Launch Slideshow

Biophilic Design

Biophilic Design

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    Andrew McLeish

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If you know what "biophilia" means, you're probably wondering what it has to do with your small construction business. The answer is not much up to now. Biophilia and biophilic design has always been associated with the heady domains of urban and commercial architecture, but that's changing. It's being discussed more in the context of everyday residential building and remodeling. If you're unfamilar with the term, better take a quick primer.

Biophillia literally means "love of life". Sociobiology pioneer, Edward O. Wilson, popularized the biophilia hypothesis in his 1984 book. Wilson contends that modern human beings share a deep physiological connection to their natural world, and to the preferences or "philia" developed through a million years of evolution. That's supposedly why certain things simply make us feel good, like open vistas, the high ground, the sound of running water, flowers, green, and yes even the cute faces of baby mammals. It's a pretty intuitive concept really.

  • Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, WI. features biophilic design elements which were years ahead of their time. The interior columns in this room are reminiscent of a savannah environment some would say.
    Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Johnson Wax Building in Racine, WI. features biophilic design elements which were years ahead of their time. The interior columns in this room are reminiscent of a savannah environment some would say.
Biophilic design seeks to incorporate and return these particular natural elements, sunlight, open space, flora, and certain organic shapes and patterns back into our built environments. It's not a new idea. The corporate and commercial world has long recognized quantifiable benefits from biophilic design which include increased job performance, reduced illness and absenteeism (a huge economic driver), stress, and fatigue. Retailers report higher sales, schools claim higher learning rates, and hospitals and care facilities boast faster healing and recovery.

You're hearing more about biophilic design in residential construction because it's now being treated as an ancillary component of the established green building movement. EcoHome magazine reports that Yale professor emeritus, Stephen R. Kellert, has codified and merged the green, sustainable, resource-saving standards embodied in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) with accepted biophilic design principles. He calls the new amalgamation Restorative Environmental Design. Kellert concedes that energy efficiency and biophilic design don't always go hand in hand, “People don’t live by efficiency alone.”  He maintains a blending of the two sets of objectives is necessary to achieve complete and lasting sutainability.

Read more about Restorative Environmental Design and what it might mean to your business on the EcoHome website, and browse the JLC content related to biophilic design and natural building materials.