial variability
Nature offers a variety of spatial experiences from meadows to forests to mountains and providing a variety of spaces in our homes can mimic the spatial variability found in nature and allow us to have spaces for a variety of moods and tasks.
Having a deeper connection to nature when you are inside will contribute to your sense of health and wellbeing but it starts with one thing – go outside and learn about your place. If you watch, listen and learn about your ecosystem, then you will be ready to bring nature’s lessons and beauty inside.
Learn more about bringing nature inside in Creating Biophilic Buildings.