Biophilic Design – A natural approach to building design
Bringing natural life into our built environments could be the answer to increasing well being and health in our workplaces.
One of the consequential impacts of urbanisation and the centralisation of apartment living, business and commerce into city centres is that we have become increasingly disconnected from our natural roots. Living and working in structures of concrete, steel and glass is far removed from the natural environment in which humans have evolved over the centuries.
Impact of our built environments
Commencing with the identification of Sick Building Syndrome in the early 1970s there has been a growing awareness of the negative impact that buildings can have on our health and wellbeing. Since this study, there have been many initiatives in the intervening period that have achieved a reduction in the negative impact of the built environment on its users.
According to Claire Bowles of i2C Architects ‘there is an urgent need to be proactive in bringing about a step change in building design in order to improve work and living environments through meaningful, multisensory connections to our natural environments’. One of the ways in which this can be achieved that is gaining significant traction is an approach referred to as biophilic design.
Reconnecting with our natural environment
Incorporating the use of natural materials, natural light, external views and vegetation, biophilic design aims to reconnect people with the natural environment and, as a result, improve their health and wellbeing. In doing so, this approach also improves the environmental sustainability of buildings through reduction in carbon emission and increased biodiversity and brings with it the economic benefits of reduced healthcare costs and increased productivity.
“We will never be truly healthy, satisfied, or fulfilled if we live apart and alienated from the environment from which we evolved.” Stephen R. Kellert (one of the pioneers of biophilic design)
The characteristics of biophilic design incorporated in a framework created by Stephen Kellert include experiences that are direct and indirect and that relate to space and place.
Direct experiences expose building users to contact with the natural elements of air, water, light plants and, to a limited extent, animals. On the other hand indirect experiences are achieved by exposure to natural imagery, the use of natural materials and colours and adopting natural patterns and textures. Space and place relates to sensitively designed transitional elements, spatial scale, mobility and accessibility.
What biophilic design means for facilities managers
There is no doubt that this approach to building design will bring about different and new challenges for on-going maintenance. None the least of these will be arguing the case for the inevitable increased costs that can only be off set against the macro economic benefits mentioned above. On a more positive note, one of the features of biophilic design is the flexibility for occupants to move around and choose the most appropriate space for given tasks, time and moods. This is inherent in activity-based workplaces – a common and familiar approach to workplace design.
Total Facilities 2019 presents a discussion that will include further debate about key issues around biophilic design, what it means for future building design and the impact it may have on the way building are managed. The panel of experts includes Claire Bowles of i2C Architects and Stephen Choi, Executive Director of the Living Future Institute of Australia, both passionate proponents of creating a more socially, culturally and sustainably focused built environment.