While reducing the energy use of buildings is essential for a sustainable future, it is equally important to improve the conditions in which humans live, work, play, heal etc.. The benefits of natural daylight and ventilation have been proven to improve productivity and reduce sick days in office workers and people generally seem to be more aware that they deserve a healthy environment around them. This concept has been developed into a fully fledged design approach to architecture called biophilic design. However, this concept is generally misunderstood and commonly confused with biomimicry. This week’s blog aims to explain the philosophy behind biophilic design and architectural applications that can help to achieve a healthier, more natural architecture.
Biophilia vs. biomimicry
Biophilic design is based on the theory of ‘biophilia’ which contends that human health and well-being has a biologically based need to affiliate with nature. When this physiological theory is related to architecture, it can be deduced that the modern architectural movement in the twentieth century inherently contradicted physical and natural processes of human physiology by imposing artificial meaning on the built environment. In other words, contemporary biophilic design seeks to re-connect the built environment with nature through specific strategies including, but not limited to, the use of windows, daylight, fresh air, plants and green spaces.
Biomimicry is often misrepresented as creating a building that looks like something natural. I.E. a building shaped like a pinecone. However, biomimicry, as applied to architecture, is about learning from natural systems and processes to find more efficient solutions to design problems. For example, a building’s skin can be designed to employ a low-energy temperature and moisture control system that is based on the pine cones’ natural ability to self-regulate by opening and closing based on moisture content. Mimicking natural systems and processed will inevitably have an effect on form as well, but that is not the only goal of biomimicry.
Why is it important?
It is becoming more generally understood that people who feel more comfortable are more productive There is significant quantitative data that confirm the main points of the biophilia hypothesis, showing that greater contact with natural elements such as sunlight, outdoor air, and living plants has been linked to increased productivity in workers, improvement in learning rates in students, and reduced stress, faster recovery time, and decreased use of painkillers in patients. Additionally, many biophilic strategies also reduce energy use: More natural light means less power needed for artificial light.
While these strategies sound simple, the fact is that they are noticeably absent from many contemporary projects: Hospitals in particular have moved further and further away from naturalistic elements. The contemporary hospital is a product of the triumph of medical science over nature and thus is designed to cure, not to heal. The hospital has become a machine built to eliminate disease, but very few consider the fundamental aspects of human health. Biophilic design has the potential to re-invent the hospital typology to be more efficient, both medically and environmentally.
A discussion on everything to do with sustainable design. From renewable energy to implementing integrated design in professional practice. Case studies, article reviews and green building certification methods and additional resources will all be included.