Biophilic Design Trend: Nature of the Space

We previously introduced a new trend of biophilic design and its three categories: 

  1. Natural Analogues encompass the indirect, organic biophilic design in an environment. This category takes on a more subtle approach of rekindling our innate desire by bringing in elements that remind us of nature, such as selecting color palettes or patterns that occur naturally.
  2. Nature of the Space appeals more to humans’ emotions by designing a place that promotes a sense of mystery, refuge or risk and peril.
  3. Nature in the Space is the most straight forward of the three and brings the outdoors into the built environment.

 

Each unique in the ways biophilic design can bring nature into an environment, but all can work together to provide a space that fulfills humans’ desire to be one with nature. The patterns within these categories also provide various benefits, both mental and physical. 

The second category, nature of the space, utilizes the space within a built environment. The most important factor in this category is creativity because to achieve biophilic design through nature of the space, the goal is a feeling, not necessarily a design. Design elements are used to create a space of prospect, refuge, mystery, and risk and peril. The way people respond to the different design elements should be similar to the way they would respond to similarly structured elements found in nature. This indirect connection to nature can be difficult to achieve, however, when present, it amazes occupants even in the slightest way. 

Prospect
One way to attract people to keep them engaged is through the element of prospect. An uninterrupted view for more than 20 feet gives the viewer a sense of control, security and freedom. This design element can be incorporated using several strategies. The main objective is to have a focal point so the surrounding objects or elements point to the area of focus. The surrounding objects can be tall buildings, walls, trees, balconies or catwalks acting as arrows pointing to the end point. If the view is obstructed by an object, it should be transparent, such as glass windows or positioned to only partially obstruct the view. Prospect is especially a great use of design if there is a large area that is not being used. The element of prospect aides in reduced stress, irritation, boredom, fatigue, and an improved sense of comfort and safety. 

inside of building with a long hallway

 

Refuge
In life, which can often be stressful, it is important to provide a space for people to find refuge. An area of retreat, a place to disconnect and recharge so a person can resume their tasks with a renewed perspective. It is important for these places of refuge to be different and unique from the surrounding areas. It should feel smaller, while avoiding being too cramped so people don’t feel claustrophobic. In general, ceilings should be 18-24 inches shorter than the standard ceiling. Design using refuge can be created using reading nooks, booths or chairs with tall backs that arch overhead. The renewed perspective people have while in these spaces can help them overcome mind blocks and give a refreshed outlook on projects. Refuge as a biophilic design can help increase concentration, attention and perception of safety. 

tables near a railing

 

Mystery
The mystery element of nature of the space is important because it provides a basis for curiosity. Mystery is exciting and invites us to see what’s around the corner. According to Kaplan and Kaplan, there are two elements that have to be present in the environment: understanding and exploration. From the vantage point where one is standing, part of their view should be obstructed by some object that entices them to be curious about what is around the corner. This introduces a wonder state of mind, which will increase one’s desire to understand and explore the space. Not only can the sense of mystery be presented through an obstructed view, but also through the use of unknown sounds or occurrences where the source is not recognized. It can be shadows and lights that move in unordinary ways, or sounds where the origin is unknown leading to a curiosity of where it is coming from. 

curved hallway

 

Risk and Peril
The last biophilic design pattern for nature in the space is risk and peril. Some people feel most alive when they are faced with danger, and the key to this pattern is for the danger to feel real, but also provide a sense of safety so people don’t actually get harmed. The intrigue of risk draws people in and creates an increased dopamine release. The risk and peril design pattern can be seen through the use of heights, drop-offs and water, where the perceived risks are falling, getting wet and the loss of control. The release of adrenaline when faced with these design elements are meant to make the person feel alive and excited to be in the space. An exhilarating, freeing and connection to emotions that are often forgotten about during the day-to-day hustle.

open stairway

 

All of these patterns for nature of the space can be incorporated into an environment to bring back emotions that are often pushed aside. Emotions that have the capability to change perceptions, and oftentimes, a new perspective is all one needs to solve a difficult problem or reach a resolution when there is conflict. Humans are significantly different from all other living creatures because of our complex emotions, so we need to nurture and encourage self expression inherent in elements of biophilic design.

 

Imagine nature in your environment. Explore and learn more at sagegreenlife.com.
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Biophilic Design Trend: Natural Analogues

We previously introduced a new trend of biophilic design and its three categories: 

  1. Natural Analogues encompass the indirect, organic biophilic design in an environment. This category takes on a more subtle approach of rekindling our innate desire by bringing in elements that remind us of nature, such as selecting color palettes or patterns that occur naturally.  
  2. Nature of the Space appeals more to humans’ emotions by designing a place that promotes a sense of mystery, refuge or risk and peril. 
  3. Nature in the Space is the most straight forward of the three and brings the outdoors into the built environment. 

 

Each unique in the ways biophilic design can bring nature into an environment, but all can work together to provide a space that fulfills humans’ desire to be one with nature. The patterns within these categories also provide various benefits, both mental and physical. 

The first of the three categories, natural analogues, encompasses indirect and organic biophilic design elements in an environment. This category invites the “unnatural” into the world of biophilic design. Patterns, objects and colors are transformed into art work, furniture and decor to reconnect humans with nature. Along with nature in the space, natural analogues provide many benefits, such as cognitive development, stress reduction and an improved emotional state. The emphasis on this category of biophilic design is to transform nature into a previous unnatural setting with plenty of room to be bold and create the extraordinary. 

Biomorphic Forms and Patterns
Biomorphic forms and patterns are the first type of natural analogues. It is essentially bringing naturally occurring patterns into the environment. There are many patterns recorded across all areas of nature that can be translated into biophilic design. A common pattern based on numbers is the Fibonacci Series or the Golden Mean. This pattern can translate to design through decorative sea shells or fossils as well as textured materials like carpet or wallpaper reminding people of patterns seen hiking through a forest or walking along the beach. 

 

winding stairwell

 

Material Connection with Nature
A more obvious approach to this category of biophilic design is to use materials that have not been altered too much as part of the building infrastructure. Designers have achieved this by leaving wooden beams exposed, using rocks in their natural form or choosing a color palette that is predominantly green. The less artificial or altered material, the better, however the goal is to use altered material rather than materials that do not have a connection to nature at all. For example, if real timber beams are not accessible, wrap steel beams in a way that makes it look like real timber beams. The focus of this type of biophilic design is to remind people of nature through materials. The benefits further support stress reduction, improved cognitive performance, a decrease in diastolic blood pressure and better creative performance. 

table by a window with wood beams

 

Complexity and Disorder
Nature has a balance between complexity and order. The intricate details that seem so complex work together to create a living organism and keep an ecosystem alive and thriving. There are several different patterns that seem too complex to study or to even comprehend, but they are found across many groups of nature. Think about the capillaries in a person, the way limbs and branches grow on a tree and how streams carve through the side of a mountain. The patterns are similar, yet unique to their natural elements. The key for this type of biophilic design is complex patterns should follow a hierarchical order or format. Order must be emphasized; the complexity has to be organized or the environment will be overwhelming and over stimulating. The complexity and disorder pattern of natural analogues positively impacts perceptual and physiological stress response and creates a sense of comfort. 

Example of natural analogue being complex and orderly

 

The beauty of natural analogues is it can be on a small scale, such as decor, or large scale, such as wrapping the outside of a building with a biomorphic design. The creative ideas and possibilities are endless.

 

Imagine nature in your environment. Explore and learn more at sagegreenlife.com.
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What is Biophilic Design?

As humans, we have an innate need for connection, not only to other people, but to nature as well. Biophilia is the phenomena of humans being in awe of nature, such as standing before Yosemite National Park, or walking along the beach, or feeling at peace while sitting in a garden. We all have something within us that is longing for nature, but how do we satisfy this in urban areas where space is limited for a botanical garden, small park, or even a tree? The solution is a revolutionary movement called biophilic design, which is bringing nature to seemingly impossible spaces. Architects, city planners and individuals are incorporating biophilic design into their environments and reconnecting with nature. 

Biophilic design is intentionally bringing nature to the built environment. With a creative imagination, the possibilities are endless on how biophilic design can impact urbanization. The most common element of biophilic design is a plant on a desk, but these can also be water fixtures, natural light, living walls, and much more. In addition to the biophilic design elements you can see, it can also take forms in other senses you can hear, feel, taste and smell. For example, a water feature, aromatic plants or air conditioning that imitates weather patterns. One of the best parts of biophilic design is it can adapt to any environment to enhance the space. 

living green wall in a restaurant

 

The simplicity of incorporating biophilic design is merely one of the many benefits. The advantages go beyond satisfying the longing for nature; they include improved physical health and mental wellbeing. Physical health benefits have shown a decrease in sick days by 14%, saving companies increasing costs due to paid sick day policies. Biophilic design has also shown to help decrease cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress, and reduce blood pressure and heart rate. Employees in stressful working environments could be positively affected by surrounding themselves with biophilic design elements. 

The air we breathe also impacts our physical health. We learned in elementary school that plants turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, despite the environment where one works or lives. Everyone can benefit from clean oxygen and well incorporated biophilic design can take in carbon dioxide that is flooded with contaminants and release clean, crisp oxygen into the environment. 

Beyond the physical health benefits, mental wellbeing is just as important, especially in work environments that require a sharp mind to make good decisions. People who are surrounded by biophilic design in the workplace are 15% more creative and 6% more productive than those in spaces without these design elements. Employees surrounded by nature also have a 30% decrease in fatigue. These statistics are substantial enough to draw attention to the need for biophilic design in even the smallest of spaces. 

The benefits of biophilic design call into question why it has taken society so long to welcome it with open arms. It could be that there is a lack of understanding on how someone even begins to bring biophilic design into an environment. To start, it is important to know there are 14 different types of biophilic design grouped into three categories: natural analogues, nature of the space and nature in the space. 

Natural analogues encompass the indirect, organic biophilic design in an environment inviting the “unnatural” into a space. Natural analogues use color palettes, shapes, patterns, furniture and decor to mirror those found in nature. Architects and planners leave wood beams exposed so the passersby can notice the direction of the grain and the intricate detail found in trees. These designs can also be achieved by incorporating patterns seen in nature, such as the Fibonacci series in sea shells, rings around a tree trunk or the symmetry of butterfly wings. Creative architects and designers can use these elements along with natural elements found in furniture and decor to seamlessly bring these features into the structure of buildings. 

The second category, nature of the space, utilizes the area of the building’s environment. In essence, the design of a space includes the untouched nature it is surrounded by. Creativity is one of the most important elements in this category because to achieve this type of nature, the goal is a feeling, not necessarily a design. This can be accomplished by utilizing floor to ceiling windows so people inside have an uninterrupted view of nature. Nature of the space can also provide people with a refuge from their surroundings, a sense of safety. A well designed environment can introduce biophilic design through a sense of mystery by blocking a view and inviting people to wonder what is around the corner. It uses people’s emotions to connect them with nature by incorporating a “risk and peril” design. A way to create this feeling would be to have a “drop off” with a railing so people find refuge in the safety feature. Environments such as these pose an unidentifiable situation followed by a sense of relief from the designed space. 

Nature in the space is the third and final category and the most straightforward of biophilic design. This category brings in the physical side of nature. It can be as simple as buying a plant to put on your desk or making a statement and designing a living green wall. Nature in the space goes beyond the visual connection, it includes the haptic, auditory, gustatory and olfactory aspect. This can be represented with a change in temperature that mimics, within reason, outdoor temperature fluctuations that happen with seasons. It can be the presence of a fountain system that creates sounds that a stream would make in a forest. With a wide imagination, the biophilic designs brought into a space can stimulate all of the senses. 

One of the most technical forms of nature in the space is living walls which completely transform an environment. They are the gentle giant that quietly and humbly work to provide all of the benefits mentioned above. Living walls have changed the way people incorporate biophilic design into any space, regardless of size, access to natural light, or location. The beauty of these walls is the ability to go virtually anywhere: interior or exterior, areas with abundant natural light or limited access, secured to walls or in the middle of the room.

The possibilities are vast, and with an open mind, you can make a positive impact and transform your space into an amazing piece of living art. It is crucial to keep in mind that biophilic design gives you the amazing ability to help humans get in touch with nature.  

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