Biophilic design has become a buzzword in modern design talks. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic become more apparent to researchers, the need for a connection with nature has also become more evident.
In this article, we'll explore how biophilic design can help answer questions around navigating the new normal in design and engineering fields.
A Brief History of Biophilic Design
Biophilic design has been a way of living and building for far longer than the modern world gives it credit. The formal concept of biophilia was first introduced by E.O. Wilson when he published his book Biophilia in 1984. The book identified a tendency in humans to be attracted to nature. It said we even go so far as to emulate nature's structures in our everyday lives. The style of biophilic design was born out of this concept.
Biophilic design itself is a term that has only recently been coined. However, there are indications of biophilic design dating back to the architecture of the ancient Babylonians. You can find a specific example if you look at the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
As Ralph Walder Emerson puts it, the design language that is designing with nature has become even more popular in the current global climate. COVID-19 has dramatically changed our views of office life and the impact of the workspace on daily life.
How Biophilic Design Has Changed From the COVID-19 Pandemic
COVID-19 has renewed our association with the outdoors being a place of health and safety. Studies have shown that being outdoors is one of the safest places to avoid the spread of the illness. While we may be unable to spend all of our time outdoors, especially as we prepare for a return to the office, this desire for nature and space remains.
In addition, because of the pandemic, people have become even more aware of their surroundings. They have been made very aware that their environments can significantly impact their health and wellness. This is especially true of offices with poor ventilation or without room for social distancing.
Biophilic design has seen a resurgence in popularity due to these global perspective shifts. However, it has also changed some of the ways that biophilic design is applied to modern architecture. These changes are meant to better the impact indoor spaces have on our health, physically, mentally, and emotionally. As a result, biophilic design has become an additional means of creating safer places to live and work.
How to Embrace Modern Biophilic Design
As perspectives have shifted, designers and engineers have to answer questions about applying this design language in real-life settings. For example, how do you create a safer office space, and how can you integrate biophilic design to do this?
Here are our top suggestions for how you can embrace biophilic design as a part of modern design and engineering.
Integrate Outdoor Space
Bringing a sense of the outdoors in has always been a significant part of successful biophilic design. There are numerous ways to do this, depending on your building's design. Often, these kinds of applications are necessary to consider at the design stage or during a remodel. It is sometimes challenging to integrate your space with the surrounding landscape after your building is built.
One of the ways you can bring the outdoors inside is to create pavilions of space that flow from the outdoors to the indoors. You can also integrate more outdoor spaces available from within the building, such as terraces, roof gardens, central living or working spaces with moving ceilings or large skylights. Letting in plenty of light and having access to a flow of fresh air is integral even if you can't have entirely outdoor spaces.
Add Living Walls
Living walls are a direct way to bring the outdoors inside and integrate biophilic design, but without having to remodel your building or change its structure and layout. They can be brought into your space in a wide range of scales, from entire columns spanning multiple floors to accent walls in a smaller office space. The scale doesn't diminish their benefits and yet can significantly impact the health and happiness of those living and working in the building.
Some of the benefits of living walls, no matter the size, include:
Reducing noise pollution.
Boosting the morale of those that live and work in the building.
Improving air quality.
Luckily, living walls do all of this while being one of the easiest ways to bring about biophilic design. Living walls are easy to install and have a low maintenance requirement that makes them minimally impactful for those with a limited budget for these enhancements.
Enhance Your Air Filtration Systems
Living walls help improve air quality, but you can take an extra step to maximize the health effect of the building. One of the things that the pandemic drew our attention to was the quality and health of indoor air. Having an enhanced air filtration system was shown to aid in the reduction of the virus spread.
It is easiest to build in better air filtration systems when you initially design a building. However, there are levels of enhancement you can use after a building has been built. For example, equip office spaces with HEPA filters to take care of some of the viruses, dust, and bacteria in the air.
Use Sustainable Materials
Building with sustainable and natural materials is another method you can use to integrate biophilic design in your building's design. For example, you can build in wooden accents or use natural stone from local quarries in the walls. Remember that genuinely sustainable material is not just those taken from ethically sourced natural materials. It is also those that have few carbon miles associated with the processing and manufacturing of the material.
Foster Open Spaces and Exterior Views
Inside the building, you can create more space for people to breathe and feel connected with the exterior world by building open spaces and vistas. For example, if you have views of a pond, lake, mountainside, or other natural feature from part of the building, ensure those are a focal point in your design.
Creating more open spaces for work with teams and individual desks instead of enclosed offices is another way to incorporate an aspect of biophilic design, while also reducing the spread of germs and viruses.
Implementing Biophilic Design in the COVID-19 Era
The COVID-19 pandemic changed many parts of everyday life, including how we view traditional office spaces. But companies can adapt to changing perspectives and employee needs by implementing biophilic design in their offices.
Are you ready to integrate a beautiful living wall into your design or otherwise bring biophilic design into your space? Talk to living wall experts at Zauben today to learn more about how our Model Z Living Wall can enhance your office space and improve your employees' work experience.