Biophilic Design and Business – A guest blog from Centennial Woods
By Joe DeBaisio at Centennial Woods
Biophilic and biophilia are relatively new terms in the design world. It’s a neologism coined by Edward O. Wilson in his 1984 book titled “Biophilia.” “Bio” means life or nature, and “philic” denotes a strong inclination towards something. This term describes how humans innately seek connections to life and nature. Over the last decade hotels and hospitals have embraced this design movement. Recently restaurants, businesses, and corporate headquarters are incorporating biophilic design elements due to their positive effects on employee/visitor health and productivity.
Biophilic design brings the outside world to inside spaces. An obvious example would be plants. They are a living, natural thing and it’s no surprise that they are one of the most popular design elements all around the world. Plants excite our sense of sight, sound, touch, smell, and sometimes taste. Another popular biophilic design element is sky lights and large windows that bring in sunshine and views of landscapes.
For decades there have been indirect examples of biophilic design such as paintings/photos of landscapes, naturally hued wall paints, and wallpaper with prints of animals or plants. These elements also fall under another category called biomimicry. Other examples of biomimicry are artificial plants/grass, artificial lights, and manmade surfaces with natural textures (think decorative concrete.)
Biomimicry can also refer to patterns that are similar to what occurs in nature. These can vary from patterns that look like fish scales to linear, seemingly random rectangular patterns that will remind you of tree bark. Curved ceilings and walls are another common example of biomimicry.
Aside from plants, the most popular biophilic design elements are aquariums, water features, and rock gardens. When was the last time you went to a dentist’s office without seeing a tank full of calming fish? How many times you’ve seen a waterfall or water feature in an office building or an atrium? There is a reason for this. biophilic materials like wood, stone, water, animals, and self-contained ecosystems are physically and mentally calming. Conversely, manmade materials like metal have been shown to increase both anxiety and blood pressure.
Expect to see biophilic design pretty much everywhere in the coming decades. Instead of flat, white walls we will see walls with textures and colors that would experience in a natural park. Expect more energy-efficient windows that will let in daylight that will interact with those wall textures like something you’d see while relaxing in a park. Interiors of the future will be made with safe, natural materials that are calming and beneficial to those that spend time in those spaces.