Articles Special Article Building with Nature: The Beauty and Benefits of Biophilic Architecture

Building with Nature: The Beauty and Benefits of Biophilic Architecture

Biophilic architecture is all about highlighting how nature can enhance human life.

Biophilic design in architecture is no more an offshoot of society's growing fascination in rediscovering nature, driven by the aspirations for good health, well-being, and sustainability. Biophilia - literally love of life and all things living - is the concept that nature contributes to better lives given people's inherent need to affiliate with other life forms.

Intended to build quality habitats for people, biophilic architecture's fundamental objective is to enhance human life and promote good health and well-being. Biologists and social ecologists harken back to thousands of years of history wherein people lived in an agrarian society to explain why biophilia is beneficial, as people then were dependent on the quality of their natural environment to live.

Now, as more and more people flock to cities for better opportunities and resources, society is somewhat removed from the natural world that was once the eventual life source. How then can nature be reintroduced to concrete builds, life be brought back to drabby city designs, and biophilic design be implemented in today's structures and urban landscapes?

Biophilic architecture is all about highlighting the benefits of nature in built environments.

Simply put, biophilic design is intentional in that it introduces nature to modern builds because of the benefits it can bring. For example, certain features like operable windows, solar chimneys that help move air, rolling and sliding doors that open up a space to outdoor areas and balconies, and eco-friendly air-conditioning systems that help promote healthy air movement and ventilation in a home.

Great access to natural light has been known to contribute to enhanced productivity and improved well-being, which is why many new offices have floor-to-ceiling windows or skylights. On the flipside, the same constructions usually have sun shading devices or greenery that block out and effectively diffuse sun light especially during peak hours.

Introducing greenery and water features into the interiors is also a simple yet effective way to implement biophilic design. Not only do plants help circulate good air by absorbing volatile compounds and producing oxygen, they also and can even elicit calming effects albeit unconscious to the person. For water, the flow and sounds created by running water serves to create a soothing and restful environment.

Floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing garden view in a minimalist style dining room

Biophilic architecture showcases the interconnectivity of the different aspects of life.

As creatures born from nature, humans are instinctively connected to the natural environment and have an inclination to enjoy spaces that reflect this connection with outdoor spaces that can often feel so different from the city's concrete streets and industrial builds. Nature is anything but isolated, and natural elements complement and reinforce each other in order to create the enhancing effect biophilic design is known for.

What this means is in design is that biophilic architecture boasts a holistic approach to introducing nature to a space. Additionally, individual implements of nature in a space like adding one plant to a living room or having a garden view is not necessarily biophilic design.

Biophilic architecture utilizes colors and shapes lifted from nature itself.

Social ecologist Stephen Kellert noted that constant contact with nature is positively correlated with better lives. And this contact can be direct or indirect, or for the most part a mix of both. Direct experiences of nature refer to access and views of nature, living plants and greenery, natural light and fresh air, and flowing water.

In an indirect sense of experiencing nature, biophilic design can be implemented in a space through the use of natural materials, natural patterns, and natural sounds and smells in a space. Materials, design, and even finishing all contribute to a home's capacity to connect homeowners to nature. In a home, this can mean copying natural patterns like symmetries, honeycomb, and waves within facades, wallpaper, or floor tiles. It can also mean the use of timber, clay, or linen in furniture and home accessories. Natural images and color palettes are also effective in implementing the visual aspect of biophilic design and mimicking the natural environment biophilic architecture aspires to highlight.

For materials in particular, it's also best to acknowledge that local materials lend to a more sustainable and effective biophilic design. Philippine biophilically-designed homes, for example, benefit heavily from local materials like abaca and narra because these materials already work harmoniously with the local natural environment.

Outdoor pool and garden of a biophilic home

Biophilic architecture promotes sustainability.

With climate change rapidly affecting present life, more and more people are hanging their coats and opting for sustainable alternatives to their lifestyles.

Since biophilic design mostly utilizes natural materials, generally less energy is consumed in materials production of wooden beams and rattan items when compared to plastics and other synthetic makes. These natural pieces are also for the most part biodegradable, and therefore do not contribute to the millions of tonnes of trash that accumulate from human usage everyday.

On a more impactful scale, certain home features in biophilic builds can increase one's sustainable footprint. For example, home gardens with composting set-ups allow homeowners to not only have fresh produce on their tables but also lessen food waste by sending it back to the garden soil. Another example is installing a backyard irrigation system that repurposes water from kitchen sinks.

Looking for a new house to implement all these biophilic design ideas on? Find a home that screams (or will scream, after some good ol' reno) nature on Property Access Philippines.