In design, the term ‘biophilic’ references the intent to develop buildings and public spaces via measures that are in sync with human biology. It supports the use of materials, applications, construction techniques and schematics that contribute to human health and wellbeing. Science has long proven that humans continued evolution is in response to the natural rather than man made environments so as our cities continue to grow it is fundamentally important that they incorporate native elements and that equal priority is given to both qualities.
Image by Derek Swalwell
The World Health Organisation estimates that “stress-related illnesses such as mental health issues and cardio-vascular disease will be the two biggest contributors to ill health by 2020.” So while biophilic design has been around for a couple of decades now, it still has a long way to go before reaching its potential within our civic spaces, homes, workplaces and commercial precincts in order to counteract these concerns. The needs for its increased adoption within architectural and design practice is firmly cemented in statistics that support its worth. When plants are used in workplaces, productivity has been documented to increase by 8%. In school rooms, children’s learning abilities and test scores are improved. The creation of native habitats within public space has been documented to contribute to decreased crime rates while obviously contributing to the overall beauty of the public realm. In hospitals, patient recovery times are decreased. So what are some of the approaches for the application of biophilic design in our homes and cities?
Biophilic design is being used as a conceptual marker for the development of Melbourne’s 5 new Metro Stations by HASSELL and Weston Williamson.
Externally, soft and hardscaping are being incorporated into the planning of a building more and more. Providing a break from a dense, urban dialogue, green spaces outside invite connection, social interaction, respite and promote civic pride. Green walls are also being adapted from the vertical potted contraptions of the 80’s to be scaled up and applied as an alternative to cladding, creating facades with optimised vertical real estate.
The Rooftop Garden at the Jewell Station Apartments by Neometro.
Internally, increased fresh air flow, plants and the integration of biophilic patterns (those that mimic the geometries found in the natural environment) all contribute to wellbeing. The thresholds between the two are also opportunities to encourage inhabitants to get out to terraces, rooftops and balconies while large expanses of glazing protect from the elements while allowing for an orchestration of light and shade.
The complexity of evolution needs not be the focus of biophilic design. Rather, the simple incorporation of light, patterns and plants at the planning stage can optimise our built environments in infinite ways.