Biophilic moodboards: designing for temperature & air variations

in Biophilic Moodboards

Interior design – and biophilic design in particular – go way beyond aesthetics.
Indeed, the spaces we live and work in have a big influence on our mental and physical wellbeing. Either in a positive or in a negative direction.

Evoking natural features in interiors is a powerful way to move in a positive direction. This includes natural textures, fractal patterns, unexpected stimuli, water features and much more.

In this month’s episode of Biophilic Moodboards, we’re looking at thermal & airflow variability; an invisible yet essential aspect to achieve healthy and comfortable interiors.

Biophilic design moodboard showing thermal & airflow variability. 1: outdoor seating area under the shadow of a tree. 2: a soft rug on a wooden flooring. 3: grass moving in the wind.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits (from top left): Tribù (opened in a new window/tab), Armadillo & Co. (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab), Azlan Baharudin (via Unsplash) (opened in a new window/tab) . Moodboard by DforDesign.

The benefits of thermal & airflow variability

In the natural world, air is constantly moving. There are cool breezes, sunny areas and corners shaded by the canopy. And the list could go on.

Indoors it’s a bit different. Air is way more stagnant than outdoors and temperature is often controlled via HVAC systems, which set it to remain stable around a value of choice. But this is not necessarily a good thing.
Actually, studies have proven that natural ventilation and thermal variations improve our mood, concentration, and overall wellbeing. *

Total-white bedroom with curtains moving in the breeze.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Design Hunter (opened in a new window/tab)

The importance of options

The concept of thermal comfort is a very personal one. This means that finding the right temperature for all the occupants of a space is almost impossible. And it gets even more difficult when dealing with offices, restaurants and other communal spaces.

As a response to these concerns, biophilic design highlights the importance of:

  • Changing air temperature and humidity in interiors, moving air touching the skin and varying surface temperatures.
     

  • Ability – for the occupants for a space – to control thermal conditions and adjust them to need.

 
But how to practically apply all this to interior design?

Dining room with big window.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Studio McGee (opened in a new window/tab)

Windows & window treatments

The first and easiest way to improve natural ventilation and control thermal conditions is… operable windows!

Being able to open a window is extremely powerful in its simplicity. Besides adjusting the temperature and introducing lively (and unexpected) airflows into the space, ventilating indoor spaces is essential to clean the air from indoor air pollutants.

Similarly, window treatments are a precious help to shield interiors from extreme outdoor temperatures. This will improve thermal comfort while helping to save on heating & air conditioning energy and costs.

Even when windows aren’t an option, mechanical ventilation systems should simulate natural variations in airflow, temperature, and humidity.

Roman blinds creating shadow on a sofa area.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Luxaflex Ireland (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)

Outdoor spaces

Outdoor spaces are extremely important in a biophilic design, and for many reasons.
Speaking of thermal variability, outdoor spaces give direct access to fresh air, allowing to get some warmth or freshness – according to the weather conditions.

When designing outdoor spaces, it’s therefore crucial to include some overhead coverage. This will provide both shadow and protection from the elements, stretching the usability of the space.
From a design perspective, it’s also preferable to design outdoor spaces as a continuation of the interior. And indoor-outdoor spaces are the ideal inspiration!

Outdoor seating area in the shadow.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Tribù (opened in a new window/tab)

Natural elements

Bringing nature indoors can also help with thermal and humidity regulation.
Plants absorb heat, humidity and moisture. Vertical gardens are particularly effective in these regards, as they cluster many plants in one place.

Another example are fireplaces, that create a warmer corner to enjoy in winter.

Huge vertical garden in a living room.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Plantwalldesign (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)
Contemporary fireplace in a living room.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Kalfire Fireplaces (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)

Surface finishes

The temperature felt when touching a surface is more important than one might think.
The everlasting dilemma between wood and tile flooring is a good example of that. And indeed, the choice between the two will also depend on thermal considerations!

Applying the same idea throughout a design, material variations – hence temperature variations – are key to determine overall thermal comfort.

Kitchen with wooden flooring and stone walls.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: MIM Design (opened in a new window/tab)

Textiles

Last but not least, textiles also play an essential role in thermal control.
Blankets, window treatments, rugs… all contribute to making a space warmer or cooler.

Textiles provide easy adjustment options for people sharing the same space, like using a thick blanket if it’s cold or lowering a shade if sunlight is glaring.
Being easy to swap, textiles also help to transition interiors across seasons and ensure optimal thermal comfort all year round.

Kitchen with wooden flooring and stone walls.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Armadillo & Co (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)

 
The importance of thermal & airflow variability in interiors ties into biophilic design’s sensory approach to interiors.
By caring for how people feel in a space, biophilic interiors are able to improve wellbeing, while reconnecting us with our common roots...nature.
 
 
* Sources

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