Ways Biophilic Design Promotes Human Health and Well-being

Feature Article »
By Jennifer Whitehead, ID Program Director, Clinical Instructor »

Ways Biophilic Design Promotes Human Health and Well-being

Jennifer Whitehead – Biophilic Design Photo

Humans are typically creatures of habit. The majority of us are drawn to the outdoors to embrace the freedom that nature provides us. The beauty of nature engulfs us in tranquility, which helps us to pause and reflect away from our busy lives. Being in nature has therapeutic properties to help us reboot or make sense of our chaotic reality. Biophilic design is not a new concept in the design and architecture profession. The term is new, but the concept and principles have been used in the profession for decades. The famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright understood the importance of connecting nature with organic design within a built environment. The organic architecture and interior spaces he designed intricately flowed into dense landscapes of trees, boulders, and even waterfalls. The extensions of cantilever roofs and floor to ceiling windows beautifully connected humans to nature. His designs were the introduction to what we know today as biophilic design. Human centered design should always represent and promote the end users safety, health, and well-being within the built environment. That’s why biophilic design principles are being addressed in all types of occupancy classifications.

What is Biophilic Design?
Biophilic design promotes physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being in humans when implemented in the built environment. Pictures of nature, plants, mountains, and outdoor landscapes have the same mental effect on well-being as being outdoors in real natural environments. When biophilic design elements are applied, stress levels are reduced, patients heal faster, and creativity is enhanced. The following are a few biophilic design principles that can be incorporated to promote human health and well-being.

Studies have shown that spaces with access to natural light have positive effects on human well-being. When day-lighting practices are used effectively, studies have shown that students do better on exams, learning is elevated, employees are more productive at work and are absent less, people think clearer and overall engage more when performing varying tasks and activities. Strategically placing windows throughout a space enhances human connection visually to outdoor spaces. Understanding how day-lighting principles should be implemented within the overall design is necessary for an effective and efficient solution for the end user. Important day-lighting principles is understanding passive thermal control and the effects it has on temperature build-up and release, using light color materials or finishes for ceiling applications, and incorporating shelf lights below clearstory windows to help bounce the natural light deep into the space.

The use of color either through monochromatic tones and shades, or through vividly bright hues demands a response in how we perceive our surrounding environments. Colors that enhance the beauty of nature connects the user to the outdoors and boosts health and well-being. This subsequentially affects a person physiologically and psychologically. People are shown to be less anxious and stress, their heart rate and blood pressure are lower, they have better concentration and overall positive mental health. Using receding hues of purples, blues, greens and various neutrals that mimics nature enforce biophilic designs approach to well-belling.

Living Architecture
Who doesn’t love plants, flowers and trees? Incorporating living architecture into an indoor and/or outdoor space is what most people think of when talking about biophilic design. The use of plants in an indoor space promotes indoor air quality as well as improves one’s aesthetic perception of said interior environment. Carefully placed living architecture is shown to help reduce thermal costs with shielding direct sunlight that causes glare and heat build-up. Use of certain plants and greenery helps reduce VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are released in the air and can cause lung infections or stress.

Hate a stuffy room? Me too! Having access to windows that can bring fresh air into a space enhances everyone’s senses. People are drawn to light cool or warm breezes that gets lungs pumping and the mind renewed to tackle the day ahead. After being stuck inside for long hours at a time during the winter months, people run to open the windows on the first warm sunny day of approaching spring. Proper placement of windows and natural ventilation systems improves circulation that creates a cooler indoor climate and reduces overall energy costs.