Research demonstrates our contact with nature impacts healthcare outcomes and supports our well-being
The Industrial Revolution that began in the 1800s marks a major turning point in history. It caused a fundamental shift away from a farming and handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacture. Almost every aspect of life was influenced in some way. But this shift away from nature had penetrating, and not entirely positive, personal and commercial effects.
Haven’t you ever wondered why certain places make us feel good? Anthropologists tell us we are ‘hard-wired’ to respond to nature. People viscerally respond to the same relationship in architecture because it makes us feel good. These sensations are known as biophilia, a concept that implies humans hold a biological need for connection with nature on physical, mental, and social levels.
Most people would prefer a house with a porch overlooking a body of water and a view of distant mountains to a windowless bunker. Yet much of our architecture and buildings fail to incorporate any connection to nature or natural light. Numerous research studies have shown that work, medical recovery, and educational success are significantly correlated to a greater incorporation of nature into the design and construction of buildings. The experience of biophilic design…design with access to nature…has been shown to positively impact productivity, emotional well-being, stress reduction, learning and healing. Additionally, from an environmental standpoint, biophilic design fosters an appreciation of nature, which, in turn, should lead to greater protection of natural areas, elimination of pollution, and a cleaner environment.
The Benefits of Biophilia
Health and Healing
The most clearly demonstrated benefits of biophilia are related to health and healing. History reflects the potential for biophilia to produce positive, measurable outcomes on human health and healing that has been understood for centuries – Chinese Taoists, medieval English literature, and even Florence Nightingale advocated gardens and greenery – were beneficial to health and recovery from illness. More recently, Roger Ulrich, Ph.D., professor of architecture and landscape architecture at Texas A&M University, has quantified the medical benefits of patient views of nature, including how biophilic design and exposure to natural light helps to reduce patient pain and stress during recovery.
Researchers from the Rocky Mountain Institute and Carnegie Mellon University have reported significant improvement in productivity of workers as a result of biophilic building design, including exposure to daylight and views to the outdoors. In addition to productivity, their research also indicated higher level of worker satisfaction.
Appreciation for Nature
One of the most compelling reasons to incorporate biophilic design features in buildings is to inspire interest in – and appreciation of – nature. This appreciation can not only motivate people to protect the environment, but also encourage design that provides habitat for targeted species and to enhance surrounding natural systems.
Biophilic design is the architecture of life – connecting people with nature, enhancing our experiences, and helping us lead happier and healthier lives.