Everything you need to know about biophilic design

Space Refinery
April 30, 2024
Biophilic design and how it benefits creativity and focus

Everything you need to know about biophilic design

Remember the last time you went for a long hike in nature? You probably experienced happiness and tranquility. Now, what if we could reproduce the same physical, psychological, and emotional effects of nature in our workspaces? Let’s see what the science behind this design philosophy is and why more and more brands are applying it in their workspaces!

Biophilic design in the office renovation for a chemical manufacturer
Biophilic design in our recent office renovation project for a chemical manufacturer in Antwerp province

A design movement inspired by nature

One of the greatest architects of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright, said: “Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” He translated this philosophy into structures in harmony with humanity and its environment, something he called “organic architecture.”

This principle of organic and nature-inspired design grew slowly into a movement, and biophilic design was born. Stephen R. Kellert, the author of “Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science, and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life”, explains biophilic design as “an approach that fosters beneficial contact between people and nature in modern buildings and landscapes.” 

Before humans evolved and gathered in large cities, we were entirely in unison with nature. We depended on it and respected it, as we lived in small communities and hunted and mastered agriculture to stay alive. This bond between nature and humans remains indestructible. Even after building urban landscapes and creating new living environments, we still crave and desire to spend our free moments in nature as much as possible. Today we don’t go to nature in search of food. Instead, we seek refuge for our souls and mind. 

But we can restore the connection with our primal home thanks to biophilic design. 

One of the big reasons biophilic design continues to grow in popularity is the health benefits it brings. We already know the tangible health benefits of adding plants to modern offices

According to CIPHR and a list of compiled studies, they provide the following benefits:

What matters is that designing with natural elements brings tangible health benefits to employees in a workplace. A few plants don’t only improve the look but they boost productivity and reduce stress.

Key principles of biophilic design

According to Shepley and Bulfinch, there are six aspects of biophilic design:

  1. The natural environment: The natural environment focuses on features of the natural world incorporated into an office setting. Basic things like earthy colors, sunlight, plants, and images of animals and nature.

The natural environment in the office of BECI in Brussels

  1. Natural shapes: Natural shapes are lines and forms that occur in nature. Notable examples include arches and vaults, recreating rock shelves, water paths, and other things that naturally occur.

Natural shapes and materials in our project for Start it @KBC Antwerp
Natural shapes and materials in our project for Start it @KBC in Antwerp

  1. Natural patterns: Similar to natural shapes, natural patterns deal with patterns and processes that occur in nature. This could be shown through the erosion of rock over time, the growth of plants, and the use of rhythm and scale.

Natural pattern of marble in the kitchen of Bolton's office in Diegem

  1. Natural light: This is one of the easiest forms to understand. Sunlight is healthy, and biophilic design emphasizes light and space. Light helps merge the inside and outside using elements of warmth and different shapes.

Plenty on natural light in Devoteam's office at The Wings in Diegem

  1. Plants: We can’t talk about natural design and not include our little green friends! This doesn’t mean you have to turn your office into a jungle. You can focus on natural plants, imagery, or plant colors. The idea here is to create a relationship between the office and the natural elements it is incorporating.

Lush plants in Keyrock's new office in Brussels

  1. The human-nature relationship: The final element involves recreating the relationship between humans and nature. It’s about restoring a relationship that has existed for thousands of years. Biophilic design ties all of the previous elements together. By doing this, an office will focus on specific themes like order, safety, complexity, curiosity, mastery, control, affection, exploration, discovery, and awe. With themes like this in mind, it’s easy to combine the modern with the timeless.

The treehouse area for creative work and collaboration in the Board of Innovation's office in Antwerp

The importance of biophilic design today

Biophilic design celebrates the idea of a city as a combination of urbanism, evolution, technology, and the natural environment. It enables us to experience nature and feel part of it, even in the most crowded cities. It’s safe to say, because of our intertwined connection with nature, biophilic design will become a standard in design. But other reasons back up our theory… 

Climate change, pandemic, innovation, focus on mental well-being. Currently, these are catalysts accelerating the adoption of biophilic design, proving its impact goes beyond only aesthetic qualities. Green infrastructure can help decrease CO2 emissions, boost the biodiversity of plants and wildlife and even regulate the temperature of buildings. The new urban organism designed and developed for the Chinese city of Liuzhou by Stefano Boeri Architetti will work like a sizeable sustainable machine. It will absorb about 10,000 tons of CO2 and 57 tons of micro-particles every year, simultaneously producing about 900 tons of oxygen, combating the severe problem of air pollution.

Biophilic design of the future

Following the pandemic, many people are still working remotely. Again, here is where biophilic design can help us create a balanced, more productive, and inspiring home-work environment. 

Biophilic design starts with the right mindset and a willingness to improve our connection with nature. Incorporating it into our living and working environments is relatively easy. Whether you start small by making strategic changes or design from the ground up, biophilic design is accessible to any individual or company, regardless of the budget or space limitations. There are many ways for brands to add nature into their workspaces - artwork, plants, healthy landscape colors, or a lush rooftop terrace are just a few suggestions.

If you would like to implement biophilic design into your workspace, reach out to us!

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