The trend toward eco-living has been on the rise in recent years. As our population grows, we’ll be looking for more ways to live sustainably. One of these solutions and a trend we’ve seen in apartment living is biophilic design.
Biophilic design is based on the concept of biophilia. Biophilia is a hypothesis that humans have an innate attraction and biological connection to nature. It describes the awe we feel watching a waterfall or the peace that comes from hiking around a park.
Biophilic design is an innovative way to create buildings in a way that reconnects humans with the natural world. In today’s world, there are many structures that consist of windowless spaces with artificial light. Spending time in these environments is said to create sensory deprivation and negative feelings toward the location.
To combat this, biophilic design looks at the impact that nature has on humans. It then works to incorporate these positive aspects into everyday buildings. This is originally done when the architect designs the building, but the themes and ideas can be modified for any home.
Biophilic design can be broken down into 14 different patterns. These patterns aren’t concrete rules — they’re meant to guide you rather than form strict guidelines. By looking at each pattern and the suggestions of how to use them, you’ll gain inspiration for how to incorporate them into your home.
This pattern is based on the idea of viewing the elements of nature, living systems and natural processes. A visual connection with nature has been said to reduce stress, create positive emotional functioning and improve concentration and recovery rates.
A visual connection with nature can be naturally occurring with things such as a naturally flowing body of water, animals, fossils or visible terrain, soil or earth on the premises. If these are not naturally occurring in your area, they can be recreated. This can be done with a simulated natural environment such as an aquarium, a green wall or artwork that shows nature scenes.
There are ways to connect with nature that don’t include seeing it. This can be done through sound, smell, touch or taste. When these other senses connect with nature, there are health benefits. An auditory connection has shown a reduction of cognitive fatigue and an increase in motivation. Scents can trigger memories that calm or energize individuals. Touch, such as in pet therapy, has shown calming effects.
This pattern occurs naturally in the form of fragrant flowers, weather, textured materials such as wood, stone, fur and loud animals such as songbirds. If these aren’t available to you, similar instances can be recreated by natural air fresheners such as essential oil diffusers, digital recordings of nature sounds, highly textured fabrics and allowing pets in the home.
These connections are random, short bursts that are found in natural environments but are hard to predict. They have been studied in relation to eye patterns, heart rate, blood pressure and flight or fight responses. For example, after staring at a computer for a long period of time, a brief distraction caused naturally is beneficial.
This pattern can be found naturally in the form of cloud movement, breezes, birds chirping or plant life rustling. These natural distractions can be recreated in your home, specifically the rooms where you spend a lot of time and need this type of stimuli. It can be in the form of billowy fabric that will move with the breeze, art that creates shadows or light patterns throughout the home or nature sounds that are broadcasted at random intervals.
This pattern describes the subtle changes in temperatures and airflow that occur when you’re in natural environments. An environment that lacks this sensory variability leads to boredom and passivity.
This pattern may already occur in your home in the form of solar heat when the sun passes through a window or you’re in shadows and shade. If you don’t have these, you can recreate the effect by using window treatments or glazing, creating an HVAC delivery system or creating more ventilation throughout the house.
Water is important to the life cycle and is found throughout nature. In relation to humans, it has been involved in studies that found it encouraged improved self-esteem and mood. It has also been studied in relation to reducing stress.
Water may be naturally occurring in your neighborhood in the form of a river, stream, ocean, pond or rainfall. If this isn’t the case, you may be able to recreate it in your home by adding an aquarium, fountain or imagery with water.
This pattern looks at how lights and shadows appear in a natural environment. Lighting strategy has been studied in everyday environments such as schools, offices and stores. Original research found that people are more productive with more light.
More recent studies have found that the quality of light and its fluctuations are just as important. A normal pattern fluctuates between high amounts of blue light (sunlight during the day) which produces serotonin and low amounts of blue light (nighttime) which produces melatonin. This balance can influence sleep quality, mood, alertness and depression.
Dynamic and diffused light may already exist in your home with windows, firelight, moonlight and seasonal light. If the balance is off, you can create this pattern by using multiple low glare electric light sources, diffused light on walls or the ceiling, using lights that have a dimming feature and taking advantage of accent lighting.
Connecting with natural systems describes the realization that seasonal and temporal changes are a sign of a healthy environment. This seasonality and understanding of the life cycle can lead to a more relaxing, nostalgic and enlightened lifestyle.
For the most part, this pattern will be naturally occurring. This may be in the form of weather patterns, geology (visible fault lines, erosion, fossils) or life cycle patterns (pollination, growth, aging). If you’d like to construct this pattern, try adding life cycles to your home by including a birdhouse in your yard or making space for plants in your home.
Biomorphism is when shapes and patterns that occur in nature are used in design. An example is a Fibonacci series (0,1, 1, 2, 3,5, 8,13, 21, 34…) which is a numeric sequence that occurs in living things such as plants. This number pattern can also be used to create architectural and design elements within the home.
Biomorphic forms and patterns can easily be incorporated into your decor in many ways. Try choosing fabrics, carpet or wallpaper that’s based on the Fibonacci series or Golden Mean. Purchase sculptures that mimic natural elements. Incorporate leaf patterns in your furniture details or use natural elements like woodwork throughout the home.
Creating a material connection with nature is done with the intention of making a space feel rich, warm and authentic. Studies have shown that the use of different materials impacts mood and productivity. If a room is mostly wood, it creates a sense of relaxation like a spa would, but is not conducive to cognitive function and productivity.
Experiment with this pattern by using accents in your home that are different materials or textures. Wood grains, bamboo, rattan and stone are good materials to use. Embracing a natural color palette also enables you to create this material connection with nature.
This element involves looking at the pattern of spatial hierarchy in nature and trying to recreate it in buildings. Complexity and order can be obtained by using symmetry and fractals or irregular geometric shapes.
These patterns can be found in wallpaper and carpet design, window details or your floorplan. Fractal patterns are also seen in classical art, ancient Mayan art and Egyptian art. Embracing this art in your home could also help you incorporate this pattern.
The prospect pattern represents a space that feels open and free while also having a sense of safety and control. To create this there should be a focus on focal lengths that are equal to or longer than 10 feet and partition heights shorter than or equal to 42 inches.
Focal length can be attained by displaying a piece of art at the end of a long hallway. This highlights the open space while keeping a focus. For partitions, try sectioning a large room with an opaque divider or a functional bar cart.
The refuge pattern is about creating an environment that feels safe and provides a sense of retreat or withdrawal. Refuge conditions can create a restorative and stress-free environment that lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
To create a refuge in your home, try incorporating high-backed chairs, reading nooks, booth seating, canopy beds or a treehouse. These spaces will create a safe haven that’s reserved for relaxation.
Mystery is achieved by obscuring the senses with the promise of more information to come. This creates a sense of anticipation and interest. An example of this would be obstructing a view so that the person has to move around the object to see the full scene.
Try incorporating this pattern in your home by using curved edges, winding paths and obscured views. Partially covered windows or translucent materials can help you achieve this.
The theme of risk and peril is portrayed by a threat that has a reliable safeguard. Having this awareness of a controllable risk has been shown to produce dopamine and pleasure responses.
This pattern can be used within your home without causing any real harm. Incorporate art that seems to defy gravity using magnets. Try framing life-sized photography of predatory or feared animals. Find creative ways to test the limits of height, gravity and water without putting anyone in your home in any real danger.
Now that you’ve learned about these 14 patterns of biophilic design, you can use them to make your home more in-tune with nature. If you’re searching for a new apartment, be sure to check that its design can accommodate these patterns.
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