Can Outdoor Living Walls Survive in Colder Climates?

We receive many questions about whether living green walls have the ability to withstand, survive and look fresh during extreme climates. The answer is yes!

We realized this was missing in the market; other living wall providers were unable to install outdoor walls because plants would freeze without proper insulation. Sagegreenlife living walls can survive and even thrive in northern climates that experience cold winter weather. We set out to create living walls capable of withstanding any exterior climate. We have expert horticulturists and engineers who take into consideration the climate to determine the type of plants and how the design will be implemented. 

 

outdoor living green wall

We looked at every aspect of the vertical garden system from irrigation methods and different growth media to the individual plants and how they respond to various elements within the overall system. Sagegreenlife living walls are uniquely designed to endure challenging exterior environments, including heat, cold, wind and snow. Our patented Biotile™ system is unique in its ability to insulate dormant plants in the winter maintaining life-protecting moisture for the longevity of plants.

Each Biotile™ is made of recyclable Rockwool, a layered basalt rock fiber with an inert material that will not decay over time. Rockwool’s density insulates plant roots, providing extra protection through the winter months. This allows outdoor plants to survive, even in colder weather. Rockwool is also antimicrobial so no mold or bacteria will grow within it and offers up to 95 percent plant survival rates, giving our living walls a strong advantage over the maintenance requirements of soil-based systems. This combined with our highly efficient irrigation system, which uses 75 percent less water than any other living wall system available, gives Sagegreenlife living walls flexibility above and beyond any other green wall system.

Sagegreenlife patent biotile technology

 

In addition the advanced Biotile™ technology, our horticulturists select plants that have the ability to grow and thrive in colder conditions. Choosing the right plants is critical to creating a healthy and robust living wall, which is why our plant designers take the time to learn and experiment with different vegetation and climate types to make sure a living wall survives in exterior environments.

We place a priority on selecting plants conducive to the environment in which they are accustomed, which ensures growth and long-term survival. Depending on the hardiness, some plants have the ability to withstand cold temperatures, strong winds and snow. And while plants naturally go dormant in winter, Sagegreenlife provides plants that will look beautiful year round, such as evergreen plants. As their name implies, they stay green all year keeping the living wall looking fresh and just as beautiful as the day that it was installed.  

At Sagegreenlife, we understand that preserving the vibrancy and long life of an outdoor living wall requires ongoing care and attention. After each wall is installed, our field operation teams routinely checks and monitors the entire system to ensure the plants are thriving and the technology is working properly. Our patent technology and experienced team provide customers with living walls for better living in any season.

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Types of Vertical Green Walls

Biophilia, or the innate desire for humans to be connected to nature, can take many forms in the built environment. It can be a water feature, architecture that promotes mystery and curiosity, a vertical green garden or materials that remind us of the outdoors. Unfortunately, plant blindness has replaced our everyday connection with nature. Plant blindness is the inability to notice or recognize plants and nature that are all around us. 

It can be difficult and even overwhelming to sort through the many avenues to fight plant blindness and incorporate biophilic design. There are endless possibilities, but we break down some of the options to help guide you. Specifically, when it comes to plant walls, there are two different options, artificial green walls and living green walls. 

 

Artificial Green Walls
Artificial green walls give the appearance of living plants, but do not offer all the benefits of biophilic design. The most common type of artificial walls are sourced from moss. This type of material is preserved meaning it is no longer a living plant material. As a result, these types of walls require little to no maintenance; they don’t require any water, fertilizer, or planting medium and it is even suggested to keep these walls out of direct sunlight. In order to keep these walls looking green and “lush,” a layer of preservatives or paint is applied to the moss. Since artificial walls are not living, they will collect particles and require an occasional dusting to keep them looking fresh. People who have sensitive allergies should be aware of the different products used on moss walls. The majority of moss walls use natural and non-toxic preservatives and paints, but it is recommended to take a closer look to avoid allergies or reactions. 

moss wall

 

Living Green Walls
Living green walls are exactly what their name implies: they are made up of living plants. As with any living organism, they require care and attention to maintain and keep the wall healthy. Plants need water, light, a growing medium and nutrients. A thriving living wall needs a sophisticated system to keep plants looking fresh, which is often a system with irrigation, lighting and plant maintenance, such as pruning and possibly replacement. Fortunately, green thumb or not, living wall systems have been designed to be simple and seamless to allow anyone to have one.

employees at a desk sitting in front of a desk

 

Living Green Walls – System Applications

  • Container systems (Biotile™, tray, pot rack) work similar to the concept of legos, plants are grown ahead of time and arrive at the final destination in blocks. This makes installing the wall very simple, as it only requires the container to be put in the correct spot. A container system, such as Sagegreenlife’s Biotile™, can be installed in both interior and exterior environments as well as custom designed or freestanding for modular use.The Sagegreenlife container system utilizes a patented Biotile™ with a soil-less, organic material called Rockwool. This material is composed of layers of rock fiber that evenly distributes water, oxygen and nutrients. Rockwool is perfect for this type of living wall because it does not decay, mold, or change shape when heated, cooled, wet or dry, and is uninhabitable for pests. Sagegreenlife also offers routine maintenance to keep the living wall looking just as healthy as it did on installation day.

 

  • Felt is similar to a container system in that there are “pocket like” structures where plants are placed. However, felt walls cannot be planted in advance resulting in a longer and tedious installation. There is also an increased risk of putting plants in the wrong pocket. In addition, felt will degrade over time, it cannot tolerate extreme climates as the weather changes and is not water efficient.

felt pockets for a living wall

 

  • Trellis is another system where plants cannot be grown prior to installation resulting in a bare facade until the vines mature enough to create a green wall. This takes a considerable amount of time and most vines go through growing and dormant seasons leaving months where the wall looks dead.

trellis planter on outdoor building

 

Vertical Green Wall Benefits
Artificial and living walls both provide benefits to the built environment as the sight of plants improves both mental wellbeing and physical health. Our brains associate plants as nature and offer a break during the work day resulting in a decrease in stress and tension. 

However, living walls go beyond these benefits and actively purifies the air and provides an environment with clean oxygen through photosynthesis. This benefit helps attract talent, retain tenants, enhances the built environment and promotes sustainability. 

  • Attract Talent and Retain Tenants
    People who work or live near nature have reported a 15% increase in perceived wellbeing. In addition, nature in residential buildings and workplaces have shown to reduce stress and negative feelings by 30-60%. Stress related sick days costs the U.S. $300 billion a year, so nature plays a significant role in reducing these costs. People who work in areas surrounded with nature take 11 hours less of sick leave per year than people whose work environments are void of nature.

 

  • Enhance the Built Environment
    Bringing nature into an environment also has effects on one’s physical health by providing cleaner and fresher air as mentioned above. The particulates and chemicals in the air can cause dizziness, coughing, dry eyes and headaches. The most common harmful particles in the air at any given time are ammonia, xylene, benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. These substances can cause symptoms for the people in the space, however, an environment with nature can have 50-60% less of these particles than environments without nature. When people live and work in an environment with fresh air, these symptoms significantly decrease.Living walls also have the added advantage of acting as a sound barrier, reducing noise levels by an average of 15 decibels. Sagegreenlife’s living walls have been proven to have near perfect sound abatement.

 

  • Promote Sustainability
    Living walls can also reduce the carbon footprint of an area or building. As we all learned in elementary school, plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. Adding living walls into areas that have been void of nature have significant benefits by helping clean the air and reducing carbon emissions. They also actively absorb heat, so in dense urban areas, they have a role in reducing the urban heat island effect.Urban areas can be up to 20ºF warmer than surrounding rural areas. This is one way builders, architects and city planners can combat the increasing global temperature and climate change. A vegetated facade can reduce the surface temperature of a build by up to 54ºF, which reduces the need for air conditioning units to run and business owners to spend more money on energy costs. Sagegreenlife’s walls have an added advantage of using 75% less water than other living wall providers. Our streamlined system allows the user to use less energy than other systems.

 

At Sagegreenlife, our mission is better living with living walls. We can help bring your vision to life with the added benefits of a living green wall. See how we have brought nature to the built environment.
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Do You Have Plant Blindness?

Did you know 57% of the species on the US national endangered species list are plants? Unfortunately, the majority of the population are not aware of these species and many may no longer exist today. As a society, we often forget about plants because they go widely unnoticed. This is referred to as plant blindness, the inability to notice or recognize plants that are all around us. It is a chronic problem that needs to be solved.

The root cause of this issue is society has disconnected from nature. As previously discussed, people are bringing nature back into urban areas, however, there is still a large gap and areas for improvement. There is more than simply disconnecting, it is also how our brain processes information. We naturally recognize creatures that are similar to us or that may cause harm: humans, animals, objects that pose a threat, strong weather or a steep drop off on a mountain. So since the majority of plants are green, and because our brains are master organizers, we organize all of nature as one large green object. 

In addition to how we see plants, we also have a lack of knowledge on their function and structures. Schools spend very little time teaching students about plants and this is where plant blindness begins to take shape in individuals. It is overlooked by academia, therefore, it is overlooked by students. Elementary schools might teach a chapter explaining how plants photosynthesize their food and ask students to grow their own lima beans, but this is where education begins and ends. 

When a large group of society has plant blindness, it causes many problems. As mentioned earlier, there is no national attention that plants are endangered. The result of this leads to issues in the ecosystem, animals could lose access to their food or habitat forcing these animals to eat or take over other plant species and start a ripple effect. 

Plants also play a large part in the fight against climate change, specifically the urban heat island (UHI) effect. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the annual mean temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8–5.4°F (1–3°C) warmer than its surroundings. At night, the difference is even more pronounced and can be as high as 22°F (12°C) because cities, unlike more remote areas, tend to retain heat longer. However, plants act as insulators that can significantly reduce this effect making an impact on the increasing global climate change. 

While plant blindness is a problem, it is fortunately an issue that can be solved. As individuals, we can take responsibility by becoming aware and recognizing there is a problem. For example, be present in the moment and notice how many parks you pass on the way to work or school, how many storefronts have landscaping and what types of trees surround your office. Educate yourself about the power that plants have on your physical and mental wellbeing. Surround yourself with plants and practice how to take care of them. Start small and grow an appreciation for the nature that surrounds you. 

 

tree lined city street

Beyond the individual, school administrators can help by incorporating botany throughout the curriculum, such as, teaching students about different plants, how to grow a garden, the function of plant parts and cultivating a sense of curiosity so they will seek more information. With encouragement and education, students will pause to observe the nature around them. Some might even find themselves so interested they will pursue a career in the field. 

The biggest impact can be seen by organizations and companies that are already making a difference. In the built environment, developers are starting to create spaces devoted to plants for their tenants to not only enjoy, but also create a better way of life. Whether an established foot print or a new build, a living green wall can incorporate plants into the everyday bringing nature into any environment. Living walls have the capability to bring a room to life creating moments of awe and reflection.

 

Sagegreenlife is especially passionate about fighting against plant blindness. We believe in the power of nature designing living walls for better living.
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Biophilic Design Trend: Nature in 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. Below we take a closer look at the third category, nature in the space. the most common approach within biophilic design.

The Visual Connection
The first pattern that falls within nature in the space is a visual connection. Simply put, this is the type of biophilic design that provides the ability to see nature. The most common and recurring attempt of this pattern is a potted plant on a desk or large windows in an office building. These are steps in the right direction, however, there is much more that can be done to provide people with a visual connection. Nature in the space can also be a koi pond, a piece of art resembling nature, a well designed landscape or a living green wall

The advantages of a living green wall compared to a pond or landscape is the ability to be incorporated into virtually any space with minimal to no construction. Living walls can provide an escape from the computer screen, textbook or phone, even if just for a small moment. The benefits of a visual connection with nature can be seen in improved cognitive performance, stress reduction and mental wellbeing. The presence of nature can improve mental focus and attentiveness, lower blood pressure and heart rate and increase overall happiness. There has been extensive research proving these benefits exist and the real impact they make in an environment. 

living wall in an apartment lobby

 

The Non-Visual Connection
Biophilic design goes beyond the visual aspect; it can be experienced through auditory, haptic, gustatory and olfactory senses as well. The study and research behind these senses and their relationship to biophilic design has opened the door to even more biophilia that can be invited into an environment. These can occur naturally or be simulated or constructed forms of a non-visual connection to nature. A naturally occurring form can be found in herbs or plants that are very aromatic and can fill a room with their pleasant scent or an opened window to hear songbirds or wind blowing through the trees. 

Simulated examples of nature include sounds from a water feature or materials that resemble textures in nature. In addition to materials that have nature-like textures, there are also those with different physical properties. For example, a stone material is more likely to feel cool to the touch while wood is more likely to feel warmer to the touch. These non-visual connections provide benefits in much the same way as visual connections. Studies have shown a decrease in systolic blood pressure and stress, a positive impact on cognitive performance, and perceived improvements in mental health and tranquility. 

 

Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli
Without thinking about it, we all recognize that there are natural movements happening all around us. The ever changing shape and presence of clouds, the reflection of light off of a water surface or the breeze blowing through plant life. This type of biophilic design is termed non-rhythmic sensory stimuli. These rhythms can be studied, but they cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy. The presence of these movements in a space have positive impacts on heart rate, systolic blood pressure and sympathetic nervous system activity. This pattern of biophilic design also has effects on cognitive performance resulting in increased attention and exploration. To maximize these patterns into an environment, incorporate large windows where clouds are visible, create an unpredictable broadcast of nature sounds or dampen light elements. The key to this pattern is to create random and subtle movements in the space that will only be noticed subconsciously.

woman sitting in front of a body of water

 

Thermal and Airflow Variability
Studies have shown that thermal and airflow variability have impacts on comfort, wellbeing, productivity, concentration and an improved perception of alliesthesia, the relationship between an external stimuli and the pleasure or displeasure that the stimuli invokes. There are plenty of ways that thermal and airflow variability can be built into an environment to fulfill this type of biophilic design. A building can be constructed with large windows allowing heat to travel through and create spots that are warmer than the surrounding areas, or the walls and shapes of the building can create a draft that flows through the space. The HVAC can be programmed to keep an area at comfortable temperatures while creating some variability that stimulates a reaction in the occupants. The building can also implement materials that naturally reflect heat when the sun hits its surface. 

 

Presence of Water
In addition to the visual connection, non-visual connection, non-rhythmic stimuli and airflow variability, the presence of water has its own pattern of biophilic design. There are many benefits associated with the sounds, movement and simply the presence of water. There has been evidence that shows reduced stress, increased feelings of tranquility, lower heart rate and blood pressure. It has also been shown to improve concentration, memory restoration, enhanced perception, psychological responsiveness and positive emotional responses. This form of biophilic design can be incorporated by using a pond of water or an aquarium. And while real water should be the priority, pictures and computer simulations of water can present similar benefits to those of real water. 

water fountain in the outdoors

 

Light Diffusion and Shadows
One of the under-appreciated occurrences in nature are the changes in shadows and intensities in light that happen throughout the day. An environment that is well designed in terms of diffused light can cause a sense of drama, intrigue and mystery to a space. This type of biophilic design can easily be brought into a space when windows are present. However, if window accessibility is limited or it is a cloudy day, light diffusion cannot pass along its benefits to humans. An easy way to implement light diffusion into an environment is use low glare lights and treat windows to reflect rays that are not great for a person’s eyes. A subtle way to achieve this is to have a circadian color pattern that is integrated into the office. Ideally it would be white light in the morning, and as afternoon approaches, it would reduce blue light. This would encourage healthier sleep patterns by complementing the natural circadian rhythms. Diffused light also takes stress off of eyes and increases general comfort. 

 

Connection with Natural Systems
The last pattern included in this category is the connection with natural systems. Essentially, this pattern is reminding people of the natural cycles nature goes through. Cycles such as seasons, weather changes, pollination and the food chain among animals. It is difficult to build these elements into an environment because there is nothing we can do to make seasons change, effect the weather or insects to pollinate, however, we can build environments with these elements. Office buildings can use landscapes with native plants that change with the seasons, rainwater collections or plants that attract insects and structures such as bird houses and feeders. This biophilic design pattern benefits people by providing an enhanced positive health response and shift in perception, which aids in fighting against plant blindness. 

rain drops on a window

These seven patterns of nature in the space are one of many ways biophilic design can increase the aesthetics of an environment and provide an array of benefits to those within the space.

 

Imagine nature in your environment. Explore and learn more at sagegreenlife.com.
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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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