Last edited 05 May 2019

Biophilia and building design


[edit] Introduction

The term ‘biophilia’ refers to the adaption or design of a building to the environment, rather than the other way around. The meaning of the word biophilia is a love for nature and it is considered by some to be the missing part of sustainable design. Biophilic design aims to create strong connections between nature and manmade environments which can have benefits for health and wellbeing.

[edit] History

The term biophilia was first used by Edward Wilson in 1984 in his book ‘Biophilia’. In it, he argued that humans have an innate and evolutionarily based affinity for nature. He defined the term as referring to, ‘the connections that human beings subconsciously seek with the rest of life’.

A more recent explanation was provided by Judith Heerwagen, who has undertaken extensive research into the relationship between buildings and psychological wellbeing. She suggested that ‘biophilia evolved to guide functional behaviours associated with finding, using and enjoying natural resources that aided survival and reproductive fitness – and avoiding those that are harmful.’

[edit] Benefits of biophilia in building design

Incorporating biophilia into building design is considered to have a number of advantages including:

  • Measurable beneficial impacts on productivity, enhancing creativity, improving wellbeing, reducing stress and enhancing learning.
  • Helping engender an appreciation of nature in individuals which can lead to a greater protection of natural areas.

[edit] Examples of biophilic design

It is possible to achieve a biophilic design in a number of ways. A simple approach is to consider the construction materials used. Log cabins are a simple design that can use ‘natural’ materials for almost every element of construction.

Ways in which biophilic design can be incorporated into sites include:

The design of buildings to maximise biophlia can include:

At the interior design level, features could include:

BRE is currently engaging with a range of partners to create a live demonstration of the benefits of biophilic design on an office refurbishment. The Biophilic Office is a project on BRE's main campus at Watford, UK which involves live monitoring of occupants before and after a nature-inspired refurbishment.

[edit] Biophilic cities

Attention has largely focused on individual buildings or homes but there is increasing awareness of the importance of biophilia at the city or urban scale. It is considered that urban residents need access to nature and that creative solutions should be explored to incorporate this into urban environments.

The Biophilic Cities Network was launched in 2013. In the UK, Birmingham was the first city to join the Biophilic City Network in April 2014. Biophilic cities are considered to be:

  • Cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of residents.
  • Biodiverse cities, that value, protect and actively restore biodiversity.
  • Green and growing cities, organic and natureful.
  • Residents feel a deep affinity for the flora and fauna found there along with the climate, topography and other special qualities.
  • Cities that provide abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature through walking, hiking, cycling or exploring.
  • Rich, multisensory environments, where the sounds of nature (and other sensory experiences) are appreciated as much as the visual or ocular experience.
  • Cities that place importance on education about nature and biodiversity, and on providing many and varied opportunities to learn about and directly experience nature.
  • Cities that invest in the social and physical infrastructure that helps to bring residents to a closer connection and understanding of nature, whether through natural history museums, wildlife centres, school-based nature initiatives, or parks and recreation programs and projects.
  • Globally responsible cities that recognise the importance of actions to limit the impact of resource use on nature and biodiversity beyond their urban borders.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External references

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again