MasterBuild Africa

Biophilic Design: The Benefits

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Biophilic Design is an innovative way of connecting human to our natural environment by designing the places where we live, work, and learn. It is a conscious effort to include nature into interior and architectural design and by doing this, we unconsciously bring the outdoors into our constructed world. First made popular by Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s, the biophilia hypothesis has been directly incorporated into architecture and interior design and it helps in improving both physiological and psychological health which is quite important as people spend most of the day indoors.

Incorporating biophilic design could take a direct form with the use of planted green walls, planted shrubs and trees and installed water elements such as ponds and fountains, to create a sense of serenity often absent in the raw urban environment. It can also take an indirect form with the use of images of trees, lakes and LED technology to simulate the natural experience.

The Benefits

The physical and mental well being of people who spend substantial time within a buillt environment is thought to be positively affected by sensory contact with natural features. Biophilic design features have a therapeutic effect in reducing stress and anxiety. A 2019 study found out that children in Denmark who had been exposed to more greenery had 55% less mental health problems later in life compared to those who weren’t exposed to nature. More studies have shown that plants can reduce stress, help with focus, and even increase immunity. Hospitals are now incorporating biophilic design into their architecture and interior design using as many natural elements as possible. In 2018 , Snohetta designed and built cabins in woods near Norwegian hospitals to give children and their families access to nature.

In 2011, a research team led by scholars from Norway tested the effect of desk plants on worker productivity. Researchers used an attention task which required test participants to read several sentences on a computer screen and remember the final word in each. Results showed that workers with plants on their desk had better scores than workers at the empty desk. The 2015 Human Spaces Report, which studied 7,600 offices workers in 16 countries, found that 58% of workers have no live plants in their work-spaces. Those whose environments incorporated natural elements reported a 15% higher well-being score and a 6% higher productivity score than employees whose offices didn’t include such elements. Other studies have shown that, in an average living space, five medium-sized plants can increase air quality by around 75% and mental health by 60%.

Increased productivity and employee retention as a result of the use of biophilic elements will yield commercial benefits. The reduction of energy requirements, particularly in terms of lighting, ventilation and temperature regulation, are also excellent financial incentives for adopting a biophilic design approach.

The future of biophilic design is green as there’s a fundamental need for humans to be in contact with nature. Features such as the use of natural materials, plants, abundant daylight, water features and external views will be integral to all designs and biophilic design will no longer be considered as just an option but will be regarded as a fundamental of any new development. As climate change intensifies in the coming decades, we will find that biophilic design will be a vital front line in efforts to combat it. Indeed, that role has already begun.

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