Biophilic design aims at improving human wellbeing through design. And it does so by creating interiors that take inspiration from features of the natural world that have proven to be beneficial to us.
But how exactly do interior design, wellbeing and nature relate?
This is the question behind biophilic design, and we’re going to tackle it in this month’s episode of Biophilic Moodboards.
Wellbeing & nature
Let’s take it from afar…what is wellbeing?
The dictionary defines it as
a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity.
In other words, wellbeing is that desirable condition where we thrive (prosperity) both physically (health) and mentally (happiness).
One could now ask, what is the link between wellbeing and nature?
Actually, spending time in contact with nature has proven to affect our bodies and minds in many ways.
One could write a book exploring them all in-depth, but here are some examples:
natural light supplies our bodies with vitamin D (which helps to prevent several diseases including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression and neuro-degenerative diseases*)
exposure to nature decreases anxiety and increases memory
spending time in nature improves creativity and problem-solving
nature acts as mood booster and – since natural landscapes are compelling to our senses – they can effectively distract us from negative thoughts.
observing nature makes us feel part of something bigger and this has numerous positive effects. It helps us put our concerns in perspective, stimulates a positive mindset and a general sense of gratitude and even makes us more prone to help each other!
These are just some of the findings that connect health with nature. But they’re enough to conclude that staying in contact with the natural world can do a lot for our overall wellbeing, both physically and mentally!
Interior design & wellbeing
Now onto the next big question: can interior design influence wellbeing?
The answer is a sound yes! Sure, interior design cannot treat illnesses, but it can contribute to preserving and improving our physical and mental health.
The effects of interior design on physical health
A healthy interior is one that takes good care of:
Indoor air quality
Indoor air is often more polluted than the outdoor one. In particular, it is too often stuffed with harmful VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), that are released by building materials, glues, cleaning and air freshening products, burning reactions (like wood stoves, candles and incenses) etc.
The way we function is very much influenced by light: we’re awake during the day and sleepy when the dark comes. This innate biological clock is called circadian rhythm and it’s at the base of our overall wellbeing.
Therefore, artificial lighting shouldn't just provide enough light to allow us to see. It should also follow our natural cycle by adapting both the temperature and the intensity of light to the time of day. This wellbeing-oriented approach to light is called Human Centric Lighting, and its importance is being more and more recognized in the design industry. It has even been one of the 5 main lighting innovations presented at Euroluce 2019!
Ergonomics and movement
The word ergonomics refers to the positions we assume while we sit, stand or lay down, and interior design can help us to assume healthy positions. A careful space layout can even invite people to move around and explore the space. Because – as they say – sitting is the new smoking.
A space that is too hot or too cold can affect our mood and productivity. The definition of thermal comfort is very personal, but it is generally important to achieve it through appropriate temperature & air variations.
Ensuring the best possible acoustic comfort in a space goes all the way from avoiding unpleasant echoes to creating silent areas where needed – namely what biophilic design would call refuge areas
The effects of interior design on mental health
The impact of interior design on mental wellbeing can be summarized in that feeling good sensation we all have felt at least once.
This can translate differently for different people, but it always includes things like an overall welcoming feeling and dedicated spaces for different activities. One of these should always be a space to relax, which could even turn into a meditation corner.
Interior design & nature
Pulling everything together:
- Interior design can influence our physical and mental wellbeing
- Nature has evident positive effects on our health.
So it actually makes perfect sense to take nature as a design inspiration, because this can really unveil interiors' wellbeing potential in full!
But taking nature as a design inspiration means way more than just adding a few indoor plants, and here is where biophilic design comes into play.
Biophilic design looks at nature in its entirety and – from space planning to the selection of materials – it reproduces indoors the many elements of nature that are beneficial to our wellbeing.
This is what makes biophilic interiors not only beautiful, but also engaging and ultimately healthy!
If you want to know more about biophilic design, you can explore its pillars:
- Dr. Naeem Z. (2010). Vitamin D Deficiency - An Ignored Epidemic. (opened in a new window/tab) Int J Health Sci (Qassim), 4(1): V–VI.
- Bratman G., Daily G., Levy B., J Gross J. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. (opened in a new window/tab) Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, Pages 41–50.
- Researchers find time in wild boosts creativity, insight and problem solving (opened in a new window/tab). Research by University of Kansas.
- Barton J. & Pretty J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health. (opened in a new window/tab) Environmental Science & Technology, 44, 3947–3955