How to Create Happiness with Biophilic Design?

DESINO Eco Manufactory Office designed by Ho Khue Architects, Image Credit - © Hiroyuki Oki

March 20th is International Happiness Day. 

While many of us are grappling with stress over COVID, self isolation, and adjusting to the ‘new normal’ it can be hard to concentrate on ‘happiness', however according to Shawn Achor - in his TED talk viewed 23 million times - happiness is vital to our productivity, creativity and energy, it’s called The Happiness Advantage.

So lets get some ‘happiness’ in our lives by incorporating Biophilic Design into our interiors.

Biophilic Design is not just about sustainability and being great with the planet, it’s also about all the advantages to us, the occupants.  During my over 30 years as a designer I  am never happier than when I am introducing a new client to the wonders of Biophilic Design; working with plants, and colours, space and acoustics recharges and revitalises me all while bringing beauty and transforming homes into Biophilic happiness spaces.

And its not just in the home, in his ‘Happiness Advantage’ talk Achor agrees that happiness is the secret to better work. Happiness causes,

  • 31% increase in Productivity, 
  • 37% increase in sales, 
  • and Doctors are 19% more accurate when happy.  
  • Also, when dopamine floods our bodies released by our feeling of worth, and satisfaction, the learning centres of our brain light up.

Well that is all good news, AND, further evidence that Biophilic Design is vital in the design of any home, office and organisation.

I believe that biophilia is an important concept that everyone should be aware of within the design and architectural world and needs to be implemented throughout the world.  In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright “I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain.”

Entreparotas House designed by Di Frenna ArquitectosImage Credit - Lorena Darquea
Entreparotas House designed by Di Frenna ArquitectosImage Credit - Lorena Darquea

Biophilic Design

When people think about biophilic design they associate it with integrating environments with plants, wood, water and natural light. However, biophilic design is not all about what elements you incorporate in your design, it is also about having an understanding for the history and values of biophilia. Biophilic design aims to connect our innate need to connect with nature within the modern built environment. Biophilia’s purpose is to include natural elements into modern day architecture. 

Urban Cabin, in Sao Paulo. Designed by architect Fabio Galeazzo (Image Credit)
Urban Cabin, in Sao Paulo. Designed by architect Fabio Galeazzo (Image Credit)

 

The concept of biophilia came about from E.O. Wilson in his book Biophilia. Wilson stated that it is an essential drive of human beings to be attached to nature and mimic its processes and structures in everyday life. This is the basic principle of biophilic design. The aim of using biophilia within design is all about creating architecture and new designs that incorporate natures link to natural surroundings. 

With its physiological and mental benefits Biophilic design is vital in designing spaces where people are spending a lot of time, such as classrooms, office spaces and hospitals.

 

Designed by Architect - Dr Wong, Image Credit, (Pinterest)
Designed by Architect - Dr Wong, Image Credit, (Pinterest)

 Biophilic Happiness

One of the theories of biophilia is that humans have adopted a new lifestyle that is too far removed from what we would consider to be natural. Without nature, signs of nature, and natural elements are environment is in conflict with our needs and senses.  Therefore, biophilic design can help us to adopt a new wellbeing and happiness.

Christiane Lemieux, Co-founder and CEO of The Insider, Image Credit by Douglas Friedman
Christiane Lemieux, Co-founder and CEO of The Insider, Image Credit by Douglas Friedman

 

One study that I came across was the 2011 study from journal of happiness, which found that our psychological health is linked to nature relatedness (NR). The study explores the ‘changes in NR mediate relationship between education and changes in vitality.’ This study originated from previous research in the same journal that stated the connection between biophilia and mental health. Earlier on within this study they talk about how cultural and technological changes came about due to industrialisation which has sadly caused negative psychological effects. Therefore, biophilia is the answer to all these negative psychological effects.

 

Image Credit - Wild-Cabins
Image Credit - Wild-Cabins

Biophilic Benefits

Biophilic design provides a range of benefits to both the work environment and public areas. The benefits can vary from improved job performance to lower blood pressure. In the recent study from Human Spaces, they stated that employees who work in environments that have natural elements in, will have a 15% higher level of wellbeing and will be 6% more productive. Therefore, biophilic design can have an amazing impact on the workplace. One example I recently came across was about a call centre that had rearranged the layout of their office to allow their employees to have a better view of the vegetation outside. This led to the company having an annual productivity saving of £ 2,149 per employee.

 

Books over the clouds Flagship Store of Duoyun Books, Image Credit - CreatAR Images
Books over the clouds Flagship Store of Duoyun Books, Image Credit - CreatAR Images

 

The key biophilic elements you need to think about when it comes to workspaces are, natural light, quality of view and ventilation. In the study by the California Energy Commission associated an increase in these elements to improved performance at work. Therefore, when you come to design a biophilic space always think about incorporating those three elements into the space as this is key to creating a biophilic environment. Biophilic design elements can be incorporated into all aspects of design as well as styles. 

 

Clean food cafe Fortes,  Image Credit - Ekaterina Domracheva, Behance
Clean food cafe Fortes,  Image Credit - Ekaterina Domracheva, Behance

 

One of my favourite features of biophilic design is its adaptability to scale. When it comes to designing a room or a building you don’t have to completely change the whole space in order to include a huge garden. You can create positive health benefits by just making small changes within the space. For example, by just adding a few house plants into an office space can improve productivity by 15%. Although the more biophilic elements you incorporate into the space the more benefits you will create. Biophilic design can also be applied to outdoor spaces as well, such as the Drea Building designed by Estudio Hidalgo.

 

Drea Building Designed by Estudio Hidalgo, Image Credit - César Béjar Studio
Drea Building Designed by Estudio Hidalgo, Image Credit - César Béjar Studio

 

In summary you can see that biophilic design is growing in popularity due to its positive effects on human well- being. This is especially more important than ever before as we are gradually coming out of a world pandemic. Biophilia has the potential to become the standard for design. Therefore, the understanding of biophilic design and its principles are the key to creating a more positive environment to live in, work in, and learn in.

Happy International Day of Happiness - with Biophilic Design it lasts much longer than one day