The word "biophilic" likely doesn't cross your daily thoughts. Derived from Greek, biophilic translates to a love for life or the living world. In the design context, this affection unfolds like a lush, green carpet, leading us to a deeper connection with nature within our living spaces. This is what biophilic design is all about.
Biophilic design was born from the concept of biophilia, a term popularized by American biologist Edward O. Wilson in the 1980s. Wilson argued that humans have an innate attraction to nature and life forms, attributing it to millions of years of evolution in the natural world. Wilson proposed that this instinctive bond with nature has implications for health, well-being, and quality of life.
Fast forward to the 21st century, when escalating urbanization, modern technology, and a global pandemic found us sequestered within our four walls, aching for a touch of nature and fresh air. Biophilic design, in response, began its influential rise. The trend was embraced as an aesthetic choice and a means to create healthier, more satisfying environments in homes, offices, and urban structures. So, let's dive into the specifics of this trend.
Benefits of Biophilic Home Design
At its core, biophilic design intertwines nature into the fabric of homes, transforming them into living, breathing entities that coexist symbiotically with their surroundings. When discussing the benefits of such an approach, you inevitably touch upon aspects such as health, well-being, utility costs, and homeownership as an investment.
From a health perspective, integrating natural elements in homes — like indoor plants, natural light, wood, and stone materials — can improve air quality, reduce allergens and boost mood. Multiple studies have corroborated that exposure to natural elements can lower blood pressure, enhance mental well-being, and foster relaxation. For those who work from home, such an environment with natural light can support productivity and reduce stress.
Other notable benefits include:
Natural lighting reduces dependence on artificial lighting.
Natural ventilation cuts down on air conditioning costs.
Solar panels drastically cut electricity costs.
Natural materials minimize exposure to chemicals found in common construction materials.
Homeownership can also be an investment. In an increasingly eco-conscious world, biophilic homes are being viewed as premium real estate. Buyers are attracted to the promise of lower utility bills, healthier living conditions, and a unique, nature-infused aesthetic appeal. Therefore, biophilic design significantly improves the value of your home, making it a sound investment for the future.
Cons of Biophilic Home Design
Like two sides of a leaf, biophilic design has its share of challenges. Initial implementation costs can be high, particularly if the design involves significant structural changes like large skylights, green roofs, or integrated water systems. Solar panels and high-grade insulation materials can also be expensive to install.
Maintenance is another aspect to consider. Natural materials, while beautiful, often require more care than their synthetic counterparts. Wood can warp or rot, natural stone may need regular sealing, and living walls and indoor plants require watering and care.
And while biophilic design can enhance a property's value, it can also limit the pool of potential buyers. Not everyone is willing to pay a premium for green design or to take on the responsibility of maintaining natural materials and systems. However, with thoughtful planning and execution, the pros can far outweigh the cons, making your home a sanctuary where nature and architecture thrive together.
Interior Biophilic Design
Now that you know about the principles of biophilic design, let's look at some examples of how it can be brought to life in a home:
Design elements such as operable windows and natural ventilation systems can enhance air circulation, ensuring a steady supply of fresh air. Consider a well-placed courtyard or atrium.
Using large windows, skylights, and glass doors can dramatically increase natural light in your home. Use reflective surfaces and light-colored walls to further bounce the light around your space.
Indoor plants, living walls, and vertical gardens add greenery and improve air quality. Good examples are pothos, snake plants, and spider plants.
Choosing furniture and accessories made from natural materials like wood, bamboo, stone, cork, and wool can create a tangible connection with nature.
Water features such as indoor fountains, and aquariums can provide soothing background noise and increase humidity in dry environments.
Use a natural, earthy palette to further enhance the natural vibe in your home. Greens, browns, blues, and muted yellows can all create a sense of calm and connection with the natural world.
Incorporating artwork that depicts nature can solidify the connection between indoors and outdoors.
Depending on your preferences, there's no shortage of creative ways to bring biophilia into your home.
Exterior Biophilic Design
Exterior biophilic design is equally important to its interior counterpart, serving as the first line of interaction between the building and the environment. The outer shell of your home can embrace biophilic principles by strategically using materials, textures, and colors that blend with the surrounding landscape.
When selecting your home's exterior, consider factors such as:
Likewise, when we talk about exterior siding, the focus shifts to eco-friendly materials that are sustainable and durable, reducing environmental impact while enhancing the structure's aesthetic appeal. With the right siding contractor, you can select materials such as stone, wood, metal, stucco, and vinyl that can be customized to suit your individual needs.
In addition, the use of green walls, or vertical gardens, on the exterior provides visual appeal and helps insulate the building, reduce urban heat, and support biodiversity.
Renovating for Biophilic Design
If you're contemplating a home renovation, incorporating biophilic design can transform your space into a nurturing, natural haven. Biophilic design principles can be integrated at any scale, from subtle touches to significant structural changes.
The forms and shapes we associate with nature — curved lines, organic shapes, fractal patterns — can bring a touch of the wild into our built environments.
For the exterior, consider:
An undulating patio;
A meandering garden path;
A tree-inspired column structure.
These shapes often provide practical benefits, such as natural shade, wind resistance, and rainwater collection.
Inside your home, opt for furniture with rounded edges and irregular forms, or use a naturally shaped mirror or artwork to reflect the outside world.
Using Sustainable Materials
A core aspect of biophilic philosophy is sustainability. When choosing materials for your renovation, consider their life cycle. Reclaimed, renewable, or recycled materials are great choices.
Using locally sourced materials can further reduce the environmental footprint of your renovation. These materials infuse your home with a sense of nature and align your living space with the principles of conservation and respect for the environment.
Interior landscaping is a great way to bring nature into the built environment without compromising your home's interior design. Potted plants, moss walls, green roofs, and living walls are all viable options.
The goal of biophilic design is to increase connectivity to the natural world through the use of direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions. With thoughtful design decisions, you can bring nature into every corner of your home.