Biophilic Design Considerations and Integration
WHAT IS GOOD BIOPHILIC DESIGN?
Good biophilic design draws from influential perspectives – health conditions, socio-cultural norms and expectations, past experiences, frequency and duration of the user experience, the many speeds at which it may be encountered, and user perception and processing of the experience – to create spaces that are inspirational, restorative, healthy, as well as integrative with the functionality of the place and the (urban) ecosystem to which it is applied. Above all, biophilic design must nurture a love of place
“….there is rarely a solution that is universal. rather, the ‘correct’ solution, in our view, is one that is locally appropriate and responsive to the situation at hand “
PLAnnInG FOR ImPLemenTATIOn
Identifying desired responses and outcomes
To identify design strategies and interventions that restore or enhance well-being, project teams should understand the health baseline or performance needs of the target population. One approach is to ask: what is the most biophilic space we can conceivably design? Another is to ask: how can biophilic design improve performance metrics already used by the client
Design strategies and interventions
Biophilic design patterns are flexible and replicable strategies for enhancing the user experience that can be implemented under a range of circumstances. Just as lighting design for a classroom will be different than for a spa or home library, biophilic design interventions are based on the needs of a specific population in a particular space, and are likely to be developed from a series of evidence-based biophilic design patterns, ideally with a degree of monitoring and evaluation for efficacy.For example, a project team may embrace the visual Connection with nature pattern to enhance the workplace experience for a series of interior fit-outs for a portfolio of offices. The strategy would be to improve views and bring plants into the space; the interventions may include installing a green wall, orienting desks to maximize views to outdoors, and initiating an employee stipend for desk plants.
Diversity of design strategies
Patterns in combination tend to increase the likelihood of health benefits of a space. Incorporating a diverse range of design strategies can accommodate the needs of various user groups from differing cultures and demographics and create an environment that is psycho-physiologically and cognitively restorative.Adding multiple biophilic strategies for the sake of diversity may backfire unless they are integrative and supporting a unified design intent.
Quality vs. quantity of intervention
A high quality intervention may be defined by the richness of content, user accessibility and, as mentioned above, diversity of strategies. A single high quality intervention can be more effective and have greater restorative potential than several low quality intervention
Duration of exposure and frequency of access
Identifying the most appropriate duration of exposure to a pattern, or combination of patterns, can be difficult. The ideal exposure time is likely dependent upon the user and desired effect, but as a general guideline, empirical evidence shows that positive emotions and mental restoration and other benefits can occur in as little as 5 to 20 minutes of immersion in nature.When a long duration of exposure is not possible or desired, positioning biophilic design interventions along paths that channel high levels of foot traffic will help improve frequency of access
Questions abound on matters of duration of exposure and frequency of access: How persistent is mental restoration over different terms of exposure to nature? Do the improvements continue incrementally with more exposure, or do they plateau? What combinations of design patterns can help optimize a biophilic experience?
Climate, ecology and the vernacular
Historically, humans have built shelters from locally available materials that reflected the regional ecology; form and function were in response to the topography and climate. Known as vernacular architecture, these buildings and constructed landscapes connect to where they inhabit.Use of local timber, climate responsive design and xeriscaping – using native, drought tolerant plants to create landscape designs that resemble the climate of the surrounding landscape – can each be effective strategies in designing for a resilient, biophilic experience.Character and density: Rural, suburban and urban environments
Character and density: Rural, suburban and urban environments
Land in urban environments is limited and at a premium, so it may be unrealistic to replicate features more suitable to a rural environment in terms of scale or abundance. As such, biophilic design strategies will differ depending on the local political climate, zoning, geography, land availability and ownership.What’s important is that the strategy be integrative and appropriate to the character and density of the place, and not just another word for ecosystem restoration that does not reflect the human biological relationship with nature.
Scale and feasibility
Biophilic design patterns should be scaled to the surrounding environment and to the predicted user population for the space. Patterns can be applied at the scale of a micro-space, a room, a building, a neighborhood or campus, and even an entire district or city. each of these spaces will present different design challenges depending on the programming, user types and dynamics, climate, culture, and various physical parameters, as well as existing or needed infrastructure.Size and availability of space are two of the most common factors influencing feasibility of biophilic design patterns.For instance, the Prospect pattern typically requires significant space. Other patterns, such as Connection with natural Systems , may be more feasible where there is access to an outdoor space, which is a common challenge in dense urban environments. Yet small scale, micro-restorative visual and non-visual Connections with nature and Presence of Water can also be very effective.
Culture and demographics
Current evolutionary hypotheses and theories state that contemporary landscape preferences are influenced by human evolution, reflecting the innate landscape qualities that enhanced survival for humanity through time.There is a degree of universality to landscape preferences among humans, preferences have been modified by cultural influences, experiences and socio-economic factors. Variations in landscape preferences have thus emerged among immigrants, ethnic groups, subcultures, genders, and age groups.
Cultural constructs, social inertia and ecological literacy suffuse differing
perspectives on what constitutes natural, nature, wild, or beautiful. Environmental Generational Amnesia and the ecological Aesthetic Theory help explain how some perspectives may have evolved, and these differences come to bear across countries and regions, as well as among neighborhoods within the same city.
Frequency of use, nature of use, participation rates and purpose of visit all vary drastically between nationalities, cultures and sub-groups. These factors do not mean that certain ethnic groups have a lower appreciation for landscape or a less significant connection with nature. These groups simply utilize and interact with nature in ways that are compatible with their culture and needs. Identifying early on what those needs may be will help define parameters for appropriate design strategies and interventions.
Age and gender are also known to influence biophilic response trends. Women report higher perceived levels of stress than men, yet are less likely than their male counterparts to use available natural outdoor vegetative space during the work day. Of particular interest is that the degree of enhanced immune function due to immersion in nature has been observed to differ between the genders.Youth benefit the most from nature contact in terms of increasing self-esteem. The gains for self-esteem from nature contact are suggested to decline with age; elderly and youth benefit the least in terms of mood enhancement from nature contact, yet both groups are equal in perceived restorativeness of natural over urban environments. With age also comes a differing preference in landscape in regards to perceived safety. While an urban woodland may be an enticing place for adventure for a child or teenager, the same condition could be perceived by adults and elderly populations as risky, which could possibly be overcome by incorporating a Prospect- Refuge condition.
Interdisciplinary planning and design
Developing an interdisciplinary strategy early on in a project will help ensure cost- effective opportunities are not lost before they are even fully considered. The integration of a multi-disciplinary strategy in the early stages of development – through a stakeholder value assessment process or similar – will put team members on equal footing and allow for the identification of potential strengths, challenges and opportunities.
Biophilia as an environmental quality
Environmental quality is an umbrella term that refers to the sum of the properties and characteristics of a specific environment and how it affects human beings and other organisms within its zone of influence. Biophilia, like air quality, thermal comfort and acoustics, is an essential component of environmental quality that expands the conversation from daylight, materials toxicity, and air, water and soil quality, to include human biological health and well-being. When integral to the environmental quality discussion, biophilia may also help dissolve the perceived division between human needs and building performance.
Thoughtful applications of biophilic design can create a multi-platform strategy for familiar challenges traditionally associated with building performance such as thermal comfort, acoustics, energy and water management, as well as larger scale issues such as asthma, biodiversity and flood mitigation. We know increased natural air flow can help prevent sick building syndrome; day lighting can cut energy costs in terms of heating and cooling; and increased vegetation can reduce particulate matter in the air, reduce urban heat island effect, improve air infiltration rates and reduce perceived levels of noise pollution . These strategies can all be implemented in a manner that achieves a biophilic response for improved performance, health and well-being.
The biophilic experiences are more likely to persist long term when they are embedded in the programming and infrastructure of a place.
Controlling for effectiveness
It is impossible to predict all future human-nature interactions or to ensure that the desired response recurs over a period of time for every user based on a particular strategy or intervention. Indeed, we can assume that efficacy of many biophilic patterns are likely to rise and decline with diurnal and seasonal cycles.
User controls for lighting, heating, cooling, ventilation, and even noise can either complement design efforts, or negate them when controls are mismanaged or underutilized – keeping the window blinds closed eliminates a visual Connection with nature, and high partitions in an open plan office eliminates opportunities for Prospect and a number of other patterns.
Behavior change is not often in the purview of the architect, so designing for controllability versus automation or permanency may inform the intervention design process. maintenance of implemented strategies is also a consideration – will there be someone responsible for cleaning the fish tank and watering the plants? Having trainings and discussions with facility operators and a reference guide indicating appropriate maintenance requirements and parameters will help uphold the intended biophilic experience set forth in the design strategy
Tracking and measuring efficacy
Monitoring efficacy of implemented biophilic design patterns for the express purpose of improving health and well-being is a new branch of inquiry. Many of the current techniques used require strict control of variables and cost which tends to limit the size of the test group. There are, however, several new technologies, like wristband monitors, and very light weight headband eeG that may open up new rapid methods of testing; but until those technologies go mainstream, rapid testing can also be done in more rudimentary fashion and with a smaller budget