Biophilic Design, What is it, and Why is it Important?

Large Green office Space

Biophilia, as author Edward D. Wilson in The Biophilia Hypothesis describes, “is the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms”. As architects we are called to create this emotional affiliation in the spaces we design. Utilizing biophilic design, we pull in elements of our ecosystem that can bring us a sense of calm, enhance our creativity, and energize us all at the same time.

Through various passive strategies, we are capable of mimicking surrounding ecosystems. Using natural ventilation and natural light, increasing the amount of vegetation and natural/local materials we use, we are designing in a more sustainable manner.

Here are some questions we must ask ourselves when designing in this manner:

What are Direct Experiences of Nature?
• Light
• Air
• Water
• Plants
• Animals
• Natural Landscapes and Ecosystems
• Weather

How Can We Create Indirect Experiences of Nature?
• Images of Nature
• Natural Materials
• Natural Colors
• Simulating Natural Light and Air
• Naturalistic Shapes and Forms
• Natural Geometries

By satisfying our inherent inclination to associate with nature, biophilic design fosters emotional attachments to settings and places. These emotional attachments enhance performance and productivity, and prompt us to identify with and sustain the places we inhabit. “In the healthcare field, a wide range of studies have reported exposure to nature can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, provide pain relief, improve illness recovery, accelerate healing, enhance staff morale and performance, and lead to fewer conflicts between patients and staff,” (Stephen R. Kellert & Elizabeth F. Calabrese, authors of The Practice of Biophilic Design).

As a GBI Fellow, John Lister, the principal of JL Architects leads his team to support a healthier approach to architectural design. With organizations such as Green Globes and LEED, JL Architects aim for high standards, incorporating innovative designs that improve the surrounding ecosystems, as well as the working environment and the health and well-being of those within.

-Franklin Rodriguez, Architectural Designer

“The old people came literally to love the soil and they sat or reclined on the ground with a feeling of being close to a mothering power. It was good for the skin to touch the earth and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth. . . . The soil was soothing, strengthening, cleansing, and healing. . . . Wherever the Lakota went, he was with Mother Earth. No matter where he roamed by day or slept by night he was safe with her.”
– Luther Standing Bear, Land of the Spotted Eagle (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1978, 192-193)