What is Biophilic Design?

Biophilic design is a type of design and natural architecture that we see in the modern urban environment. It aims to focus on aspects of the natural world as a way of combining nature and the long-term productivity and health of the human race in a time where we face ecological uncertainty and potential catastrophe. As humans, we have an in-built desire and need to feel connected with nature. In fact, the way that we have evolved over thousands of years has been connected to the demands of the environment around us and the challenges faced. As the vast majority of us now live in urban areas, the need is still strong, and that is where biophilia in architecture comes into play, keeping us connected to our routes and finding ways for nature to remain important in how we design for the present and the future.

Good biophilic design and architecture in urban environments can have a massively positive effect on the mental and physical health of those humans who live and work within and around it. Biophilic design when working from its very core idea, is about focusing on the design features that mimic the parts of the natural world that have contributed to the health and evolution of the human race. It is not enough to pay lip service to nature by planting some trees in an ill-thought-out manner on the boundaries of a city centre residential complex, instead nature must be at the heart of design and at the forefront of architectural innovation. The impact has to maintain a sustained benefit for the people, and not just be a way to catch the eye and make a statement of intent with no real foundation of integrity or honesty.

It is important therefore, to think about biophilic design and architecture as a whole piece, and not just a single instance of nature within a wider design or plan. In nature, all organisms are connected in some way, and the impact a single aspect has can be found in a completely different area. The built eco-system must perform in the same way as nature does. If you think about this in the form of a residential building for instance. It is no good just thinking about how to add the finishing touches to the front lobby, but instead how the flow of every person who resides in that building actually functions. All areas of the building must interact and connect in an empathetic and effective way.

This can be seen in how modern architecture borrows notes from biophilic design in the way certain buildings are designed. The water and heating systems can be installed using renewable energy and be designed in a way that fits a ‘natural’ aesthetic. This helps to create a better working environment in an office scenario and has an indelible impact on the way a residential building functions. It is not just paying lip service to nature, instead borrowing aspects of it that fits the effective functioning of the modern design. Developing biophilic design into modern architecture takes time and dedication but it is the only way to ensure that we build sustainable urban environments in the future.

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