Biophilic interior design is the growing adoption of nature inspired design in interiors and architecture. It is about much more than simple aesthetics. It can also have a significant positive impact on people’s health and well-being.
Biophilic design can reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and expedite healing; as the world population continues to urbanize, these qualities are ever more important. Theorists, research scientists, and design practitioners have been working for decades to define aspects of nature that most impact our satisfaction with the built environment.
It articulates the relationships between nature, human biology and the design of the built environment so that we may experience the human benefits of biophilia in our design applications.
Biophilic design seeks to connect our inherent need to affiliate with nature in the modern built environment. An extension of the theory of biophilia, biophilic design recognizes that our species has evolved for more than 99% of its history in adaptive response to the natural world and not to human created or artificial forces. We became biologically encoded to associate with natural features and processes. Rather than being vestigial – or relevant to a world that no longer exists – this need is thought to remain instrumental to people’s physical and mental health, fitness, and wellbeing.
Since today’s “natural habitat” is largely the built environment, where we now spend 90% of our time, biophilic design seeks to satisfy our innate need to affiliate with nature in modern buildings and cities. Thus, the fundamental goal of biophilic design is to create good habitat for people as biological organisms inhabiting modern structures, landscapes, and communities. Accomplishing this objective depends on meeting certain conditions. First, because biophilia is essentially about evolved human tendencies, biophilic design focuses on those aspects of nature that, over evolutionary time, have contributed to our health and wellbeing. Let us be clear on this point: Any occurrence of nature in the built environment cannot be called biophilic design if it has no bearing on our species’ inborn tendencies that have advanced our fitness and survival.A key part of good biophilic design is striking a balance between emphasising the openness of a space. It highlights its prospect of the view of the room from one’s perspective. This also creates safe areas, or refuges/recesses, where people can read or work alone, quietly.
Another distinguishing feature of biophilic design is its emphasis on the overall setting or habitat and NOT a single or isolated occurrence of nature. All organisms exist within connected and related environments bound together as integrated wholes or ecosystems. When the habitat functions in the best interests of the organism, the ecosystem performs at a level greater than the sum of its individual parts. By contrast, habitats comprised of disconnected and unrelated elements provide few benefits to its constituents and may even harm individual members. Thus, simply inserting an object of nature into a human built environment, if unrelated or at variance with other more dominant characteristics of the setting, exert little positive impact on the health and performance of the people who occupy these spaces.
Incorporating a view to nature can create a space that feels whole and can stimulate and calm those in the interior. Research shows that views to nature can reduce stress, promote positive emotional functioning, and improve concentration and recovery rates. A nature view out of the window is more than just pleasant; in fact, a nature view can help patients heal faster. Faster healing leads to shorter hospital stays and thus has positive economic benefits. Views can be real, like through an actual window, or simulated through a digital screen or artwork depicting landscapes.
Materials such as natural wood, stone, fossil, cork and bamboo help to create the connection to nature. They can be rich, warm and authentic. Natural materials have a calming effect on the space, as well as improving one’s creative performance. Also, Varying textures (soft and hard) can create a more welcoming space for occupants. Try to use sustainably sourced or recycled materials.
Incorporating dynamic and diffused lighting evokes feelings of intrigue and senses of calm that create a transition between indoor and outdoor spaces. Utilizing a lighting system that either naturally or artificially changes throughout the day to mimic circadian rhythm helps to link people to the outdoor environment and, essentially, keep us on track with our natural 24-hour cycle. Maximizing natural light and changes throughout the day also enhances visual comfort. Intentionally layer lighting sources to create interest and depth.
Simply put, biophilic design focuses on those aspects of the natural world that have contributed to human health and productivity in the age-old struggle to be fit and survive. Thus, desert or deep-sea habitats or microorganisms or alien or extinct species or other obscure aspects of nature are largely irrelevant as aspects of biophilic design because they offer little if anything in the way of sustained benefits to people.